John Whittingdale attended a briefing by members of the Royal Anglian Regiment on recent operations including the First Battalion's tour of Afghanistan.
The "Vikings" were there for 6 months in 2009/10 and while much real progress was achieved, they lost 5 soldiers with many more injured.
C Company of 1 Royal Anglian recruits from Essex and John Whittingdale is pictured with Corporal Aaron Kerin and Private Louis Purbrick, both of 1 Royal Anglian.
John Whittingdale said: "The heroism and bravery demonstrated by these soldiers on a daily basis is truly inspirational. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for the work they are doing"