Saracens rugby stars have had a ball on Armed Forces Day with a surprise visit to personnel deployed in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
In a morale-boosting trip to the Helmand base, members of Saracens squad and coaching staff said they were humbled to be given an opportunity to find out what life is like on operations in Afghanistan.
As well as visiting and meeting troops responsible for logistics and transport the players hosted a coaching session and were shown the skills used by Force Protection to protect the camp and the air routes into Bastion Airfield.
Several of the team’s senior squad were put through their paces by members of 15 Squadron, RAF Regiment. The challenges included evacuating a casualty from a watch tower and a stretcher carry to safety under simulated attack.
“That was hard work,” said flanker Will Fraser. “Not only is the stretcher hard to run with but the other kit, such as the helmet and body armour, adds to the difficulty. I have total respect for the service personnel here who have done this for real with their wounded colleagues on a stretcher.”
Will was joined by winger Jack Wilson, full back Ben Ransom, lock George Kruis, prop Petrus Du Plessis and Jackson Wray, back row.
Flight Lieutenant Damien Handley, 15 Sqn Operations Officer, said: “It’s rewarding when you see professional athletes doing the same thing that we do and having to work hard at it. It makes us feel appreciated for the hard work that we do.”
Saracens’ Performance Director Philip Morrow was interested in the different physical training regimes needed for his players and the RAF Regiment. He said: “We train for 80 minutes of high-intensity and explosive activity with short periods of rest whereas the RAF Regiment gunners have to have more endurance for the job they do.”
He added that there were psychological similarities: “Both our players and the RAF Regiment guys have to be disciplined and dedicated.”
Armed Forces Day is being marked across the United Kingdom today at events to mark the covenant between the people and those in the three services.
The public are being encouraged to Fly the Flag digitally by adopting the Armed Forces Day Twibbon, a brilliant visual way of getting behind our servicemen and women, and for the wider Armed Forces community of families, veterans and cadets.
By adopting the Twibbon, a small image of the Armed Forces Day flag will be added to peoples Twitter or Facebook profile to show support for the day.