GWENT soldiers are ready for deployment in Iraq - as they prepare for duty there just days after six British military policemen were killed there.

The 178 Territorial Army volunteers from the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers will leave for a six-month tour of duty in Iraq in two parties - one on July 8 and the other on July 12.

There they will be bridge-building, repairing roads and carrying out water and sewerage improvements.

Yesterday the soldiers were practising constructing low-wire entanglements, a defensive ploy to slow down or halt an advancing hostile enemy, in Brecon.

But the men and women participating in 'Operation Telic 2' say they are apprehensive about the tour, following the last week's tragic news.

Six Royal Military Police soldiers were gunned down by an armed mob in the southern town of Al Major al-Kabir last Tuesday.

British troops are investigating the shootings, which happened in an Iraqi police station. Yesterday Corporal Steve Martin, 43, from Malpas, Newport, admitted it was hard to tell his 15-year-old son Richard what he was about to do.

"Richard is apprehensive for me but I tried not to discuss the bad things.

* Pictured among those putting the final touches to their training is Sergeant Major Islwyn Evans, from Blackwood "Our public order and combat training has brought home how rapidly things can escalate - we have to go out and be friendly, show locals what we're doing for the country."

Robert Lewis, a 21-year-old sapper from Rogiet, who will be joined in Iraq by his 18-year-old brother Karl, said: "The training has been fantastic, we're lucky to be deployed as a regiment because we were already bonded and we've become even closer.

"What happened in Iraq last week was a shock but we knew that there were still pockets of resistance out there. We're fully trained to deal with it."

Sergeant Major Islwyn Evans, from Blackwood, is responsible for the welfare and morale of the troops while in the Gulf.

The 43-year-old building inspector said: "I'm very proud of them.

"My greatest worry is the heat, none of us have worked in those conditions before. "There is an element of the unknown, you can't train for everything. Our families are concerned but they put on a brave face for us.

"We're there to help win the hearts and minds of the people, but we can't let our guard down too much."