United we stand
TERRITORIAL Army soldiers Sara and Benham Cook are both heading to Afghanistan just a year after getting married.
The couple met three years ago through the TA's 123 Ammunition Squadron, in Cobridge.
Today they will be spending their wedding anniversary preparing for their tour of duty with the 159 Supply Regiment.
The pair are among a group of 25 TA soldiers being deployed to Helmand Province.
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Sara, from Blurton, is looking forward to the six-month tour starting in March.
The 23-year-old Lance Corporal said: "I'm really excited, as well as a little nervous.
"This is what we train for and, as a soldier, I think it's something you have to experience.
"Although being in the TA means we don't see each other as much as we like, I actually think it has brought us closer together – it's a passion for both of us.
"My family are very supportive, but a bit worried, so it's comforting to them that my husband will be out there to look out for me."
The 159 Supply Regiment will support regular Army troops in the effort to drive out insurgents in Helmand.
Their mission will be to ensure troops have adequate ammunition and equipment.
Despite being posted to Camp Bastion together, Benham and Sara are likely to given separate duties and will only see each other at evening meals.
Benham, who comes from Macclesfield, but studied at Eaton Bank High School, in Congleton, is now in his eighth year with the TA.
The 26-year-old Corporal served as a radio operative for six months in Iraq in 2007.
He said: "I can't wait to get out there. Being in a relationship with someone in the Army has obvious difficulties, but when you're both in the Army, it brings an entirely new set of problems.
"It would almost be easier for me if Sara was at home so I would know she was safe, especially if one of us has to go outside the wire.
"Having said that, at least I know I'm close enough to get to get to her if something bad should happen and we'll see each other for short periods of time."
Sara added: "We are luckier than most in that we will be together during our training.
"But if we are separated out there, it could be difficult.
"At least we will know what the other one is thinking and I imagine it will be easier than waiting at home."
The couple have been nicknamed 'The Cookies' by their colleagues.
Sara said: "We can get a bit competitive, especially Benham, but we push each other to be better."
Benham added: "We do have a bit of banter , but we're like a big family and everyone has been very supportive."
Lieutenant Colonel Colin Francis selected the couple for the tour.
He said: "I've watched them get to know each other over the years.
"They make a brilliant team.They are both excellent soldiers and will serve us well in Afghanistan."
Are you or a loved one preparing to serve in Afghanistan? email firstname.lastname@example.org .uk