In January after returning from Christmas leave I was informed that the battalion had been asked to provide 8 soldiers once again for the guard of honour at the games. Maj Wemyss informed me that he had received the request from Dee Benedict in December. I joked and said that I would be happy to return this year. I was then told dream on, not 2 years in a row. No Sgt Maj someone else will be going this year. Ok I said fair enough, I got the privilege last year and its only fair someone else gets the opportunity this year. I was then asked “who do you think should go”? I did say that “not just anyone can go on this task; they have to have the right personality”. Shortly after this I was then told to pick the 7 other soldiers who would accompany me as Dee had written to the CO and asked for me to head up the trip once again. No complaints there I can assure you.
I aspired to take more soldiers who were injured during our previous tour of Afghanistan. Fus Sean Wiseman was first on the list. Sean had been involved in an IED strike in Dec 2010 and unfortunately he lost leg in the incident. Fus Derek Ferguson was next on the list, Derek was shot in the shoulder and has limited manoeuvrability in his arm since. The remainder were soldiers who had performed well and were offered the trip as recognition for their effort and performance on Ops. CSgt John Wyper from the QM’s Dept. John is responsible for the issuing and accounting of all the Bn technical kit on behalf of the QM & RQMS. Sgt Jimmy Kelt, (Mortars). John is a Mortar Fire Controller and is currently training to be a forward air controller for our forthcoming tour in 2013. These were P/Maj Stuart Gillies from the Bn pipes & drums. LCpl Gordon Smart, (Recce Pl) as just completed the light role recce course. Fus Jonathon Wilson, (B Coy). Is a young Fus who has shown really promising prospects within his Coy?
Once again we were greeted with an outstanding welcome at the airport. No pipers had to be searched this time. The young soldiers couldn’t believe the reception they received and said it made them feel very proud to be there representing the Bn at such an event. Mr Kevin McBride then whisked us off to our accommodation at the Hilton hotel. Once freshened up we were off to Chiefs for dinner. Hot wings and a few beers in the coy of the president of the St Andrews Society and friends and exchange of a few gifts and Stuart decided to get his Pipes out. The locals in the pub quickly gathered around the stage to show their appreciation. It wasn’t long before the jet lag set in and we had to head back for some sleep. On Thursday I went out to Furman University at 0500 hrs to do the news interviews on Fox News while the remainder had a bit of a lie in then some shopping. Then on the Thursday night it was our first engagement, the opening of Greenville live. We met up with the USMC band in Greenville. We then marched down the main street with the band to mark the opening of the many live shows in the town before a visit to the corner pocket for some pool and some dinner. Friday was the day when we were taken to the BMW performance driving school. Here we had the opportunity to drive BMW X5’s to the value of around £70,000 around the X Country track. This you don’t get to do every day. Then we were treated to a fast lap with the instructors in a M5 – an experience the guys wont forget in a hurry. That night it was back into the ceremonials to march as part of the Great Scot parade. It was impressive to see so much tartan somewhere other than home. Again the reception was tremendous. P/Maj Gillies then joined the Greenville Pipes & drums to perform downtown while we all went to the pub. Carolina Ale House where Derek and myself caught up with our old friend Nicole who we met last year. The P/Maj was quite popular that night. All sorts of girls wanted tunes and pictures with him. All in all a very good night was had by all.
Saturday was the day of the games. This is what we came for and again it lived up to our expectations. The set up was very impressive and the competitors were eager to get started. We got into position at the corner of the sports field awaiting the signal to march on. The Duke of Hamilton got into his car and that was it. We marched on and formed our Honour guard as the Duke drove round. I was then honoured to march out with the P/Maj as 4 Ex Green berets parachuted in to the games with the Saltire and Star Spangled Banner – which members of the US Navy and AS Army then presented to me. The P/Maj escorted them off as I gave the order for the Colour party of the USMC to march on their Colours. The Duke then declared the games officially opened. The guys got the opportunity to walk round the games and take in some tastes of home like deep fried haggis and a drink of Irn Bru, you can’t beat it. That night we went to watch what we thought would be a formality in Scotland beating the USA in a game of FOOTBALL! As usual, Scotland didn’t disappoint. Gubbed 5-0 by the US. Absolutely gutted. Well we enjoyed our last night in the states with a few beers in the Coy of Mr & Mrs Don Koonce at Chiefs. At the end of the night we headed back to the Hilton where on of the guests we had got to know met us with a few bottles of moonshine. They are now behind the bar in the WO’s & Sgts mess where they will stay until we host some of our friends from across the pond.
Yet again the St Andrews society proved that we have a lot more in common with each other than people think. We were very well hosted and the guys wanted for nothing. I Know I speak for all the soldiers who visited when I say thank you for the welcome and hospitality we were shown during our visit, especially Kevin McBride and Javier caballero for transporting us around. Unfortunately as soon as we returned the guys were all split to the four winds with tasks to assist in units training for deployment in the very near future and were unable to give their own individual point of view. I have thoroughly enjoyed my 2 visits to Greenville and I am honoured that I have been invited back for a third. Unfortunately I will be in Afghanistan next year when the games are on; the CO has confirmed that he will send some soldiers who will not be deployed. I know they will receive the same welcome that I, and the others, have received in the last 2 years.
WO2 Jason Craig