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Pictured (left to right):Mike Winter, of Northern Defence Industries, UK: Lance Corporal Lekesio Vula, tank crewman, of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Pipes & Drums; Right Honouirable John Hutton, Secretary of State for Defence, UK
It has become the custom in the United Kingdom to Welcome Home our troops returning from deployment.
7 Armoured Brigade, lately back from Iraq, marched through London to Parliament to be cheered by MPs and take tea on the famous terrace overlooking the River Thames.
Among the Brigade, known as the Desert Rats, in their pressed khakis and berets, the brilliant scarlet jackets and polished instruments of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards glittered in the mild English air.
Lcpl Vula, pictured here with one of the event's sponsors and with the British Defence Secretary, was one of three representing the 2200 Fijian nationals currently serving in the British Armed Forces.
The other two were Private Tikomai Lepanoni, of 4 Scots Highlanders, and Private Que, of 2 Royal Anglians.
The mission in Iraq has transformed since 2003, from conventional warfighting through fullscale counterinsurgency tactics to mentoring the local security forces. Military Training teams (MITTs) pass on their knowledge and confidence to the Iraqi Army, who have gradually built up their expertise to be able to resume responsibility for the duties lately carried out by the Coalition.
Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton said:
"The men and women who served in Iraq with 7th Armoured Brigade have every reason to be proud of their achievements and, as a Member of Parliament, I am delighted that they are being honoured here at Westminster.
"Throughout their time in Basra we saw remarkable progress, which set the conditions for the peaceful Provincial Elections last month. Their hard work, commitment and bravery has helped to deliver improved stability and prosperity for all the people of Basra."
Fijians have a long history of service in the British Army, part of campaigns in Malaya, Borneo and Oman. Over 500 Fijians deployed in Telic 1, the original invasion of Iraq. Fiji also makes a substantial contribution to United Nations peacekeeping missions in its own right.
Legend has it that a military band attending the Edinburgh tattoo in 1998 were so impressed by what they saw that they applied for a transfer to British regiments, kickstarting the contemporary trend for Fijian recruitment.