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Inside this issue:
Welcome Commander’s Commendations 7 Hq & Sp Sqn OC’s look back Radio One Bridge build AGC (SPS) REME 1st AES Busy lines Supporting ANSF Op QALB 11 1st find Bad weather LCpl Cope Spr Walters 4 AES Newey Barrier Field Troop Transition Bridging CP Zarawar 73 AES FOB Ouelette Busy Christmas Busy Ouelette Festive Period Christmas JCCC Final Points Glossary 2 2
(Capt Ian Jones)
Since we’re now beginning to break the back of the tour, and with most of the “chuff” charts starting to register 60% and above, I thought it was about time I put pen to paper to say hello and introduce this month’s Bear Necessities. Well sitting in the Headquarters of Task Force Helmand it is becoming more and more apparent that the Corps motto of ‘UBIQUE’ (Everywhere) is as valid as it has ever been. The Sappers of the Engineer Group have had another extremely busy month completing tasks ranging from organising the first ever Helmand 20/20 Cricket tournament to stripping out one of the largest coalition force bases in the province. Whether in support of closing something, clearing something, building something or protecting something, you can guarantee that the guys will be there living in austere conditions but getting the job done to the highest standard and they have all achieved a huge amount to be proud of across the whole of Helmand and beyond. As the Adjutant, part of my remit is to ensure that all those who go above and beyond that expected of them, particularly difficult within the Sappers, are acknowledged and an operational deployment creates plenty of opportunities for Honours and Awards. In this month’s edition you will read about the exploits of SSgt Patterson, Cpl Field and Spr Hessell all of which are thoroughly deserving of their awards which they can show you at the homecoming. I’ll let you into a little secret - there’s more to come; the details of which you will have to wait for until the next edition. Whilst the efforts of those forward are being acknowledged it is also worth mentioning all those back on the Rear Operations Group who are working so hard to ensure that our families are supported and the Regiment is in a good place for when we get back. Major Lenny Lennox and his merry band of welfare men have provided an absolute first class service ensuring that any casualties and all those with compassionate or welfare issues are looked after and the Regiment are kept informed of how they’re getting on. No doubt you get to see those guys on a regular basis back in Ripon so back to the operation. In this edition you’ll read about the visit of Radio 1 DJ Greg James who spent some time with the Regiment over Christmas, the bridging operation which put the Afghans front and centre, a busy Light Aid Detachment keeping our fleet on the road and the Squadron Second-in-Command who knows more about beauty products than most of the girls in Clinique Headquarters - surprising in more ways than one! Anyway, it’s about time I let the guys who are actually delivering the effect tell you all about it. All that’s left for me to do is to wish you all the best for 2013; we look forward to seeing you all soon!
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Welcome to the third edition of the Bear Necessities, the monthly Newsletter from 21 Engineer Regiment and 42 Field Squadron (28 Engineer Regiment). While the Regiment is deployed the Newsletter will give you the news from all over Helmand province to tell you what your husband, wife, brother, sister, son or daughter is up to. The Bear Necessities will be published around the first of each month. If it’s late, bear with us as IT out here is unreliable. As ever, if there is anything in particular you think should be included in the newsletter let the Welfare Office know and we will see what we can do. If there are questions that you have about the tour, pass them to the Welfare Office and if we can answer them you will see the answers in the next edition. Lastly, we hope you enjoyed your Christmas and Happy New Year.
Make sure you ‘like’ our Facebook page. www.facebook.com/21engineerregi ment
During the tour several soldiers have been awarded Commendations from Brigadier Bob Bruce, the Brigade Commander in the form of ‘Commander’s Coins’ for their hard work above and beyond what is expected of them. There were three commendations awarded to soldiers in our deployed element. One to SSgt Patterson, from 1st AES who was responsible for managing the transfers and movements of a large fleet of TALISMAN training vehicles over an extremely busy period. All of the moves were completed with absolute efficiency and minimal fuss which in turn enabled maximum training time for the TALISMAN Squadron. No other unit could have had to manage such a significant burden; the transfer of training vehicles within the UK alone is managed by the Land Training Fleet in Warminster. The second commendation went to Spr Hessell, from 42 Field Squadron who on deploying to Patrol Base (PB) Wahid, in Nad-e Ali identified that the austere conditions of the PB were being exacerbated by a lack of maintenance on the showers and washing facilities. Although lacking in experience and spares to remedy the situation, Spr Hessell set about finding an intuitive solution to a problem that others had simply ignored. In a short period, he managed to get all the showers, water heaters, water pumps and washing machines in full working order delivering an immediate and tangible difference to the 230 soldiers serving at that location. Sadly, many of those who have benefitted directly from his selfless work remain unaware of his efforts as he took it upon himself to work Spr Hessell with Brigadier Bruce through the night to complete the necessary repairs in order to avoid disruption to the Company. Lastly, Cpl Field was also awarded a commendation for his hard work in the Engineer Resources. Cpl Field has done an outstanding job in presenting cargo for backloading. The cargo was been stowed immaculately and he presented perfect documentation. He has not complained during the process, in which he had to reconfigure several loads due to ISO serviceability. He has carried out these tasks in a timely manner and has been in full liaison with the surface JNCOs; if all units were as proactive and had his motivation then redeployment of kit and equipment to the UK would be easy business. Page 2
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7HQ & SP SQN
OC’s look back—Maj Stu McGhee
I write this as we fast approach the New Year and like most at this time of year, I look back and reflect on what has been achieved, not just in the first three months of the tour but also the rest of the year. 12 months ago we were enjoying the Christmas holidays with our families knowing that in a year’s time it would all be very different. We were well prepared for the training in January having already started the most basic aspects; physical training was progressing well and personnel had been placed on key courses to ensure that the Squadron had the right qualifications for the tour. Not surprisingly the pace of work increased but at a pace that was manageable ensuring that everyone, regardless of experience, took something away from the training. The weeks quickly flew by as, one by one, the training serials were completed. Like all squadrons there is a great variety of experience within it; some soldiers have never deployed before and others will be fast approaching their tenth deployment! For both the training was equally demanding as everyone was put through their paces and, without exception, everyone raised their game accordingly. There were of course a number of key manning changes in the Squadron, with the Squadron Second-in-Command, Squadron Sergeant Major and Resources Troop Commander all being replaced with new personnel. These were not the only new arrivals in the Squadron but the challenge for them was to get to grips with their key responsibilities whilst also undergoing the training. Changes continued throughout the year with one of the last being the Escort Multiple commander, SSgt Sutton who only briefly saw his troop in the UK before deploying in September! September soon arrived and all the training was completed. The Squadron had trained hard and I had been very impressed with the state of the Squadron but the greatest and final challenge, the tour itself, was just starting. The Squadron replaced 38 Headquarter and Support Squadron in early September. Immediately it was apparent that whilst looking to support a number of current operations, we would also be looking to reduce the equipment we hold in preparation for the end of combat operations at the end of 2014. Since September the Squadron has performed well ensuring that the Regiment receives the level of support it demands. The Construction Supervisory Cell has constantly churned out various technical designs, whilst Log Tp have continued to provide the engineer resources to the Close Support Squadrons to ensure they can deliver engiThe Escort Multiple hit the road again neer support to the Transition Support Units. In addition to providing stores forward the Troop are conducting robust housekeeping on their yard and back loading resources that are no longer required. Finally the Escort Multiple has continued rack up the miles as they ferry stores and personnel around the area of operations on a regular basis. We are now just beyond the halfway point but I am confident that the Squadron is well placed to continue to provide support to the Regiment for the remainder of the tour. I continue to be impressed by the manner in which all Squadron personnel have conducted themselves during the tour. Everyone has something to offer, whether it is raw enthusiasm for their first tour or the knowledge and Page 3 Sgt Brown and Sgt Misters playing ‘nails’ on Christmas Day
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experience of having been on several tours before and for some this is their third tour of Afghanistan! Looking forward, 2013 will see the closing of the Afghan chapter for the Regiment but Afghanistan will continue to develop and looking to its future there is a sense of hope. The path ahead will not be easy but the performance of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is reassuring having demonstrated that they are capable of conducting operations on their own. On behalf of all personnel within 7 Headquarters & Support Squadron, I wish you all a very Happy New Year and we look forward to our return in March.
Radio One’s Greg James Experience of Diving—Sgt ‘Ed’ Misters
Sgt Misters with Greg James before the ‘awkward’ drill
On Wednesday 12th December just after lunch the dive team was crashed out. It was my job, Sgt ‘Ed’ Misters (Regimental Army Dive Supervisor), to quickly get the team assembled with SSgt ‘Belph’ Redpath, SSgt Ronnie Parker and LCpl Mark Sgt Misters watches Greg cutting the IBloomfield beam answering the call. Could this be a task???? With the team ready the news arrived that Greg James from Radio One was to try his hand at being an Army Diver. So with a quick setup of the dive site we were ready to receive this Radio One Celebrity. Greg arrived at the dive tank a bit worried but was soon put at ease by myself as he now knew what was required from him. SSgt Redpath was up first and effortlessly showed Greg how to use the Broco Ultrathermic Cutting tool (an underwater blow-torch), using just one Broco rod cut a section off a steel I-beam. Now it was Greg’s turn, he managed to well... Let’s just say it was a good attempt! With the cutting complete it was time to get Greg dressed into the MTP (Multi Terrain Pattern) diving suit. This was to be a timed event as all divers know what is called an “Awkward!” at the Military Dive School. Greg had three minutes to get changed into his diving suit with his hood and fins at the ready! (You can see this video on his Radio One blog Greg James in Afghanistan, it is hilarious). Quickly changed in time, Greg was ready for the lovely warm water of the dive tank, with a quick dance and a bit of pantomime of whether he was going to get in or not, Greg SSgt Parker comes to Greg James rescue as he resembles a puffer fish finally jumped in. His suit SSgt Parker on discovering his divequickly filled up like a suit had a leak puffer fish and he was instantly complaining about how cold it was, bless! Under the water was SSgt Parker who was carrying out his task of recovering the steel I-beam (which Greg had lowered in off the side of the tank before jumping in). Greg was now swimming on the surface with his underwater camera taking photos of this elite diver carrying out his task. With the task complete the I-beam was recovered and SSgt Parker who arrived on the surface, only to discover he had a bit of a wet dive. We took a final few pictures of the diving team together and then it was time to say goodbye to our Radio One celebrity.
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Greg James’ 5 Bridge Build—LCpl Chris Whiteside
With Greg James on route to the sunny sandy place, the mighty 7 HQ & Sp Sqn was tasked to supply a bridging team to show the Radio One presenter how we roll in The Corps of Royal Engineers. Sgt ‘Ed’ Misters was tasked to get the team together. With the chosen few selected, he couldn’t have picked a better team. Sgt Misters started the rehearsals for the build two days before Greg was due to arrive, to ensure things went smoothly on the day. Day 1 of rehearsals arrived, Sgt Misters dished out the jobs to the guys, left of bridge team consisted of, Lt ‘Dettie’ Brooks, Sgt John ‘the dog slayer’ Churcher, LCpl ‘Mikey’ Howard, Cpl ‘Rob flapper’ Ramsey and SSgt ‘Snowy’ Snow. The right of bridge consisted of SSgt ‘Gangnam’ Hill, LCpl ‘Chris’ Whiteside, Spr ‘Minty’ Murray, Spr ‘Stu’ Howie and last but not least Spr ‘Jacko’ Jackson. Considering that this was refresher training for the vast majority of us, things went reasonably well, the build took a little longer in parts than expected, but we knew this would be the case. As the saying goes ‘practice makes perfect’. Day 2 of the rehearsals went very well, we built the bridge in good time, so we decided to concentrate our focus on our ‘jacking ’ skills, due to this taking the most time to get right on day one. Myself and Spr ‘Jacko’ Jackson were given the task of running over to the other side Greg James, Spr Murray, Spr Howie and LCpl Whiteside of the bridge and jacking it up so we could get the packing to go under. Once we managed to jack the bridge high enough, we sprinted back over the other side and endeavoured to help the guys with the ramping and decking phase. Once all the decking and ramping was complete all that was left to do now was to take ‘five’ and strip it out once more, this will bring an end to yet another glorious day in the Corps. Day 3 and the big day had arrived where we would be building the Medium Girder Bridge 5 Bay (medium sized bridge, capable of covering a twenty metre distance and supporting heavy armoured vehicles). This time with the SSgt Hill & Greg James help this time of Greg James, who would be joining us straight from his little swim in the dive tank with Sgt Misters. At 1400 hrs and finally Greg James had arrived with his camera man and all the others who had decided to come and watch (shame they never stayed long enough for the strip out). As Greg and the rest of us got our safety brief from Sgt Misters, Greg received his tasks for the mission and it was finally time for him to get a bit of ‘hands on lift up’. The build started well with Greg being right of bridge, as we lifted the first panel into place, Greg got a bit of a shock when he realised that the panel was heavier Page 5
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than expected. All was going well and Greg looked to be having a good time. With the bridge successfully across the gap, all it meant was that myself and ‘Jacko’ had to get across the bridge and begin jacking. Upon getting across the bridge, we jacked the bridge up and slotted the packing under. Now was the time to really push Greg to his limits and get him involved in the ramping and decking phase, as we finished putting the decking on, it was time to put the final Greg James & Spr Jackson pieces into place, the last ramp got put into place and all that was left now was the kerbs. The last piece of kerbing got put on and all in all it was a good effort from everybody involved and Greg looked like he had fun, although he said he was feeling physically sick, he put in a very good effort for a civilian novice to bridging.
With the bridge complete we decided to test our work and show Greg what bridging was all about so we drove the husky over the bridge so all that was left now was for the lads to get a photo with Greg. With the photos complete it was time for Greg to move on and celebrate with tea and medals and time for the rest of us to start stripping out. Overall a good day had by all and Greg James lives to fight another day, ‘just about’.
The bridging team
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Attached Arms—Adjutant Generals Corps Staff and Personnel Support Branch
The life of an SPS Soldier in Afghanistan—Sgt Tasha Robertson
Where to begin………well, I have now been in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan for over 3 months with 7 HQ & Sp Sqn. I have settled in great and don’t seem to be missing home too much; I am sharing a tent ‘pod’ with the Unit Press Officer Lt Rosie Brooks, we have turned our bland tent into a proper girlie room complete with TV thanks to the Regimental Quartermaster (Technical) along with the Squadron Quartermaster, he has made life more comfortable by providing blankets so between us we have a few coffees to buy. Sgt Robertson, Lt Brooks & Sgt Mardling enjoying non-alcoholic beer at the SPS Christmas function
A special mention should go to the Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM), who I might as well mention before I forget, he is known in the Sqn as the ‘Zero Morale Diet Person’, a Boost bar has 330 calories, random and useless information I know but Spr Bingham got 330 press ups just for eating one……….I stay away if I can…..the SSM calls it Physical Development Training…….I call it nonsense, being a Jock it makes no sense at all!! We have got into the fitness thing though, spinning on Monday and Fridays, Zumba Tuesdays and Thursdays; myself, SSgt Believe Muks, Lt Rosie Brooks, SSgt Russ Hill and LCpl Mikey Howard gave the Americans a run for their money. I’ll tell you something, we can definitely shake a tail feather, of which I have video footage. Sgt Robertson Chilling in the pod, scribbling down notes to write this article and the Unit Press Officer has just blown the lights…..the expression on her face was PRICELESS!!
I recently found out that Capt Niall McCracken, the Sqn Second-inCommand, is the man in the know when it comes to beauty products— which is worrying as he knows a lot more than me - I also discovered that he’s a massive fan of chick flicks!!! All in all he’s having the last laugh at the minute when it comes to receiving mail from going to receiving nothing to slowly receiving packages weekly. Wee LCpl ‘Smudge’ Smith whined for a whole week about not receiving mail, he was not a happy chappy and in good old Scottish style he went absolutely nuts on Facebook only to receive parcels the following day. Cpl Rob “clip my wings” Ramsay who works in the Ops Room is a wee gem in his own right but he tends to flap a little, hence the reason he was awarded a certificate for flapping from the OC, Maj Stu McGhee. I also have the responsibility for 2 Interpreters who work for our Regiment, I’m their MLM (Military Line Manager) and deal with everything from pay, clothing, leave, training and apSgt Robertson, Sgt Mardling & Lt Brooks praisals. Overall, they are good lads but know how to push my buttons— they know who the boss is, though they can be demeet Gethin Jones manding just like my own lads—I’m not long in putting them firmly back in their boxes. Normal administration and monthly checks are also helping the weeks fly by and the tour is going quickly. Apart from the Sqn Photo taking place and Spr Clarke getting 10 heaves for having his red dragon in the photo, I have squeezed in a photo with Gethin Jones, things are not too bad in Camp Bastion.
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Attached Arms—Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Another busy week for the LAD—LCpl Kennedy
Another busy week down in the Light Aid Detachment (LAD), though mainly for the right reasons. After a busy few days prior to Christmas preparing vehicles for a HQ Squadron Operation on Boxing Day, the influx of work was steady for the week meaning we could celebrate the festive period in style. For us junior ranks fortunate enough to be in Camp Bastion over this period a special treat awaited. Christmas morning, 0630 hrs, woken with festive cheer in the form of a sausage sandwich and brew by the senior ranks, including Sgt Spencer Booth in a rather fetching pair of sparkly hot pants (that were clearly a size or two small) revealing a little more than any of us would wish for. Our next event was a round of sports including 5 a-side football, basketball and volleyball. After the slightly ‘camplooking’ wake up call, we opted for the football pitch to hammer home our masculinity as an LAD. Following a surprisingly good Christmas dinner we went to work for a FIFA 13 tournament competition arranged by Sgt Dave Francis. It didn’t take long to work out he’d formulated a plan to rig the tournament in his favour by insisting we all represented our local teams, giving himself and Sgt Spencer Booth the advantage as the only Premier League club supporters. The master-plan failed miserably, with Sgt Dave Francis finding himself a spectator for the final, and Cpl ‘Muffin Diet’ Redmond the eventual victor. On the 29 December, ‘Muffin Diet’ and LCpl ‘Glass Back’ Smith were selected to represent the LAD in a sit down meeting with the visiting Brigade Commander, Brigadier Bruce. LCpl Smith was such a good suck up to senior personnel that he was relieved of a 24 hr duty for the pleasure, with LCpl Kennedy the unfortunate person to pick up this duty. This week also saw the return to Bastion of LCpl ‘20%’ Miller from HMS Price, instantly attempting to lower the morale of the lads with his moaning about being stranded at the flight line for over an hour, as none of us had bothered to pick him up. New Year’s Eve was soon upon us and again there was no shortage of fun. It started out like any normal day at work, but we soon worked out LCpl Smith’s mind was elsewhere, failing to complete a single job given to him throughout the day he made a resolution to pick things up in the New Year. We finished work a bit early to have a ‘friendly’ kick about on the football pitch, only for Sgt Dave Francis to disgracefully try and claim a victory for the seniors, in the ongoing Juniors vs Seniors competition (his team still trail overall). The highlight of the day came that evening when we were invited along to a BBQ and AGC Band performance. In the couple of hours spent enjoying the covers and delayed Christmas songs we realised where LCpl Smith’s mind had been, singing along awfully out of tune and forgetting he had a back injury to display some questionable ‘Moves like Jagger’. We also had the pleasure of being enlightened to the hidden past of the OC, Capt ‘Street’ Holdsworth, who revealed he had been a visitor to a rap battle with his slightly more ‘Street’ brother in yesteryear. Not quite the image any of us had for the boss. All in all, a morale filled week at work in the LAD, celebrating Christmas and seeing in the New Year in ‘style’ and feeling the countdown to returning home can really begin.
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1st Armoured Engineer Squadron
Busy lines in changing times—WO2 (SSM) Aldridge
The 1st Armoured Engineer Squadron iscurrently deployed as the Task Force Helmand Engineer Group TALISMAN 10 Troop proving routes in the desert Sqn. Now halfway through this operational tour the Sqn continues to deliver the route safety support in true “Dog Sqn” style. Its been a busy three months that has seen the Sqn providing support to the usual Combat Logistic Patrols, ensuring that International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) bases are regularly resupplied without the delay caused by Improvised Explosive Device (IED) strikes. Deliberate operations supporting the Coalition Forces and Transitional Support Units have also been a main stay of our tasks. By far the more interesting and chewier of missions, and the type Dog Sqn troops enjoy the most, they are no less important in paving the way for success in the campaign. More interestingly the type of deliberate operations is steadily changing, the TALISMAN role remains unchanged however the offensive element of most missions now tends to be delivered by both Afghan and ISAF security forces. ISAF involvement is morphing steadily into a back seat role, being prepared to stand up only if required, being the supporting force as oppose to the supported. We now find ourselves in support of an Afghan security force with real punch. But irrespective of this change the threat of IEDs still remains and as long as ISAF forces need freedom of movement around the province, both offensively and during draw down, this TALISMAN Sqn will provide the mobility support required to enable transitional success.
With a little help from our friends… supporting the ANSF—Spr Arnall, 10 TALISMAN Tp
Recently the lads of 10 Troop went out on Operation (Op) QALB KHANJAR to provide route safety support to a joint ISAF and Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) mission. Our orders placed heavy emphasis on the fact that we were supporting the ANSF and not the other way around. These Afghan security forces are sorting their own back yard out now. We left Camp Bastion and forward-based at Cpl Tyrie taking a break during a search MOB Price (aka Camp Nice) for the evening, where in between orders and briefings on the upcoming Op, we consumed plenty of coffee at the Danish Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) or Kuffen—as the Danes call it. This helped to keep us occupied for the evening. After waking up early the next day we made last minute preparations such as loading personal kit, equipment and sorting out our weapon systems - we were ready to rock. Our destination was an area of the province where the insurgents had freedom of movement, they wouldn’t have it for much longer as we would be operating in there in support of the ANSF for the next 48 hours. After a minor delay (due to weather) we were soon on the road. Page 9
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Following a short move down Highway 1 with the Royal Marines, safe in our footprints, we began making our way up to the target area, an area of ground which is known to be used by insurgents. With our lead wagon selecting a route for us around the compounds and farmers’ fields (to avoid annoying the locals!) we made our way to our pre-determined positions. These would be taken up by the Marines and ourselves, whilst 500 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were conducting an operation. The ANSF's intent was to give the insurgents a shock in one of the biggest operations the ANSF has led to 10 Troop soldiers conducting a search date. After we had dropped off the Marines, we found a good position to spend the night. During the operation a partner ISAF vehicle suffered an IED strike to their vehicle. Although there were no casualties the vehicle was immobile; a plan was hatched during the night to use the Troop’s TALISMAN capability to help recover the vehicle the next day. 10 Troop moved off the following morning, firstly clearing a safe route to the stricken vehicle, once this was complete from any further threat, we secured the area to allow the recovery asset to collect the stranded vehicle. The whole recovery operation ran smoothly and quickly. On completion the Troop returned to support their original mission and then recovered back to Bastion. Another successful operation and subsequent additional recovery support to a blast stricken vehicle proves what a utilitarian and dynamic capability TALISMAN can be. Later that second day we were informed that the ANSF had achieved their objective earlier than expected and we were to prepare for 10 Troop proving a route the extraction of the soldiers that we had guided into position the day before. We proved a safe route back onto Highway 1, to make sure there were no nasty surprises for us when it was time to extract. After a short wait for the Marines to pack up their kit, we rolled out of the fields and back onto Highway 1 without incident. Another highly successful operation completed, we arrived back in Camp Bastion knowing that we had played a vital role in denying freedom of movement to the insurgents and supported the ANSF in delivering stability Afghan style; sounds like a big step towards transition to me.
Op QALB 11: the Christmas offensive—Lt Waite, 11 Troop
11 TALISMAN Tp has recently returned from Op QALB 11, the longest operation completed by the 1 st Armoured Engineer Squadron so far during Op HERRICK 17. During the operation we supported the Scots Guards as they pushed deep into Taliban territory into an area outside of the control of the government and never before visited by ISAF. The idea of the operation was to create maximum shock and surprise, by entering an area that the enemy thought was so safe he could return there to get some rest and relaxation. We would use the overwhelming force of the armour and our ability to beat his IEDs to overmatch the insurgent so much he couldn’t even comprehend trying to fight us. Page 10
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Talisman vehicles in a leaguer in the desert The operation started with a long distance move out into the desert, this presented its own problems; namely navigation in the featureless expanse that is the Afghan desert. Thankfully the map reading skills of Sgt Dalby combined with the abilities of the drivers allowed us to pick a route up through the hills and across the desert to the rear of the insurgent. After travelling throughout the day we reached the location of our leaguer where we would spend the night.
Just as the sun rose across the horizon the Troop followed by the armour began advancing towards the insurgent stronghold. The insurgent had two options; to stand and fight or to flee into the river to the south. He chose the second and headed in disarray and en-mass to the south. This had been accounted for and the ANA had moved to greet the fleeing Taliban fighters. Talisman Troops providing close support Once we were in position around the villages a section of Engineers from 4 Sqn came up and built a non-equipment bridge (a bridge made from natural materials) across the river. This allowed the ANA to cross over and begin searching the compounds that we were watching. Again the ANA soldiers came into contact with the insurgents. We remained in position, providing protection, for the following days whilst the bridge was being built. Once the bridge was built we where able to pull back to the desert and conduct a welcome re-supply. From here we again conducted a long distance move to a different part of the desert, just out of sight of another insurgent held area. Again we conducted a night leaguer and received our orders for the next day. As the orders were delivered I began to realise the gravity of the situation. The plan was to attack straight into the insurgent heart-land. Previous attacks on to this area had been met with heavy resistance and belts of protective IEDs had been discovered protecting all entry points. These belts had proved to be an effective obstacle to friendly forces before, with the last unit that tried to breach them taking a high amount of IEDs strikes; TALISMAN in the close support role, it doesn’t get any better than this. Again the Troop led the way towards the insurgent. We picked our way carefully through to the compounds that we needed to reach. The Armoured Infantry needed to get into the area quickly so it was essential that we found and avoided IEDs. Once there, the Scots Guards dismounted from their warriors and took control of the compounds. Sgt Dalby’s Mastiff It was now time for myself and Sgt Domolow to dismount and push forward to conduct our reconnaissance of the two crossing sites. As we moved forward toward the first river we noticed a local national footbridge that was in use by a group of children. We crossed this bridge and began pushing towards the second gap. Halfway across the ground to the second gap we heard barking coming from our right, taking a better look we could see what appeared to be two grizzly bears charging at us. We all took up positions to deal with the monsters that where coming towards us. Thankfully their bark was far worse than their bite and the dogs sniffed at us and ran back to their compound.
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After a swift change of underwear we moved on to the second crossing. This was relatively straight forward and we quickly identified an area to put the bridge in. With the recce complete we moved back to the vehicles. Thankfully the Op went to plan and the ANA cleared through the insurgent area again, there were a number of further engagements and a huge number of finds including drugs and weaponry, all of which were destroyed. The entire Op was a huge success and the hard work carried out has ensured that the ANSF now control the areas previously held by the insurgency The HMEE upgrading cross-country routes and with minimal support from ISAF they can deliver a real effect.
The 1st get their 1st find—Spr Graham, 11 TALISMAN Tp
2 Troop were tasked to clear and prove a route between Check Point (CP) Barcha and CP Tegha located near FOB Oullette. We were required to do this in order for our fellow Sappers in 73 AES to strip them out. This was to be the Squadron`s first deliberate dismounted search since arriving in theatre and the blokes were chomping at the bit to get amongst it. We rocked up at the start line of the 2km route where the search team got out and proceeded to conduct a gold standard search around the vehicles. The search Team encountered many difficult obstacles on the search, but took them all in their stride, however after 5 hours in the baking Afghan heat fatigue was beginning to set in. With one more stretch to do the Team paused for a quick water stop and pep talk as this was deemed the most dangerous area of the route. Spr Connor fearlessly set off at the head of the Team in his role as ‘Pathfinder’, closely behind was LCpl “ Safety Catch” Dryden the team Second-in-Command. The man calling the shots was Cpl Tyrie and behind him were the mules Sprs Drinkwater, Livingstone and ‘Crazy Dave’ Henshall. Bringing up the rear, as always, was me Spr Graham, Team Photographer. We commenced to clear the last area safely and without incident we returned to the vehicles, much to the pleasure of Sgt “Bald Eagle” Dalby. End of task or so we thought. The next morning, the Troop were conducting vehicle checks in preparation for re-tasking when we heard a loud bang in the vicinity of the area we searched a day previous. Our worst fears were confirmed, an IED had been laid overnight and a vehicle had been hit, fortunately there were no casualties and we were tasked to go and re-search the area. With the day drawing to a close and visibility diminishing we conducted our search and approached the 11 Troop proving a route through the desert suspected insurgent firing point in a compound. The at night team`s ‘spider’ senses were kicking in, something was not right. “FIND!”, shouted LCpl “Safety Catch” Dryden his eagle eyes had spotted a wire protruding from the ground in front of him. The team flew into action, their intense predeployment training meant the need to think was redundant. Each man knew his role. Spr Connor ensured the area was clear from any IEDs and then a safe route back to a holding area, in cover, for his colleagues to provide protection while “Safety Catch” and Cpl Tyrie prepared to neutralise the device. Page 12
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Cpl Storey keeping watch With the device neutralised the team was recalled back to the vehicles to return to the FOB. Another mission successfully carried out by the esteemed 11 Troop. On the morning of the fourth day, we were greeted not by the dawn chorus of birds, but by the dulcet tones of the Troop Commander “Section Commanders on me” he bellowed. After five or so minutes Cpl Tyrie and his counterpart Cpl ‘Stozza’ Storey, or team ‘Styrie’ as they are commonly known in these parts, returned to brief us. We had been tasked to assist the Scots Guards as they had lost contact with some of their men on the ground. The Troop sprung into life and within minutes were rolling out the gate wondering what would await them as they headed north along the infamous Route 611. As we sped along the road Sgt “Phil Mitchell” Dalby brought the convoy to a halt. Ahead of him he could see some ground sign he did not like the look of. On closer inspection he was sure something was there. At that moment an insurgent poked his head over a wall to our left, instantly Spr Rowe locked his weapon on to him and began to watch. We could see an ANSF patrol coming down the road towards us and the suspected device. Thankfully after much flashing of his lights Sgt Dalby Cpl Tyrie and his search team ‘grand nationaling’ managed to halt their patrol before they got to the suspected device. Luckily, Lt Waite had a close affinity with compound walls the local security forces and was able to communicate what was occurring. This enabled them to enter the compound of concern and question the locals. Consequently they were able to arrest an IED laying team and disable the device by the road all thanks to the extraordinary leadership displayed by our illustrious despot Troop Commander and the wondrous extra-sensory perception of Sgt “William Hague” Dalby. 11 Troop are now back in Camp Bastion awaiting their audience with Her Majesty The Queen to receive their medals or more likely another tasking!!!
Bad weather doesn’t stop play—Lt Honey 12 TALISMAN Tp
Reaching half way through our operational tour of duty was a milestone marked by Christmas. A well earned day off (not counting the enforced 6km fun run Christmas morning) was in order and it was a time to look back on the good work done so far, and the progress and developments made by the Sqn. The first three months had been busy and as such have gone quickly. Here, a MASTIFF driver, LCpl Cope, and a HMEE (armoured tractor) operator, Spr Walters, sum up a particularly busy week in the life of 12 Troop:
The mighty 12 Troop of 1st Armoured Engineer Squadron were given the luxury of completing a number of Ops in five days. The first Op was to Lashkar Gah Durai, however our lead vehicle was called out the night before to assist the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF), who were struck by an IED on route to our location for the upcoming Op. This caused a delay for TALISMAN to go out early morning due to drivers’ hours, however the OP went on at the Page 13
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This caused a delay for TALISMAN to go out early morning, however the Op went on at the scheduled time and TALISMAN met up with the BRF once the drivers were rested. The journey to meet up with the BRF went smoothly and only took just over an hour to arrive at the point of interest. Four hours later the BRF had finished and we set off back to Durai clearing a safe route for their extraction. Providing route safety in the desert
The next Op was conducted the next day. Our role was to prove another route for BRF. The route we provided them went well up until one point where part of the ground needed upgrading for our vehicles to get through. The two HMEE (armoured tractor) operators that were in our Troop did a good job, however, not mentioning any names but Spr Walters ended up being the first HMEE operator I’d ever seen to get bogged in while trying to level a route. The HMME in action It was a long drive that day especially when you can only go so fast. When the Op was complete we found ourselves at PB Attal where we could refuel and get ready for the next Op, and rest of course. On the final Op, we were to meet up with the BRF and to provide a proven route back from their area of interest. So far all week everything had gone well and all we had to do was this last one... however, on route to the BRF it was going smoothly for about an hour or so, then in the space of 20 minutes, and with the help of some pretty shocking Afghan winter weather, the deliberate Op turned into ‘Op Recovery’. We got to part of the route where the ground conditions were bad; our lead vehicle went over a culvert which decided to collapse, causing one Mastiff to be stuck in a ditch. We then allowed our recovery vehicle to assist them but also got bogged in (cant take REME anywhere!!!!). Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, we had our first encounter with an Rocket Propelled Grenade during the recovery process. Luckily we had no casualties except one dead sheep and a smoldering hole in a compound wall. Eventually the recovery vehicle and bogged in vehicle managed to get recovered by one of the BRF vehicles which came to our aid. Finally, with all our vehicles back in one piece we then escorted the BRF back to Durai, but much later than we expected. The day wasn’t over though because we had to return back to Bastion, escorting the BRF on the way. It was a long day and although everything didn’t go according to plan the job was done and that’s what counts. Roll on the summer! Recovering the stricken vehicle Page 14
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4 Armoured Engineer Squadron
SSM’s Foreword—WO2 Tristan Barnett
Well it’s already over the half-way point of what will be almost a 7 month tour. The weeks are flying by and my chuff chart is looking better every day. I see the troops coming through Camp Bastion for Rest & Recuperation on a regular basis, and when they come back it seems like only a couple of days since they left. The guys out in the various PBs and FOBs are still working hard, however they do get some down time, irrespective if they tell you that they don’t get enough sleep and are getting ragged 24/7. The support element, known as the ‘Bastion Rats’, work tirelessly to ensure that the troops always get what they need. They do this whilst also prepping for a whole raft of inspections that we complete in 6 months out here, but would normally fall over a 2 year period if we were in the UK. Christmas Day was a very relaxed affair for all. Most of us got a lay in, and as the OC Maj Garreth Dent mentioned in the last edition about the mince pies and Santa’s visit to the desert, we had a few sweets, cakes and plenty of other fattening stuff. We all received a Christmas box - well actually it was a tin from the Forces 4 You charity - full of little bits like SSM Barnett, SSgt Everett, Cpl Griffiths & Cpl an alarm clock, headphones, torch, sewing kit and a Santa hat. Major Most importantly it came with a Starbucks coffee voucher and a beer token – I’ll be looking forward to cashing those in soon. Basically, we ate enough to put you into a sugar induced coma, watched some movies and chilled out. It was just enough to take you away from the fact that we’re spending the festive period in the desert away from our loved ones. Finally a warning – expect to see a lot of the Regt and Sqn return a slightly different shape to when they left, and I don’t mean just the usual Christmas bulge. ‘Op MASSIVE’ has been in full swing for a while and many of the guys have been working just as hard in the gym as they have on their tasks. Adonis would be proud!! See you all soon. . . . . .
Patrol Base Attal Newey Barrier build—Spr Cavill, 3 Section
On 20 December the build started off with myself and the rest of the section down at the stores collecting the tools and materials we needed for the job. Once on site we were split into two groups; a HESCO group and a concreting group. The HESCO group cracked straight on with stripping out the entrance chicane’s North wall which consisted of 14 large baskets of HESCO. Once they had removed this wall they went onto extend the entrance chicane’s East wall, they then rebuilt the North wall by sixteen large baskets of HESCO. Sounds complicated, but it’s not. The concreting group started to dig the hole for the form work for the concrete with the light wheeled tractor (LWT). Once it was dug to the correct size, Spr Henderson and I lowered the form work into place and levelled it off. Now we were ready to lower the barrier’s stanchion into place with the arm of the LWT. We levelled it then went on to concreting the stanchion base. Once finished it was covered with a 9ft x 9ft tent to aid it drying correctly overnight. On the second day 2, the HESCO group had only two large HESCO baskets left to put into place on the North wall. The concreting group uncovered the previous day’s concrete and started to measure out for the second stanchion. We repeated the same process for the concreting the second stanchion from that of the previous day. In front of the entrance chicane we added more HESCO baskets laid out so to clearly define the vehicle access lanes. Spr Maguire had made some warning signs so to make everyone aware of the now in place ‘Newey’ (not a spelling mistake) Barrier. Page 15
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On the final day all the concreting had set and the barrier was ready to lift into place with the LWT. Once in place a few of the section bolted weights onto the barrier so it would open and close freely. While we were doing this the plant on site levelled the ground out and this signalled the completion of the task. Job done!!!
Joining the Field Troop – Spr Cole
When I was told I would be joining 4 Troop in PB Spr Chafer, Spr Firth and Spr Hicks Nahidullah in the middle of October I didn’t really know what to expect. This is my first tour and being part of HQ Squadron, I spent the first three weeks of Op HERRICK 17 in Camp Bastion, so I was quite excited to move forward. Upon arrival to PB Nahidullah, I was given a warm welcome by the Troop and was glad to see a friendly face, fellow 7 Squadron member Sapper Gavin Clegg. I was surprised at how bare the camp was. I knew we were closing it down but I thought there would be more here than there was so it was a bit of a reality check! I had gone from Camp Bastion with air conditioned tents to living in the pitch black at night under a poncho in a day but it was quite good fun. Living out of a bergan using minimal kit felt like being on exercise in basic training all over again! My first few days I felt like a fish out of water, not knowing what to expect being in the Troop and not really knowing anyone. After a while and after spending a fair bit of time in the gym and hanging round the Troop fire, you start to learn people’s names and what is going on for the next few weeks and months, and what the Troop’s like as a whole. In my first couple of days of being there, Lt Barnes decided to get me out on the ground so briefed that I was going out on the road move to two other locations and that I was one of the standby search team men. As it was my first move out on the ground I was a bit nervous because of what I have heard from people who have been on previous tours but after talking to the fellow Sappers that were on the move I was convinced that there would be nothing to worry about, if I kept my skills and drills together. A few weeks have passed now being with the Troop and I have settled in well. I've worked hard on tasks, been on numerous other road moves and made a lot of new friends, especially the lads I share a tent with. I look forward to what the future holds in 4 Troop and with the tasks that lay ahead.
Helping Transition—5 Troop
Lt Col Stott, Military Advisory Group, Col Sakhi, 5 th Brigade Commander and Cpl McKernan pose for a picture after the completion of the task As part of the ongoing effort to partner with and develop the ANSF, 5 Troop constructed three practise search lanes at the Afghan National Civil Order Police Barracks in Lashkar Gah District Centre. What was previously a derelict waste land is now valuable training real estate. Despite the difficulties involved it was a task brilliantly executed by 3 Section under the command of Cpl McKernan. Simple in concept the training lanes will now allow valuable training of Afghan forces to take place. The skills developed will be key in helping the ANSF to combat one of the most effective and deadly of the insurgents weaponry, the improvised explosive device (IED). Once again the Royal Engineers have been at the forefront in transition of security from an ISAF to an Afghan lead. Ubique!
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Bridging for transition—Spr Hutson, 5 Troop
Under the umbrella of Op QALB 11 a bridging section from 5 Troop pushed North into territory which was only recently deemed an insurgent stronghold. The task was simple; construct a temporary bridge so to allow the ANA the means in which to construct a bridge of their own and an extension to nearby CP Kohbahn. The end state would be a domination of a key route, which would deny an avenue of access for the insurgent thus bringing greater security to the surrounding communities. Flanked on all sides by ISAF and ANSF units 5 Troop were afforded remarkable security. This allowed them the freedom of movement to strip out the previously IED damaged Medium Girder Bridge and construct a new one in it’s place. The whole task took less than 3 hours. It was classic close support engineering and adds to the wide spectrum of combat engineering Advising the ANA on the build tasks successfully completed by the troop. Whilst 5 Troop conducted their bridge build, Operation Sahktar (Pashtu for build or construct) was an Afghan led operation taking place concurrently, to build a bridge across a canal helping to secure a key area of Eastern Helmand. This was completed by Afghan Army Engineers, mentored by their British Army Engineering counterparts. The bridge allows the Afghan Security forces (ANSF) freedom of movement in the area as well as providing a short-cut for local nationals to the main town of Gereshk. 5 Troop admire their hard work It is part of a bigger plan to construct a route extension next year. It also included the building of a checkpoint which will help aid the security of the bridge itself and of the area in future. The bridge is a Non-Equipment Bridge (NEB) which means it is built and maintained using simple techniques, local materials and local manpower. This means it can be repaired without support from ISAF forces in the future.
The Closure of CP Zarawar—Cpl Sutton, 7 Troop
CP Zarawar was due to close in the New Year, however due to unfortunate weather the roof started to collapse. Lt Mike Thorne was tasked to make an assessment of the damage and report on capability of further use. The roof was condemned and as such the closure brought forward immediately. 2 Section under myself, Cpl ‘Sutty’ Sutton, were tasked with Getting bogged in the removal of all the ISAF Infrastructure. Having been involved in previous closures the section were quick to rise to the task. Unfortunately the dominating factor was to be a bogged in tractor. With no route a recovery vehicle could fit down, the tractor which bogged in next to a whadi became a serious concern. Attempts by the sappers and the infantry on site made matters worse as can be seen A solution was eventually found and a second tractor was brought in to pull the original one out. Following this, we got to work stripping out the sangars, helicopter landing site and razor wire. We also helped the infantry with remediating the site ready for handover back to the rightful landowner, making sure it was all in good order. Even with the tractor stuck for 30hrs the task was still completed on time and to an excellent standard. Page 17
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73 Armoured Engineer Squadron
Christmas at FOB Ouelette—Sapper Webster 9 Troop
On the first day of Christmas my Troop Staffy said to me, build one elevated sangar. It was going up well with no problems until darkness fell and the heavens opened. Of all days to have our first spell of really bad weather, it was when we had to build the sangar for the new resources park. With most of us drenched through we carried on till the early hours of the following day when we finally called it a day after being cold and wet for hours. After a good sleep and a 10 o'clock start the following day, we cracked on with spirits lifted and finished the job. I would just like to end this little message by sending every one back home a Happy New Year message. LCpl Smith
The busy build up to Christmas—Spr Matt Hancock, 9Tp
Over the last few days prior to Christmas in FOB Ouellette the work definitely did not slow down, the Troop have been busy with a numerous amount of tasks set within the FOB ready for the realignment in the New Year. One of the two bigger tasks that went on recently, was the construction of the a new ‘Wiston’ compound by Cpl Whitehead-Junior’s section. The task started off by marking out the perimeter of the compound and bouncing out the HESCO and aligning them ready for the Medium Wheeled Tractor to move in and fill the walls. Once the compound walls were erected we then placed in a gate and put a razor wire fence along the top of the walls to add security to it. While the Wiston compound was being constructed, Cpl Mckone's section were building three new ammo compounds so the old ammo compound could be moved away from the resources yard prior to the realignment. The section started off by constructing the three hardened Cpl McKone with his section cover roofs. The HESCO was then bounced out into place and filled. Spr Whyte then used his immense SLDT (self loading dumper truck) crane skills to lift the roofs onto the walls creating the compound which was also finished off with a razor wire fence and a gate for security. Apart from the two big tasks there were some other smaller tasks to keep everyone busy, such as building a HESCO wall around another compound to act as a blast wall for protection and a bit of ‘winterization’; this involved spreading aggregate around the compound to stop the ground from becoming boggy and better living conditions for the blokes there. Page 18
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Apart from the two big tasks there were some other smaller tasks to keep everyone busy, such as building a HESCO wall around another compound to act as a blast wall for protection and a bit of ‘winterization’; this involved spreading aggregate around the compound to stop the ground from becoming boggy and better living conditions for the blokes there. We have all worked hard over the last few days to ensure work is completed so we could get into the festive sprit ready for that all important and long awaited downtime on Christmas day!
Another busy week in FOB Ouelette—Spr Brown 9 Troop
The week started as any other week, busy as usual in FOB Ouelette, the sweat was running off peoples face in the freezing cold due to the hard graft that everyone put in. Working on the EES One of the first tasks of the week consisted of constructing a cooking shelter for the lads down at Observation Post (OP) Dara with LCpl Smith, this was an enjoyable task as I got to increase my skills at ‘chippy’ work, the work was only half a day long. The shelter was there to provide people from getting drenched whilst cooking their meals throughout the day.
The main task throughout the week was the deconstruction of the previous HESCO sangar in the new resources yard and the construction of the new EES (elevated expeditionary sangar). One section worked throughout the night for the deconstruction stage which was hard graft and took a fair amount of time. The next day the EES was constructed and took an equal amount of effort. Both days were fairly long that carried on throughout the night in cold and very rainy conditions. effort. Both days were fairly long and which carried on throughout the night in cold and very rainy conditions. Whilst both tasks were being constructed there was also the task of upgrading the route to OP Dara, which Cpl Petrie was in charge of. This task was mainly plant work, levelling ground with the help of a civilian contractor with his roller. The improvement of the ground will help vehicles going down the route to drop supplies over the upcoming winter months, the road upgrades also helped prevent IEDs getting dug into the dips in the ground. Overall the week went by rapid due to the morale of everyone on the difficult tasks, no matter what the weather the BANTER WAS STILL HIGH!!!!
The festive period - Spr Evans - 4 Troop , 73 AES.
After recently returning from R & R, Christmas was just around the corner, which gave me something to look forward to. The week leading up to Christmas however was like any other in Afghanistan, a few Engineering jobs to be completed by half the troop and the other half closing two CPs in our Area of Operations. Three mortar pits was one of the said tasks, headed up by LCpl Nicholls aka "Roy Cropper". Also on the list was the remaining winterisation we had left to complete, this mainly consisted of pipe lagging. The AGC band paid us a visit during the week too, giving us a great show, something different to the usual downtime activities. After completing all of our tasks just in time for Christmas, it was time for the Gurkhas to repay our favor of taking over their stags when they had Christmas the month before. Everyone was looking forward to a day off to relax and get into the Christmas spirit. On Christmas Eve, PB2 was host to a ‘PJ’ party and with a great turnout from everyone, it was a night to remember. Page 19
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
SSgt Graham—ringleader of the PJ party Then it was time for Christmas day, being woken up to SSgt Grahams face was different to say the least. Once everyone had opened their Christmas presents, it was time for the best thing about this day, the food! The chefs put on a good dinner for us, keeping us well fed as usual. Christmas night was a skit night where it was chance to have a good laugh about the tour so far, at a few peoples expense. The Engineers decided that all of the banter from our skit would be directed to our Troop Commander. Boxing day was next with the football coming, to my utter disbelief, the mighty Aston Villa got thrashed 8-0, oh the joys of being a Villa fan! Boxing day was also the start of work again, our week was to consist of Hesco and drainage. A new wall was needed near the burns pit, which the plant operators completed. The main task was to redo the drainage for our washing area, which was sodden through a poor existing drain. The plant was heavily involved again, digging the drain and filling it with aggregate. The temperature then started to drop dramatically at night, meaning the pipes would freeze overnight, so we had to combat this by draining the whole water system every night. New Years Eve then arrived and we celebrated the night with a quiz and a disco. Another great turnout from everyone, especially the Engineers! Thanks to the Doctor for hosting the quiz and Mandy for her organization of the whole night. A snapshot of the recent work we have been involved Overall my first festive period away has been a with different experience, one which I won't forget in a hurry.
Christmas and Transition in PB2—4 Troop
Lt Graham Christmas in PB2 was celebrated in true Army fashion with Lt Graham (dressed as Santa) handing out presents to the lads, and of course an inner unit comedy show hosted by SSgt Graham (in a very sexy Mrs Santa outfit) and SSM Gadd. From secret Santa letters stitching up other units in PB2 to several very funny skits the lads had a great time! Although slightly out of tune, the lads of 4 Troop did me proud in the inner unit sing song easily beating the Royal Dragoon Guards, Royal Gurkha Rifles and Search units! The fancy dress dinner was awesome and all the food was served to the men by the officers, which was a nice touch. However, it’s not been all festivities in PB2, with the lads bouncing around the area closing check points and handing the security of the area over to the Afghan Local Police. As the visiting Brigadier Bob Bruce put it on his Christmas Address, “Transition in this area is clear as day and I feel Op HERRICK 17 is a turning point in the HERRICK campaigns,” a turning point the lads have been crucial to influence. Page 20
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The importance of the Joint Casualty Compassionate Cell (JCCC) - LCpl Macgregor, 4Tp
A little over two months into the tour and I was in regular contact with home like most people deployed on HERRICK 17; however, whilst I was deployed away from my usual base location I called home and spoke to my wife who told me that she’d recently seen a specialist and that the following week she would need to be admitted into hospital for surgery. My first response was to try to re-assure her that it would all be OK and that the Army would do their best to get me home but as a matter of course I knew that I needed to speak to my Troop management as soon as I could; without swift action the major surgery my wife required would certainly mean that our children would have to be taken in to care on a temporary basis as other family members were away in Australia. Once told, the Troop management spoke to the Squadron and they in turn spoke to Regiment but right from the start I was told that they were very limited in what they could do and that the JCCC were the only people who could assist in the swift return to the UK. My wife had been in touch with the JCCC by phone using the number on the small white credit card sized info card that was issued prior to deployment. She was initially told that they may not be able to help as the operation was pre-planned and not a compassionate case as such. She had also spoken to the Welfare Officers who needed to put a case file together for a decision to be made as to send me home or not. This was duly done and in the interim my Troop had the logistical problem of getting me from the task site at PB 1 back to PB 2 and then eventually back to Camp Bastion. This may not sound difficult to some but with very limited manoeuvre capability and the reluctance to free run because of the increased risk, I managed to get onto a planned road move and eventually got to PB 2 that same day. The following day I was on a helicopter back to Bastion and on arrival I was told to leave it a couple of days for the JCCC system to hopefully kick into place before the Commanding Officer (CO) could make his decision to send me home if needed. After another call home to comfort my wife that things were in motion I went to bed ready to see what the next day would bring. Sleep was difficult that night as you’d expect fearing the worst that I may not get back in time and my children would be taken into care. However, just as I’d fallen asleep I was been woken and told that I needed to report to the operations room. There I received the good news that I was to fly back to the UK and that my flight was to leave in 1 hour! This gave me a 30 minute window to panic pack and then get to the plane. The JCCC system had obviously kicked in to good effect and I was on my way home. I was amazed at how quickly I was on my way home once the system kicked in. I am truly grateful to all involved from both 75 and 21 Engineer Regiments and the support we have received since then. It is now just after Christmas, I am back in PB 2 with my troop waiting to carry on with the rest of my tour. Thankfully my wife is recovering well and our children were fortunate enough that I was home so close to Christmas which we celebrated whilst I was back.
Talking to locals outside the PB
The home of our Troop
Capt McCracken goes cricketing
Santa visits Camp Bastion
L-R: LCpl Hollings, LCpl Smith, Spr O’Connor, Spr Cairns, Cpl Hencher, LCpl Bloomfield, Spr Rakabu, Spr Huntley, Spr Clark, LCpl Meredith, Irwin Cpl Ramsay, LCpl Smith & SSgt Hill go Gangnam Style Sgt Churcher, Sgt Mardling, SSgt Sutton, Sgt Robertson, Sgt Gordon-Candy, SSgt Rai. SSgt Mukungunugwa, SgtBrown, SSgt Gibson,
SSgt Parker goes for a Christmas dive
LCpl Blackburn and LCpl Tubuna
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Cfn—Craftsman Spr - Sapper LCpl - Lance Corporal Cpl - Corporal Sgt - Sergeant SSgt - Staff Sergeant WO2 - Warrant Officer Second Class WO1 - Warrant Officer First Class Lt - Lieutenant Capt - Captain Maj - Major Lt Col - Lieutenant Colonel
AES - Armoured Engineer Squadron Fd Engr Sqn - Field Engineer Squadron Hq & Sp Sqn - Headquarters and Support Squadron LAD—Light Aid Detachment REME—Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Sect - Section Sqn—Squadron Tp - Troop
OC—Officer Commanding SSM—Squadron Sergeant Major
Afghanistan specific terms
ANA - Afghan National Army ALP - Afghan Local Police ANP - Afghan National Police ANSF - Afghanistan National Security Force AUP - Afghan Uniformed Police CP - Check Point FOB - Forward Operating Base HESCO - Large flat packed containers made of thick strong wire containing a large sandbag. The sandbag is filled with sand to produce a large protective brick. The individual HESCO blocks are then used like giant bricks to produce a protective wall for our bases. HLS - Helicopter Landing Site IED - Improvised Explosive Device ISAF - International Security Assistance Force JOB - Joint Operating Base Op - Operation, mission, task (not surgery) NES (S) - Nahr-e Saraj South NES (N) - Nahr-e Saraj North Page 23
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
NDA - Nad-e Ali PB - Patrol Base SAF - Small Arms Fire SANGAR - A watch tower which is manned 24 hours a day to provide protection to a base SOP - Standard Operating procedure Stag - standing in the sangar keeping watch and providing protection TFH - Task Force Helmand
Apache - Attack helicopter Chinook - Troop carrying helicopter HMEE— An armoured tractor HUSKY - Large armoured vehicle LWT—Light wheeled tractor MASTIFF - Large armoured vehicle with a with a heavy machine gun for protection Merlin - Medium Royal Air Force and Navy helicopter used to move Troops around from base to base MWT - Medium wheeled tractor SLDT(P) - Self Loading Dump Truck (Protected) Sea King - Royal Navy helicopter used as search and rescue in the UK TALISMAN - A series of vehicles used to clear a route of improvised explosive devices
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