All aboard at Leuchars Station

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Giggles, screeches and chatter course around the community centre of Leuchars Station, home to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (SDG) for over three months now.

A hubbub of activity, the multi-purpose centre plays host to a variety of activities including exercise classes, parent and toddler groups, a cafe, meeting rooms and more – all accessible to both military and civilian families.

After a tumultuous few months for the regiment, there are signs that the near 800 soldiers and their families are beginning to settle in.

Opening the doors of the base to the Herald and Citizen, the SDG were keen to show the community what they are all about.

Captain Jake Baillie, welfare officer, explained that for many it was their first UK posting.

And the boots on the ground are eager to be part of their new community.

“People are throwing themselves into things and we are really excited to be able to get involved,” he said.

For example, Sergeant Charlie Lang, unit welfare SNCO, who has the mammoth task of looking after the wellbeing of soldiers and their families, has started volunteering for the Scouts as his son goes to the company on the base.

For the regiment it is an opportunity to stretch their wings, something that wasn’t always possible in Germany.

The recent bonfire night – paid for out of the pockets of the soldiers – was one of the first joint military and civilian events since the regiment’s arrival.

With well over 500 people attending, it was a successful start to the integration.

“Generations in the village have been used to the way it worked with the RAF but now we have got to give the Army personnel time to settle down,” said community council chairman Carroll Finnie.

“We have an Army mum on the parent council and at the last community council meeting representatives from the Army attended.

“They are trying to come into the village and get involved.

“Padre Mike Goodison (chaplain) is a great go-between and comes down to the village a lot.”

The transition is not without teething problems but Carroll said it was important to remember that it wasn’t just the village that had undergone a change.

“It has been a huge transition for the Army, including the kids, many of whom were born and grew up in Germany and are just getting used to being here,” she said.

“Communication is the key and I am setting up meetings to help sort the issues – nailing things on the head before they get out of control.

“Although things aren’t the same, we are going in the right direction.”

For the Army that direction includes a programme of events to allow the community to be part of activities held at the base and open the dialogue between Leuchars and the regiment.

“We want people to know what we’re up to,” Captain Baillie explained.

“We are open and engaging and much of what we do, particularly in the welfare and community centre, is also open to the civilian community.

“It is only going to get better and better.”

My visit coincided with a baby communication class held by community nursery nurse Karen Broggan from the NHS health visiting team.

“It is a real mix of people here,” Karen said. “We have RAF families, Army families and civilians.

“We run weekly classes – from baby massage to breastfeeding clinics and parenting classes.

“It is about integrating mums, many of whom are away from home and the extended support of their families.”

A diverse unit, the Scots Dragoon Guards is home to many different nationalities and one of the community events being planned – an Independence Day – will reflect the large Fijian contingent.

Captain Baillie stressed how important an open-door policy was for the future.

“We want people to feel like they can come here, have a look around and use the services we offer,” he said.

For a unit that has only been in place for three months, the enthusiastic and genuine attitude towards community life is very much a positive one.