Peacekeeper back home for Christmas

Simon Maguire
Simon Maguire

A JARROW soldier has returned home from a six-month tour of Bosnia in time to enjoy Christmas with his friends and family.

Lance Corporal Simon Maguire, 26, was deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July, as part of an 80-strong Squadron from the Light Dragoons, to support the EU peacekeeping mission.

The Squadron acted as the “eyes and ears” for the Commander EUFOR, (European Union Community Security and Defence Policy) anticipating, monitoring and preventing civil unrest to help ensure the country’s October elections took place in a secure and stable environment.

Last week, Lance Corp Maguire marched proudly onto the parade square to receive his Operation Althea medal in recognition of his six-month deployment from the Colonel of the Regiment, Major General (Retd) David Rutherford-Jones.

He said: “The tour was a great experience and very different to our tours of Afghanistan. I was responsible for all the telecommunications for the Squadron, including 100 radios.

“It was great to get out and about to see the country, talk to the locals and see how it had developed.”

Mounted in Jackal armoured vehicles, Lance Corp Maguire’s Squadron covered more than 130,000km of challenging terrain, and were heavily involved with the local civilian population, as well as working alongside their counterparts from the Austrian Armed Forces.

Based in the main city of Sarajevo, the Squadron conducted long-range patrols all over the country, some of which lasted for two weeks in the most northerly parts of the region.

They were able to achieve this by living largely from their Jackals which are able to travel 800km on a single tank of fuel, and can carry additional loads.

During the 1990s, the Light Dragoons were heavily involved with peacekeeping in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Initially this was with the United Nations, monitoring the ceasefire agreement signed by the Croatian Government, and local Serbian authorities.

This role later developed into a multi-national military Implementation Force which established a durable end to the hostilities. The Light Dragoons deployed 13 times during the 1990s – probably more than any other unit in the British Army.