DOZENS of Bicester soldiers are gearing up to provide security at the Paralympic Games at the end of the month.
It comes weeks after the troops brushed shoulders with royalty, MPs and Olympians’ families while carrying out security checks on people and vehicles at Greenwich Park, where most of the equestrian events for the London Olympic Games took place.
Soldiers manned the VIP lanes and saw through the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, and Princess Anne.
About 60 troops from 23 Pioneer Regiment have swapped St David’s Barracks, near Bicester, for HMS Ocean for the duration of the 2012 Olympics and paralympics.
They include Afghanistan veterans Lance Corporal John Sarbutts, 34, and Private Owen James, 23, who have been based at the Olympic Park since early July. L Cpl Sarbutts, who volunteered to work at the Games, said: “Just to be part of it has been great.
“With the UK winning so many golds it has been fantastic.”
Troops have been working 12-hour shifts, but were given complimentary tickets to events, including show jumping.
Most of the Bicester soldiers volunteered for service at the Olympics, which included setting up military camps. None were drafted in at short notice in the wake of the G4S fiasco.
Pte James said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to take part in the British Olympics and be able to say ‘I was there’, even if I wasn’t competing.”
On a break from manning arrival lanes, Cpl Dan Hayler, normally on administration duties at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, said: “It’s been brilliant. Although they have been long days, it’s nice to get involved in a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
It came as members of Team GB said thank you to the British forces who helped out.
Stars of past and present, including gold medal cyclist Jason Kenny and rowing great Sir Steve Redgrave, hosted more than 100 service personnel at a reception at Team GB House near the Olympics Park on Saturday, August 11.
Sprint champion Mr Kenny commended the attitude of the military.
“Every time I went through the security gates they came across as professional, efficient and courteous,” he said.
Some 18,200 members of the British Armed Forces supported the Olympic Games, providing a range of land, naval and air expertise.
The Government announced last month that 23 Pioneer Regiment would be disbanded by October 2015.