AN RAF Squadron Leader from Wickwar will be one of the last to leave Basra when UK military operations end in Iraq.

Colin Laker, 42, a former pupil of Katharine Lady Berkeley's School in Wotton-under-Edge, is currently deployed at the Contingency Operating Base (COB) just outside Basra.

He is responsible for the safety of British troops and aircraft operating from the COB.

Colin will be among the last to leave when UK troops depart the military theatre of operations by July 31.

In the meantime, he is coordinating the critical provision of security to the multinational force's military base in Basra.

He said: "I am really enjoying my tour here and coordinating operations uses a tremendously wide range of combat operators and specialised equipment.

"Knowing that I’m having a direct bearing on ensuring the safe and timely return of the last British troops back to the UK is also extremely rewarding."

As the Deputy Officer Commanding of No7 Force Protection Wing, Colin said: "I am part of a highly trained team that is wholly responsible for the safety of British troops and aircraft operating from the COB.

"Every part of the risk and hazards of operating in Iraq is mitigated by the expertly trained RAF Police, RAF Regiment and British Infantry personnel that I coordinate."

Colin joined the Royal Air Force Regiment in 1986 and this is one of many differing roles that he has undertaken during his career.

He has served at numerous locations across the UK and overseas, including Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Oman, America and Germany. When he’s not deployed, he is based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

"This tour in Iraq provides constant challenges but as a result of our work, we are assisting the Iraqi nation to rebuild and develop confidence in its own Armed Forces and Police.

"It is the British success in this area that has enabled the departure of UK troops this summer," he added.

He said the mosquitoes, flies and dust storms were the less enjoyable elements of the job and being away from his family and friends was hard, in particular his wife Paula and daughter Evelyn, but he was looking forward to returning soon.

In a message to his family, Colin said: "Don’t worry about me, I’m with the best there is. I miss you all very much, the pace of life is really fast here, but I think about you all just before I go to sleep every day.

"Have confidence that the Brits are doing a good job out here and we are all working really hard to get back home and see you all soon."

An active sportsman, Colin is a keen skydiver and, as an enthusiastic member of the Parachute Display Team 'The Falling Rocks', said he was looking forward to donning his parachute and getting airborne again on his return to the UK.