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'It's a tough job being a single mum in the Army' As Welsh soldiers prepare for war in Afghanistan, Steffan Rhys travelled to Canada to meet members of 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh in their training camp. In the first of a series of articles, he meets a woman juggling army life with being a young mum.

MUM-OF-ONE Louise Raymond always carries a picture of her young daughter with her wherever she goes.

The 23-year-old, from Maesteg, has already served in Iraq, in 2005, and only found out she was pregnant after returning from the country.

Gunner Louise is training on "the gun line" at the British Army's enormous Batus training base in Canada with the Royal Artillery.

She is one of around 1,420 soldiers and officers in the battle group attached to 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh. The majority of 2 Royal Welsh are recruited from South Wales. They currently have A Company in Afghanistan, taking over from C Company, who returned to a heroes' welcome for their August 22 homecoming parade in Cardiff, when they were greeted by First Minister Rhodri Morgan and members of the British Lions rugby squads. Wales legend Martyn Williams told them soldiers, not rugby players, were the "real heroes".

On the gun line, as enormous AS90 guns fire 155mm shells - the biggest in the Army and capable of travelling several miles - Louise's role is to keep the troops supplied with food, water and anything else they need.

While she trains in baking heat, her three-year-old daughter Hollie is back in Maesteg with Louise's parents, Anthony and Donna.

"It's difficult being a single mum doing a job like this - trying to juggle being a mum with being in the Army," she said.

"I miss Hollie but I bring pictures of her out here. And I get to ring home and speak to her on the phone. And if I need to get away for dental or doctor appointments I get time off."

But unbeknown to Louise, she was pregnant while serving in one of the world's most dangerous war zones.

"I was sent back from Iraq because I had asthma and it was then I found out I was pregnant, while I was doing a normal day's work."

Louise has been at the training base in Canada since September 2 and will be out there until October 14. She is scheduled to go to Afghanistan in 2012.

"I am looking forward to it, as long as I can sort my childcare out," she said.

"It makes no difference being a girl here - the lads are pretty cool and treat me like one of them."

CLICK ON and see more pictures of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh in Canada WalesOnline.co.uk/gallery

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* The Second Battalion Royal Welsh at the Batus training ground, Canada. Below, single mum Louise Raymond, one of around 1,420 soldiers and officers in the battle group

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2009
Words:433
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