A COURAGEOUS Territorial Army soldier is heading off to war-torn Iraq for six months on his first deployment.

Private Peter Cowton, who lives in Moat Close, Bramley, will be travelling to the country's second largest city, Basra, on Wednesday to take part in peacekeeping duties and to help provide essential humanitarian aid.

The 22-year-old warehouse worker at Eli Lilly will join the 130-member strong Infantry Company (Coy) which will be working alongside the regular army.

He said: "I'm not too nervous. The media reports coming from out there seem to be quite quiet.

"I am a little apprehensive, but it's part of the job. My parents are a bit worried - they are just hoping I'll be OK."

He added: "I joined the TA last January to get a taste of the job and I have enjoyed it. I'm hoping to join the regular army when I get back. I can't wait to get out there, I'm really looking forward to it."

During the last couple of months Pte Cowton has been taking part in an intensive mobilisation training regime at a purpose-built village at Thetford Army Training Area.

Here, soldiers take part in simulated riots, general base security patrols and guard duties.

They also have training on improvised explosive devices - such as grenades and car bombs - and stop-and-search techniques for cars and trucks.

Mr Cowton, who belongs to the Royal Gloucester, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment of the Royal Rifle Volunteers in Reading, said: "The training has been first class and I feel a lot more confident about going out there than I did before.

"We have been learning some Arabic, which has been really interesting. I can say a few basics like 'hello', 'how are you?' and 'any news?'

"We will have interpreters but it is a respectful thing to learn."

First published: Friday, May 13, 2005