This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Inside this issue:
Welcome Sapper Walker 7 Hq & Sp Sqn Engineer Logistics World My time in CSC 1st AES Chief of Staff New Year Another day 2 2 4 4 4 5 8 8 8 I write this at a time when the festivities of Christmas and New Year have become a fast fading memory and the Regiment remains as busy as ever supporting the transition of bases and responsibilities to our Afghan partners. As the OC of the Light Aid Detachment (LAD) it is particularly obvious how much the Royal Engineers rely on their equipment and the availability (or not) of working vehicles can seriously affect the progress of work.
OC LAD’s Foreword
(Capt Tom Holdsworth)
9 10 ECI blues 10 This applies across the Regiment, including the Close Support Squadrons who have 11 Troop worked hard to transition bases to Afghan Forces. This has seen equipment such as arNo place like home 11 moured plant and tractors working non stop for days at a time and it has been pleasing to 12 see the care and attention the vehicle crews show to their equipment. This is underSearch & make standable as without the vehicles it back to using a shovel; a simple to maintain yet much others safe less efficient piece of equipment! 4 AES FOB Ouellette Gate construction Air waves LCpl ‘Turkish’ Newbold Winterisation 73 AES OP Sterga 2 PB Clifton Artillery Hill Working hard Engineer Specialist Final Points Glossary Of all the Squadrons, especially the Talisman Route Proving and Clearance Squadron 14 rely heavily on their vehicles both for completing their task and providing protection for themselves and others. It has been pleasing to see throughout the tour how effective 14 these vehicles have been in protecting their crews and giving them wide ranging mobility 15 across Helmand Province. It is beyond doubt that these vehicles regularly save lives and more serious injury. 15 As the mission progresses in Afghanistan, focus has begun to move to removing the 16 huge amounts of equipment in theatre. This is where the Resources Troop has been crucial in working long hours to load and prepare hundreds of ISO containers (20 foot metal 17 boxes) for movement back to UK. Particularly important for this has been the Rough Terrain Container Handler (RTCH), affectionately pronounced ‘Wretch’, an enormous vehicle that requires skilful driving to pick up and move these large containers. 18 For the LAD the tour has been a fantastic opportunity for the soldiers to do their trade everyday, whether as a mechanic, armourer, technician or recovery mechanic. The job 18 has been all the more satisfying with the chance to see the vehicles at work every single 19 day completing tasks and keeping people safe. They have also enjoyed the opportunity to get involved in the day to day engineering tasks undertaken by the Sappers and 20 gained a valuable insight into how combat engineering tasks are completed. 21 As the Regiment moves into the last couple of months on tour, thoughts have increasingly turned to returning home, with all looking forward to reuniting with their family and 22 friends, attending the home-coming celebrations and enjoying some well earned leave. On behalf of all personnel in the LAD and Regiment, I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you all on our return in March. 24 25 Page 1
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Welcome to the penultimate 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.
Make sure you ‘like’ our Facebook page. www.facebook.com/21engineerregi ment
Sapper Richard Reginald Walker killed in Afghanistan
It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Sapper Richard Reginald Walker from 28 Engineer Regiment, attached to 21 Engineer Regiment as part of the Task Force Helmand Engineer Group, was killed in Afghanistan on Monday 7 January 2013. The deepest condolences from all at 21 Engineer Regiment and the wider Task Force Helmand Engineer Group are with the family and friends of Sapper Richie Walker. Sapper Walker was shot and killed when he and his Troop were working within Patrol Base Hazrat, preparing the base for handover from 40 Commando Royal Marines to the Afghan National Security Forces.
Spr Richard 'Richie' Walker as I knew him - LCpl Haynes
This past week has been a tough and emotional time for the Squadron but even more so for the troop. Proceedings and rehearsals had began to send our friend Spr Richard Walker back to his family and friends in the UK so he could be laid to rest and his life celebrated. Everyone wanted to be involved to make it the best send off possible. Around 4500 people were present for the Vigil service in Bastion and I was proud to share my Eulogy to those of them who didn't know Richie so well. "Strong of heart and mind, always willing to listen and share experiences, a true friend and a genuine guy. The ripples of this tragedy will touch so many of the people that had the pleasure to meet Richie Walker. Never have I heard someone say a bad word about him, which is a tribute to the great character he was. Reliable, hard working, charismatic; he never let anyone down. All of his attributes and characteristics he shared with every great sapper before him and the younger guys in the Corps will do well to look up to and learn from the kind of guy Richie was. A family man, his daughter was of course his favourite topic. As a proud Dad, he often spoke about Lilly-Faith and Page 2
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
how much he looked forward to spending time with her when tour ended. Richie, Lilly-Faith can grow up proud of who her Dad was, as all of us still here are proud to have served alongside you. We lost a friend but the heavens received a hero. Gone but never forgotten. You will be in everyone's thoughts until we meet on the other side brother. Once a Sapper, always a sapper." Later that night a chapel service was held for a closer group of those that knew Richie. Emotions were high, as people had their chance to say goodbye to a great friend. We carried him to the transport, where we met up again at the airfield. Carrying him through the centre of many ranks of the people that loved him was tough and I think all of the bearer party were determined to hold things together to make it the best send off we could. Lowering Richie onto the plane, hearing a blessing from the Padre and the last post played, we all realised it was close to the time where we would have to let him go. Marching off and turning to see the ramps of the plane rising shut, Richie was ready for home. We had given our best and the feelings we had held back could be allowed to escape. We will remember him.
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
7HQ & SP SQN
Another day at work in the Engineer Logistics world - Spr Chris Range
I deployed to Afghanistan in September 2012 as part of the Engineer Logistics Node. This is my first tour of Afghanistan and I work up at RSG (Returned Stores Group) where I am the yard second-in-command in charge of the 4 - 5 Locally Employed Civilians. My day can consist of anything at all, from burns pit runs with various types of rubbish, to bringing onto account items returned from tasks and base closures. The job that I am doing at the moment is sorting through the stores that have been returned in ISO containers to us by the troops on the ground who are closing down various bases. The main part of my job is to sort out the rubbish from stores that can be used again at a later date. The items that we have to sort through range from used Hesco baskets and scaffold sangars to timber and scrap metal. When we get in to the ISOs and we do find the stock that can be re-used we will bring it back onto account and put it in a location in our Engineer log yard. We also get a lot of scrap metal amongst the ISOs at the RSG but most of it can’t be re-used. If this is the case we collect it all together and put it into one ISO and then we send it to ‘war-like’ scrap. Spr Range supervising Locally Employed Civilians I can also drive 2 types of fork lift truck, 1 is called a JCB 541/70 and the other a JCB 524/50. The difference between them is, the JCB 524/50 can only lift just under 2 tonnes in weight and can drive inside an ISO container, and the JCB 541/70 can lift up to 4 tonnes, but cannot drive inside an ISO container. Both forks are a huge help, and they can save me a lot of time and physical effort when it comes to heavy and bulky loads. Before we deployed we carried out a lot of training, which at the time I struggled to understand and see what relevance it had.
Spr Range bringing stock onto account
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Spr Range getting the brews in! Now we are over 4 months in, I can see what all of the training was there for and it makes a lot more sense to me. I have learnt a great deal about my job from this tour and would like to take what I have learnt and move forward with my trade and gather more experience for the future.
My Time in the CSC So Far Spr Appannah
I deployed on Op Herrick 17 at beginning of September with my Squadron - 73 AES. On arrival at Camp Bastion we conducted the mandatory RSOI (Reception, Staging and Onwards Instruction aka familiarisation training) package, and soon after I was informed that I would be attached to 7 HQ & Sp Sqn working in the Construction Supervision Cell (CSC) department in the role of Surveyor.
The CSC was a new environment to me and I found it daunting switching my role from a Field Section to an office job. Secondly, I didn’t want to be away from my Squadron and troop in particular whom I had spent the majority of Mission Specific Training bonding with. However it didn’t take me long to settle in the office and get to know everybody within 7 HQ & Sp Sqn.
During the handover I was quite amazed by the new survey equipment which I would be using to carry out site surveys. The new GPS kit which I had not come across is less time consuming and fairly easy to use once you grasp the procedure of setting it up. Once the CSC department was formed, works kicked off almost straight away with several statements of requirement, flying about amongst the desks. And it didn’t take long when the Military Plant Foreman (MPF) and I were tasked to fly to FOB Shawqat to look at some drainage issues. That was my first job in action.
To be perfectly honest I was a bit unsure of what to expect in terms of living in a forward base and carrying my job out there for the first time. Though it all went well and then afterwards I realised it wasn’t a bad move for me to be attached to the CSC department as you get to travel all over Helmand carrying out surveys. I also came to realise the importance and role of every individual in the CSC department and how a Statement of Requirement can involve the whole team to work together.
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
SSgt Rai (Clerk of Work Construction) and I flew out to a check point (CP) at the beginning of the November to carry out a foot bridge reconnaissance, in order to help the process of constructing a new bridge for ISAF and Afghan personnel to be used. Spr Appannah using the survey equipment
Over the duration of the task we were based in FOB Ouellette where the 73 AES, 9 Troop boys are based. As for me, I got the chance to catch up with the boys from my troop which is always good to share your own views on different topics.
A few days after we got back, I went out again with SSgt Wright (Military Plant Foreman) this time to carry out a topography survey and any relevant tasks in order to help designing a new road. The road is heavily used, however, rutted and very uneven, and during the rainy season it will become boggy. Spr Appannah in action As for me being a class 2 surveyor I haven’t done much on road design in my course and that was the most challenging and interesting task I had done until now. I was glad to get some help and support from the class 1 surveyor from the UK Works Group.
Now it is the New Year and I have been given another chance to work with my Troop from 73 AES. I have been attached to help with the construction of a CP on the outskirts of Gereshk. This has been a two week task, away from the comfort of the drawing office but it has been worthwhile. Spr Appannah working inside a CP
I can honestly say I have had best of both worlds from being part of the design team to making up the plans to completing the works. When I look back now I can say it was a wise move getting attached to the CSC because my tour has been varied. I have two months left in the CSC and I’m sure they will be as fulfilling as the last four.
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Attached Arms — Adjutant Generals Corps Staff and Personnel Support Branch
A Night in the Life of an SPS Soldier in Afghanistan — SSgt Angelique Adams
It’s 2100hrs and I’m about to leave the office for the day. Do I try to sleep for the next few hours or do I ‘push through’ and stay awake until I need to go on sangar duty at 0045hrs? The choice is mine and to help me choose, I decide to conduct a quick survey around the office. Whilst posing the question ‘to sleep or not to sleep’, I throw one in about clothing. ‘Do I wear/take an extra layer with me or is it not yet cold enough?’ There are clear winners here (one I’ll slightly regret) and it’s to stay awake and not to take any extra layers… 0030hrs and I start to gather my kit to take the short walk up to the Guard Room. To be fair, the last 3.5 hrs have gone by quickly, although trying to log on to the internet passed about 30 mins straight away! On arrival at the Guard Room, I notice they have moved the Signing on Sheet. For a moment I think ‘maybe they don’t need me’, until the Guard Commander pops his head round the corner and asks ‘Am I looking for the sheet which has now moved from inside the office to the window round the back?’ Never mind! I complete my details along with 3 others (2 UK and 1 US personnel). Tonight one of the officers is stood down but before we have a chance to say how lucky he is, he tells us that he’s only just come off a stag 2 hours before. ‘Don’t ask, its confusing’ he says and then explains that there was a mix up with names but that he was glad he’d turned up for the earlier duty as that would of caused him 3 extras as a ‘no show’. At 0045hrs we are given our ongoing brief by the Guard Commander. Our kit is checked (full Personal Protective Equipment-PPE) but I’m a bit disappointed that there is no ‘show pants’. The Guard Commander is happy that we are all wearing our bomb pants! We receive an intelligence update and then make our separate ways to our sangars. I am just around the corner from the Guard Room. Before I climb the ladder I give a ‘coming up’ warning to the off coming soldier who kindly gives me a bit of red light to assist me. We conduct our short handover/ takeover and then the soldier leaves the sangar with me closing the hatch behind him. This is the first thing I always do as I hate the thought of 1 wrong step backwards could literally mean ‘down the hatch’ for me! Using my red light, I complete my check sheet, ticking off each bit of kit present as I confirm it’s there. I then carry out a radio and telephone communications check to the Guard Room and give the sangar a good blast of insect repellent. That will help to keep the mosquitoes at bay, or so I thought! I realise quite early on in my duty that actually, the temperature has started to drop recently and the t-shirt under my shirt would have been better replaced by a fleece; but I’ll know for next time, plus doing the ‘squaddie’ shuffle round the sangar not only helps to keep you alert, it helps to keep you warm too! It’s a very quiet 2 hours, with only the mosquitoes and nearby barking dogs to keep me company. During the next hour, I make the following observations: 0215hrs – 1 x motorbike and 1 x car drive past in a Southern direction. The bike beeps its horn, causing a group of dogs to bark. 0217hrs – 1 x car drives past in a Northern direction. 0240hrs – 1 x motorbike drives past in a Southern direction, the driver carrying a passenger on the bike. At 0250hrs, I hear the oncoming stag heading towards the sangar and I open up the hatch. I am greeted by one of my Engineer Officers ready to start the next shift. We conduct our handover, have a quick chat then I head back to the Guard Room to sign off. That’s another duty done and I head back to my accommodation tent where the girls are sleeping peacefully. I take my PPE off outside so that I don’t wake them and then I happily climb into bed. Good night, or should that be good morning Afghanistan?! Page 7
SSgt Adams on sangar duty
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
1st Armoured Engineer Squadron
A word from the Chief Of Staff — Capt Matt Baines, TALISMAN Second-in-Command
The Squadron are continuing to de10 Troop’s Mastiff route proving liver the good across Helmand Province, successfully completing a number of key missions and tasks. These have seen us supporting the Warthog Group, Brigade Operations (Ops) Company & Brigade Reconnaissance Force along with the routine support to the Combat Logistic Patrols (CLP). These missions have proved a success seeing large quantities of insurgent, IED components, weapons and drugs caches being taken out of circulation. The dangers of the job are not forgotten and it was with sadness that 3 members of the Squadron have been returned to UK due to injuries sustained on Operations. All should make successful recoveries and our thoughts are with the individuals and their families as we look forward to seeing them all on our return to the UK. As the Squadron continues to support successful operations we move into the final 2 months of the tour. As always “Dog” will continue to deliver to the highest of standards across the Area of Operations.
New Year, same task — WO2 (SSM) Joe Aldridge, TALISMAN SSM
The Squadron has started the New Year on the same operational footing that it finished the old one, no New Year’s celebrations were called, due to having two lines (two troops) deployed on operations. January started well with both 10 & 11 Troops supporting both the Combat Logistic Support patrols and the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) in their operations around the Province. The type of mobility support being provided by the Squadron has not changed, neither has the way in which the Squadron are delivering that support, as one of the busiest Engineer groups in the Province, our TALISMAN lines have completed 125 days in theatre, 100 of which have seen our troops out on the ground. With that amount of time outside of base locations the odds of being engaged in kinetic activity are high, this is a point the troops are well aware of and brushes with the insurgency this month have seen us having to return two of our injured lads back to the UK and a third shortly after having broken his ankle whilst running for a pre-mission bacon butty! All three are doing extremely well and being such a tight Squadron are very much missed. Plans are already afoot to get them back out to Cyprus to join us on our decompression. Life out here in Afghanistan continues with 10 Troop proving routes into the open battle spaces allowing the ISAF soldiers to infiltrate areas occupied by the insurgency in order to capture or kill and seize lethal aide and weapons, often destroying both in situ before extracting safely behind our TALISMAN lines. 12 Troop have been operating with the Armoured Infantry in the Lashkar Gah area. In true 11 Troop (formerly 2 Field Troop, my old team) style, they pushed the limits of support even further by clearing directly into compounds, hard knock style, conducting mobility support in the form of potential fascine crossings, reconnaissance of crossing points and future route construction. Page 8
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
The 12 Troop faithful have been busy on both reserve duties and then subsequent support to further operations, without Lt Honey, who deserted her Troop for a well deserved break on R&R. They have Lt Lawrence at the reins and have recently returned from an operation supporting the BRF, during the mission the Troop successfully proved routes for the Warthog Group and used their searchers to clear a safe route around a friendly vehicle which had driven into a heavily IED seeded area. The route they cleared allowed the vehicle to extract safely without initiating the IED’s and potentially causing casualties. Cpl Hughes and LCpl McNamara, 12 Troop, preparing to do a search
During the search the lads found several insurgent laid devices, due to time constraints the Troop could not destroy the devices and had the more pressing issue of extracting the Warthog Group safely from the area. They achieved just that and are now back in Camp Bastion awaiting future tasks. The Squadron’s involvement in support of these missions is helping to weaken the insurgency and path the way for Afghan led security and a successful transition. Echelon and the LAD have been up against it of late, further mandated equipment inspections, another half vehicle line re-generation and the usual business of keeping the lines well supported and well maintained have been on the menu. Stalwart and resolute throughout the guys have cracked on and achieved good results. At the start of another year, life on Op HERRICK goes on without change and on the ground in the face of a resilient insurgency the Squadron is still delivering the goods.
Another day, another Op — Cpl Cuthbert, 10 TALISMAN Troop
Another series of missions began on the 14th January, with a good old stroll down to MOB Price for our usual high dosage of coffee, whilst we waited for the Troop management to complete their planning phase. After a brief about our upcoming task we settled down for a good night’s sleep ready for an early rise in the morning. We departed MOB Price in the early hours of the next morning and transited through the town of Gereshk and up Highway 1 with the Warthog Group in tow. Once at a suitable point we headed south through the beautiful Afghan desert with the large and freshly risen sun to our East, sand dunes and shingle under our wheels as we cleared a safe route through the desert. It was easy to forget where you were for a brief moment but the vehicle radio and the sounds of a Mastiff engine soon brought you back to reality, that we were proving a route for our fellow soldiers in southern Afghanistan. A couple of hours after negotiating the desert and what it has to offer, we reached the point in which the Warthog Group broke away from us to complete their mission. The target area was in a strip of the Green Zone that runs from 10 Troop ensuring route safety in the desert North to South right through the middle of Helmand. Our role in this was to sit out in the desert, in a formed leaguer to watch what they were doing. This also allowed us a moment to take a breath while the Warthog Group and Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) conducted their task. Hours had passed and without any dramas, the Warthog Group were back with us and we were up and away clearing another safe route out of the desert and on our way back to MOB Price. Once in MOB Price it was time to conduct maintenance checks on our vehicles, including all of the oil levels and to check that no wheels had fallen off! Page 9
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
These checks are crucial in keeping our vehicles fully fit 10 Troop find themselves in the desert again and ready for operations. Once the checks were put to bed we had plenty of time for a wash, shave and yes you guessed it, more coffee. It was now the 16 January and something of a ‘groundhog’ day for us, except this time we were pushing into the same target area from the other side. Another Op, which had all the same traits as the previous days, dunes and shingle but unfortunately for us it finished with a somewhat tricky natural feature. On completion we made our return to Price for another day of post mission maintenance and a touch of coffee at the Danish coffee shop! The lads and lassies had a nice little lay in the next day before moving back to Camp Bastion where we carried out more maintenance on the vehicles, cleaned the weapons and re-cocked the fleet ready for its next adventure out into the Afghan wild.
ECI blues — LCpl Mottley, 10 TALISMAN Troop
Any one that has ever had any part in an Equipment Care Inspection (ECI), will tell you that the build-up and inspection are one of those long days, longer nights and daunting dread mixed with some impending doom kind of events! I have been subject to ECI inspections in the past but this was the first time I would face it as a fleet manager. Being inspected on my vehicle, along with the other fleet managers of the Talisman Motor Transport (MT) team would mean hours of paperwork and lots of late nights working hard to ensure that our side of the dark art, known as MT documents, would be water tight. It was not an uncommon occurrence for Sgt Edwards to find myself and LCpl Cope still working at 2300 hrs at night, fuelled by excessive amounts of caffeine in order to get the job cracked. All the hard work paid off and on the morning of the ECI, after a last minute panic check of all our documents and drinking about 4 pints of strong coffee, the inspection began with all troop fleet managers looking a bit nervous, but confident they had done all they could. As the ECI progressed it came apparent to all players in the ECI that we were doing very well and as the clocks hit 1530 hrs and the ECI inspection team left our location, the overall feeling in the office was one of relief; as well as elation knowing that all the man hours and late nights had come to fruition. In closing I think it’s fair to say that the general consensus amongst the fleet managers was of hope that we will never have to do that again, until the next one!
11 Troop, the story so far — Sgt Bill Dalby, 11 TALISMAN Troop
11 Troop busy searching in the desert As I am sure you are well aware by now, the Squadron has been a very busy bunny indeed having completed 125 days in theatre, 100 of which has seen our lines out on the ground on the Route Proving & Clearance whirlwind tour. This has seen our Troop fleet travel to almost all extremities of the province, in support of numerous Operations. Operations have seen the Troop proving and searching routes through high threat areas for the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) efforts on Combat Logistic Patrols (CLPs) as well as leading them across the open dashte, an Afghan term for open desert, in order for them to resupply the numerous locations across this fair land! Along with this we are seeing the down sizing and even stripping out of some locations proving the end to the Afghan story is definitely near. Page 10
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
supply the numerous locations across this fair land! Along with this we are seeing the down sizing and even stripping out of some locations proving the end to the Afghan story is definitely near. As well as supporting the CLP runs, the Troop has been on many an Operation with the Armoured Infantry and Warthog Group whilst they provide support to the Brigade Operations Company or Brigade Reconnaissance Force, the Troop have been key to these operations as it has established safe routes to and from areas of interest, assisted with intimate observing for insurgent activity using our optical equipment. We have also aided in the safe withdrawal of friendly forces. So far the Troop and Squadron have enjoyed much success with our efforts resulting in numerous IED finds, the destruction of tonnes of lethal aid cache finds and the detention of insurgents; so to say the Talisman life is a dull one, you’d be sadly mistaken, it’s a rip roaring adventure full of excitement and reward that gives a warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction. It leaves you safe in the knowledge that you are part of the bigger picture, fighting the good fight! I’d just like to extend my sincerest heart felt thanks to all back home and all the fantastic support that you have given us out here, your doing a marvellous job which we appreciate so very much and are eternally grateful for. Talisman searchers providing a vital role in route safety
There’s no place like home - Lt Sarah Honey, 12 TALISMAN Troop Commander
These last two weeks saw my turn to return home on R&R. This invaluable treat comes with lots of dispute; some say it would be easier just to work through the whole tour without the distraction of returning home, for what is for some people is less than 10 days. I have to whole heartedly disagree. Yes, it was hard to leave my troop in the hands of the other Troopies, but I knew I could trust them to treat my troop with care. The benefit of some hearty home cooked meals, a proper bed, and some quality time with my family was unquestionable. Those who had already been on R&R spoke of how they kept thinking they had left their weapon somewhere (as in theatre you are to have your weapon on your person at all times, and obviously this does not happen in the UK!), while others said they found it hard to adjust to the time difference, waking at 0600 every morning unable to lie in.
LCpl Doughty and Lt Honey getting ready to go on an Op
I am happy to say I had no trouble quickly getting used to normal life, not one time questioning where my weapon was, and having no trouble lying in past 10am! It was over all too soon, but I did not get on the return leg with that feeling of dread sometimes accompanying me on return to work. I was looking forward to hearing what my troop had been up to, and I knew that my return to theatre meant I was one step closer to the end of tour. Upon my return it all became normal again very quickly, and after hearing the escapades the other Troop Commanders had taken my troop on, I am less willing to let them go out together again in the future! Page 11
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Search and make others safe — LCpl Gaz McNamara, 12 Troop TALISMAN
The day was 17 January 2013, the wind was bitterly cold and it cut like a knife through our bodies, it was another normal TALISMAN type day and nobody expected what was about to occur. "It doesn’t take a genius to spot a goat amongst a flock of sheep" proclaimed LCpl Westerman as he saddled up inside the Buffalo I didn’t really know what LCpl Westerman he meant by this but I was somewhat intrigued! It was an early rise for the mighty 12 Troop that morning, done so to ensure we were in position early and ready to help the Brigade Reconnaissance Forces operation to rid one of the local villages of insurgent fighters and their weapons caches. We collected our fellow troops and proceeded to clear a safe path for them across the arid Afghan terrain and everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Outside of the Buffalo window I could see the sun was starting to show and our convoy drills were looking slick and precise, we were doing well. All of a sudden a concerned voice echoed out from the speaker system within my wagon, it was Sgt Burke. Sgt Burke informed us that his Mastiff lead vehicle had lost a wheel bank off of the choker mine roller whilst negotiating some tricky moonscape terrain. The choker roller sits in front of our vehicles like and is pushed ahead like a shopping trolley, but this one had lost a wheel and had dug into the ground making progress impossible. This was the real deal, I thought... time to earn our bucks. We would have to either recover the roller set and make a repair or replace it completely with a spare roller. As a plan was being formulated an attached Royal Artillery vehicle, which had been tagging along for a safe lift, decided it would drive off of our cleared path and a little further into the wilderness, bad move. It came over the radio that they were had parked next to what they thought was an IED pressure plate. They had stopped the vehicle and were now stuck not knowing what danger potentially lay around their position. At that moment the Troop Commander ordered us to carryout a search around the vehicle, this would make sure there would be no IED threat to the Gunner boys in the stricken vehicle before we tried to retrieve Talisman vehicles in the desert them. Cpl Bruce Forsyth readied his men, I'm not sure what he said to them but they looked inspired much like in the film Braveheart, regardless of the fact that the insurgent had one agenda, Cpl “William Wallace” Forsyth had another, to get out there and make it safe. No IEDs were found during the search, however the boys had spotted the potential IED component part that was sat just meters away from the stricken Artillery vehicle and they could now confirm that it was definitely part of an IED. This meant moving the vehicle would be dangerous and we would need to physically Page 13
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
search our way down to the vehicle to extract these guys out. The Artillery boys were looking to buy more some more sand for their hour glass, but the insurgency wasn’t selling any. The search team assembled towards the back of the lead Mastiff vehicle with Cpl Patricia Hughes issuing the order that no matter how long it took we were here to extract them out safely and in one piece. As easy as that, off we set. Spr “you lay them and I’ll find em” Thompson and LCpl “the backbone” McNamara led the search party off, but not before saying the old quote “if you think bull riding isn’t intense enough, then come try on my saddle and sit on my back, this ain’t for tenderfoots" which to be fair, really summed it all up perfectly. Within 25 minutes we had our first IED find of the day, we were pulled back whilst the device was confirmed. We moved around the device and onwards towards the stricken vehicle, getting ever closer. Another 2 devices were found before we managed to clear a safe path to the front of the vehicle. Once there we drove the vehicle out along our freshly cleared path and away from the danger area. With a now safe and sound Artillery vehicle back on safe ground, it was a job well done. After all the excitement we were looking forward to destroying the devices found, but unfortunately time was against us and we still had the task of extracting the Brigade Reconnaissance Force. We did just that, leading them safely all the way back to MOB Price. Looking back on that particular mission I can honestly say there are three kinds of men in this world, those who learn by reading, a few who learn from observation and the rest well, they just have to pee on the electric fence to see what happens! In short stick behind TALISMAN and you won’t go to far wrong. Once again 12 Troop had led the way, taking the fight to the insurgent in his own back yard and come out on top. Sgt Burke chilling out with 12 Troop on return to Camp Bastion
Chinooks providing a good view from the Talisman vehicles
Lessons in Camp Bastion
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
4 Armoured Engineer Squadron
FOB Ouelette Realignment – Spr Broxholme
Myself and 14 others deployed to FOB Ouelette by two means; a group were escorted by a CLP from Lashkar Gah Durai in the protected Plant and Self Loading Dump Truck (SLDT); whilst the remainder of us moved on helicopter from PB Attal through Camp Bastion to FOB Oullette. Once at Ouelette we quickly sorted out our bed spaces, we had to take extra care not to disrupt the belongings of 9 Troop, 73 AES who had only recently been tasked to a job in Gereshk leaving the Ouelette realignment to the mighty 5 Troop. Following that we were Sappers from 2 Section busy regiven a brief building the accommodation pod of what we would be doing for the next 7 days. The new Hesco on the eastern perimeter wall of the HLS
For the work we were split down into two sections with the plant operators bouncing between the two sections depending on where they were needed. I was put into Cpl Jacobs section and our first task was the taking down of the FOB unit ammunition storage, A new and separate entrance has been made outside the MOB for the Afghan National Civil Order Police compound
which was no small task as it required a lot of manpower at the start and then became a very plant intensive task. This turned out to be our biggest and most important task and as a result we fired straight into it beginning at 0700 and working all the way through to 1800 stopping for only 1 hour at lunch.
FOB Ouelette Artillery Compound — Cpl Strickland .5Trop’smighty2Secn,lu5 Troops mighty 2 section, plus attachments, were given
the job of replacing the perimeter wall and the compartmentalisation of the artillery tented area. Due to the site restrictions and the fact that the perimeter wall had to be replaced, the section was briefed that once work had commenced, they would remain on site until the job was complete. The initial strip-out of damaged Hesco was completed in no time at all. Once fully stripped out, the ground works could commence but the nature of the whole task was very plant intensive. LCpl Neil Thornley made short work of levelling the ground in his MWT so that the new Hesco could be put in place. Concurrently, under the watchful eye of Spr "Big Coombz" Coomber, the remainder of the Section prepared the Hesco and were soon bouncing it out into the correct position. Due to the nature of the site only one piece of plant could fill the Hesco at any one point; this meant that the going was quite slow. The section began work replacing the cat wire fence and we were soon running out of daylight. By dusk there was only three baskets left to fill. The final baskets were filled and the razor wire was pulled out along the tops of the walls to complete the task. 5 Page 14
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
EDITION 4 Gate Construction at PB Pimon — Spr Corthorn
During the first week of October Cpl Smalley and Cpl English took a section of sappers up to PB Pimon from PB Nahidullah to fit a new main gate and give the existing burns pit a much needed makeover. Upon arrival the Cpls got ‘eyes on’ the jobs in hand and worked out the plan for the next 48 hours, while the Sprs took care of the stores. Split into two teams, one for the burns pit and one for the gate, we got cracking and made good progress with both tasks. The MWT making light work of many tasks With the gate that we were working on being the main entry point, we needed to get the supports secured into the footings and the gate hung ASAP. We didn’t want access to be disrupted and force protection to become an issue for the Estonians and other infantry soldiers based there. Using all of Spr Braithwaites civilian know-how on mixing cement and fitting gate posts, the task moved along swiftly with only a few minor hiccups (including an infantry vehicle driving into the massive footing the MWT had only just dug!!). The gate was levelled off, secured and left to set over night in time for some well needed scoff by everyone on site. With no room available in the tents, we set up our beds for the night under the stars, crossing our fingers and toes that the ratchet straps would hold the gate in place while the cement set and we wouldn’t have to start from scratch come first light. Up early the next day, we headed over to the gate keen to see if all was how we had left it - sure enough all was well and the task was complete, so it was all hands to the pump to get the burns pit sorted out before we could make our way back to PB Nahidullah and get the smell of ‘wagbags’ off of our kit!
Air Waves — SSgt Bill McKee
A Squadron needs to be able to communicate information up and down its Chain of Command. 4 AES Signals Troop is responsible for placing combat radio facilities in place so that commanders within the Squadron can communicate at any time. On arrival to Camp Bastion it was obvious from a ‘Command and Control’ point of view that communicating to Troops on the ground was not being utilised with the equipment that was available to the Squadron. It was decided that the Signals Non-Commissioned Officer (SSgt Bill McKee), would visit and stay at each of the Patrol Bases where the Squadron’s Troops were located, in order to carry out communication training and set up a ‘Troop Operations Base’ for each location. Sun going down at PB Attal Once communications were established, it was just a matter of keeping it going, the Signals personnel at each location have produced and maintained solutions which have kept tasks going when stores or information were required (credit to them). Flying around Helmand Province is quite an experience as you look down onto a landscape which is not as baron and dusty as a map would lead you to believe. It is easy to see that this vast area is filled with busy farms and fields with people working in and around them, hard to believe there is a conflict of interest when you look at things from a Page 15
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
SSgt McKee getting ready to board a helicopter different perspective. At night the flying is different and an eerie feeling consumes you in the cold fresh air, which is absorbed by the thumping rotor sounds that soften the human senses, reminding you that there is a job to be done and that this is what we have all trained for. At each location the presel is pressed and the radio cracks and whistles into life with the evidence of a person’s voice on the other end, from troops that can be some distance away from you. There is a feeling of relief and small joy, which probably is a feeling that only a Signals Sapper could understand (he has no one else to blame or turn to when no one answers). It is down to his training, experience and the phenomenon that is ‘radio wave propagation’.
LCpl ‘Turkish’ Newbold
I am currently posted at 42 Field Squadron, 28 Engineer Regiment and attached to 4 AES. When I first deployed to Afghanistan I was working with the Resources Department. My jobs consisted of collecting the stores required and packing them into ISO containers. Early in the tour there were loads of stores requests that came through, so we were supplied with a couple of locally employed Afghan nationals to help and also Spr Brown, who normally works with the Squadron Quartermaster’s Department, was also sent up to the resources yard to help out. One morning, during the packing of the ISO containers, Spr Brown ended up inside one of the ISOs whilst the Afghan nationals filled the container. When he ran out of space inside he told them to stop, but unfortunately there is sometimes a language barrier, so he ended up lodged inside against the roof with his foot stuck underneath a roll of geo-grid (hardened rubber matting). I didn’t know this until I heard a little shout and an Afghan local, saying “Turkish” and pointing at Spr Brown, who as you can imagine wasn’t happy - but I found the whole thing quite funny, and when I started laughing it made the locals laugh too, which obviously didn’t help the situation. I then helped Spr Brown and got him out of the ISO. After we finished I brought him back down to our office and told the rest of the lads the story - and they couldn’t believe that the smallest guy in the Troop could get stuck in such a big ISO container. Working on the Resources yard with the ISOs
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
EDITION 4 Getting Camp 191 ready for Winter — Spr Brown and Spr O’Brian
The Sergeant Major tasked me and a few other Sappers to start the task of preparing our camp for winter. We started by digging out trenches around the Ops Room by hand because this is the most important part of the camp it’s the Squadron’s link to the troops forward and any flooding could damage the communications equipment there, leaving the Squadron unable to communicate with the troops forward.
We started with shovels and picks, which wouldn’t have been difficult if we were back in the UK however because the ground is softer than the baked desert sand here in Afghan. We cracked on with the job; some people were struggling more than others in the heat, so there was a lot of water being guzzled down!
We noticed there was a ‘skid steer’ (mini digger) parked in the vehicle park at the bottom of the camp, so we asked Sgt Matthews - a plant operator - if we could use his skills as a ‘plantie’ to operate it to make the whole process a lot quicker. There was still some manual work to do, getting in the trenches and clearing out what Sgt Matthews couldn’t with the skid steer, and moving the spoil from the dug trenches away from the tents, allowing the water to run into the trenches instead of pooling around the tents but all in all it made the whole process a lot quicker than if we had dug it all by hand.
Once all the trenches were dug out around the camp, we had to fill loads of sandbags up with all the ground which had been dug up so we could put them around the trenches - to stop the water from overflowing and going in to the tents. Once we had done this we had to stack the rest of the other sandbags, which we had not used, nicely near the Ops Room.
We all chipped in a got it smashed.
Sgt Matthews operating the skid steer
Once we all started to put the tools back in the store and pack away the skid steer we spotted a 73 AES lad start stealing the sandbags that we had filled to use for his own camp - what a cheek they had doing this! He got stopped straight away, until they asked if they could use some of them and we happily obliged.
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
73 Armoured Engineer Squadron
Observation Post Sterga 2 Construction Task — Spr Farrington, 4 Troop
On the evening of 9 January myself and five other Sprs were told to prepare our kit and get some rest ahead of our next big construction task at Observation Point (OP) Sterga 2. OP Sterga is situated at the top of a cliff face overlooking the Green Zone and also the Helmand River. Our job was to make the camp around 8 times its current size in order to accompany various new assets and also to house extra troops. Sounds simple? Far from it! The build will involve around 1km worth of Hesco, 6 sangars, a helicopter landing site (HLS), toilets and showers. All this is to be built on very uneven ground, so team plant, headed up by the plant God himself LCpl ‘Jolly’ Dineley, he had a big task of levelling the ground before the build commenced. With all this work in mind we decided to hit the ‘Naafi’ at PB2 to play some darts and have a brew whilst doing what Sappers are good at, a good old ‘moan’. There we were playing darts and having a good old chin wag when we heard vehicles entering the PB. As we went to investigate why this convoy had arrived at 1930hrs and not 0730hrs the next morning, we were quickly told we had 5 minutes to grab our kit in order to do the first leg of the journey to MOB Price. The problem we had is Sappers being Sappers, none of us had our kit packed. Kit was everywhere, including Spr ‘Mark‘ Elkington’s wet washing had to be stuffed into his Bergen. After around ten minutes of flapping around like our Troop Commander, Lt Graham most days, we got our kit on and mounted the vehicles for our one hour journey to MOB Price. We arrived at around 2300hrs, at which time we were told to be at the vehicles for 0530hrs in preparation for the final move up to OP Sterga 2. After a long five hour journey driving through the highly populated centre of Gereshk and then high into the desert we arrived at OP Sterga 2. If I was to call this place a ‘tip’ it would be an understatement. There was very little here that you could call comfort, probably the best comfort is the kerosene heater on the stag point. The next morning work commenced on the HLS site. This was a high priority task for the troop, so the lads worked hard in order to get this complete. Whilst they were doing all the hard work I was doing the easy work, as Spr Elkington would put it. Being a Carpenter, I was set out with the task of building toilets and showers to make the lives easier for the guys here and also to reduce the risk of D&V. My time at OP Sterga 2 lasted just over a week because I had an accident involving a stanley knife, I was flown back to Camp Bastion and was surprised when I was told that they had to operate on my knee because the cut was deeper than I first suspected. An hour later after surgery and high as a kite on drugs I was recovering and stayed in overnight for observation. The lesson I’ve learnt from this is that I will personally advise anyone reading this is ‘always cut away from you, and not to you’. The task is going well and all the guys are putting in lots of hours and graft, and I’m sure it will be complete well ahead of schedule. To be continued …………..
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
PB Clifton re-alignment — Cpl Rothwell
After spending the first part of the tour as a “Flying Cpl” I was returned to my troop early November to PB Clifton. The troop had been high on the success of the Golden Egg task as work was limited within the PB. After highlighting and completing a few small engineering tasks within the PB we got news that the re-alignment was sooner than expected. After receiving the news SSgt Mason and I soon got into the plans of the re-alignment. The first job was to figure out what was staying and what was going. The PB had grown a lot over the years since it was first built, starting off as a 200m perimeter on Herrick 6, to the present 1200m it stood at, before we started our work on it. The size of the current PB is too large for the ANA who are due to take over the PB in the coming weeks. It was decided to reduce its size, which involved joint planning by the ANA and our Battlegroup Engineer Advisor, the decision was made and a plan of works commenced. Civilian contractors hard at work The first task was to relocate our living and welfare area as we lived in the part of camp that was due to be torn down. SSgt Mason spoke with Delta Comany Royal Marines and managed to relocate us within the old ammo storage compound which consisted of a Hesco bunker. We soon got to work and wired lights and electrics into the new accommodation along with building a welfare area; once relocated, the hard work began. Shortly after moving into the new living area SSgt Mason flew out on R&R, leaving me to run the troop. A quick timeline was knocked together and dates of demolishing and building began. We first set about taking down the eating area which consisted of a Hesco bunker, whilst our troop plant operator Spr Griffin destroyed the internal Hesco walls. Once completed we had a quiet period over The new wall underway and the completed relocated Christmas whilst we waited for other elements to move out of the PB, so that we could work on reconfiguring elevated sangar other areas. The next major job was to start building the new perimeter wall which split the camp in half. Before work began the area needed to be levelled. The request for a dozer was granted and a civilian contractor was inbound. On arrival, the dozer looked a little old to say the least, but this didn’t stop Spr Griffin drooling over it; to be honest I think he was a little gutted that he didn’t have one of his own. The new wall to be constructed was tasked to LCpl ‘Ginge’ Hill, to ensure it would fly up in no time at all. The new wall was put on hold as an elevated sangar needed to be taken down and built again. The work commenced at 2000hrs and the lads set about removing the fill off the roof and around the sangar. After working through the night until 0600hrs the following morning the sangar was down. Once down the lads had a few hours sleep before setting about rebuilding the sangar that same day. After The new wall complete with wiring the sangar was constructed the work switched onto the construction of the wall. The wall soon began taking shape and work paused until late January as access was required to the old part of camp. On return from his R&R SSgt Mason had noticed a considerable change within the PB and it was my time for a much needed R&R. After a two day handover back to SSgt Mason I had explained what works had been completed and what was still pending; I was then free of PB Clifton. The hard work carries on whilst I’m R&R so its only by pictures from the lads that I will see the final product, pictures will do! Page 19
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
EDITION 4 Artillery Hill (the rebuild) LCpl Cummings, 9 Troop
26 December. 0630hrs. 9 Troop. Not a pretty day to be in the Corps weather wise, it was cold and wet, the sun wasn’t out to play today but none the less we had a job to do. First things first, all the ISO containers containing stores for the job had to be brought in by the CLP and there was a lot of containers, which meant a lot of vehicles in a small space. After we had everything sorted we then began to get ourselves acquainted, with no shelter of any kind we had but one choice, to sleep inside the ISO containers, they were cold but it was better than nothing. We began work on the northern side of the base by flattening the bund line under myself, whilst LCpl Wagner prepped the Hesco for the ground base sangar and then started to bounce out the large Hesco baskets, following the pre-existing bund line. The plant was working hard and doing a good job but as this base was an old Russian artillery position, there was a regular find of old Russian artillery 105mm shells, which were dealt with by the Afghan national army bomb disposal team. The new ‘super’ sangar Once we had completed the northern wall, Cpl Mckone’s section began work on the Hesco sangars, this meant building late into the night. The next couple of days were spent following the bund line, demolishing and replacing it with large Hesco baskets, in some parts it took the plant a while to flatten the bund line; the sun had baked the ground making it hard and difficult to demolish. The western side of the camp was now complete with a Hesco perimeter wall, two sangars on the very western edge and a ground base sangar on each entrance point. We then carried on turning the bund line into a Hesco perimeter wall, following it round to the very eastern edge of the camp, where a super sangar was to be placed. Due to the nature of the ground and a tight entrance to where it was to be placed, this meant we could not use the SLDT (self loading dumper truck) to fill the Hesco on top of the sangar; it meant we had to fill the baskets by hand, an arduous job but very doable by the lads of 9 troop. Whilst this was happening the plant carried on destroying the bund line and used the desert fill from the bund to fill the large Hesco baskets. We had reached the mosque and had to let the ‘planties’ from the ANA use their excavator and bulldozer to flatten the rest of the bund line. This made the ‘planties’ of 9 Troop very unhappy, as they had all gotten very excited about new bits of kit, which they thought they were going to get their hands on. Instead the ANA used their machines and they proved to be pretty decent at the task they were given. The perimeter wall was complete at last, a big sigh of relief from the guys but the job wasn’t done yet. We spent the next few days building three artillery pits and a brand new kitchen. Not the type you can pick up from ‘Homebase’ or ’B&Q’, just a wooden shelter with corrugated iron sheets on the roof. Page 20
Medium Wheeled Tractors (MWT) working with local contractors
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
9 Troop after completing Artillery Hill Next we built an ammunitions bunker and another super sangar but this time we could use the SLDT, so it flew in. Then we built five accommodation units made out of a combination of different sized Hesco baskets and wooden roofing with corrugated iron sheeting. This wasn’t as simple as we thought, we found that a lot of altering to the roofs had to be made to make them sit level on the Hesco, but it didn’t make a difference to the guys, we got the job done and we made it look good. With the task now complete well ahead of schedule, we had earned a good rest and a good nights sleep.
Working hard at PB Clifton — Spr Harrison, 8 Troop
Well into January now, the troop has been busy with the re-alignment of PB Clifton. With only a few weeks now until handover, the PB has taken massive changes in preparation for the ANA to move into their new home. Within the last week the troop has been completing the new perimeter wall which gives the PB a new look, the wall has been constructed using Hesco. The lads then had to bolster the security of the wall using razor wire preventing the wall from being easily breached. The MWT making light work of the re-alignment tasks
The next phase of the new perimeter wall was the installation of the new camp gates, offering double access for the ANA. New holes had to be dug using the nimble ‘Bobcat’ (Skid Steer/ mini digger) to create the right size pilot holes for the gate posts to be placed in. The posts were then prepared using the existing concrete which we chiselled away at so the new concrete we used would form the correct strong enough bond, with plywood formwork placed and levelled into the new pilot holes, the gate posts could be placed and fresh concrete laid. With that all done the second post was now ready for the same treatment. While the wall task and new gate installation was under way, the ever busy MWT driven by Spr Griffin and Spr Hetherington was busy gutting any existing Hesco walls within the PB, which would no longer be required due to the re-alignment plan. Several old accommodation protective walls are now down plus the whole artillery compound, which included two vehicle ramps made of large Hesco baskets that stood 7ft tall and were over 15 metres in length; the ’planties’ made light work of ripping them down.
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Engineer Specialist Advisory Team (SAT)
Op SAHKTAR and the Sherwali Gul Pul—Cpl Bennett
During the early stages of Op HERRICK 16, ISAF crossed the Nahr-e Seraj (NES) canal with the use of a Medium Girder Bridge (MGB) to allow the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) access to the North of the canal and continue the fight to clear the insurgents and strengthen their position within the local community. Unfortunately the build of the Non-Equipment Bridge (NEB) was delayed and it gave the insurgents the opportunity to blow up the MGB after only 9 days. A rethink was required with regards to the security of the bridge and the ANA decided to build a new ‘mini’ Check Point on the far bank to maintain overwatch on previous ‘dead ground’. The ANA doing the ground works Op SAKHTAR 9, which means ‘build’, was ANA led operation to clear insurgents from within central Lashkar Gah in order to allow the construction of the NEB and a new Check Point (CP). It was the job of the ANA Engineer Tolay (Squadron) from the 4th Kandak 3/215 Brigade to carry out this task. As the ANA have never built an NEB before, they turned to their advisors for help. The Engineer advisor team within the Brigade Advisor Group (BAG) is made up of 5 Engineers, Capt Tom Bird – Officer Commanding, SSgt Stu Pearson – Second-in-Command, Sgt Jake Ellwood Combat Engineer advisor, Cpl Jon Bennett - Plant advisor and Sgt Don Campbell CGC (Conspicuous Gallantry Cross), who is based in Camp Shorabak looking after the critical stores chain. The team are known as a ‘SAT’, Specialist Advisor Team. Op SAKHTAR was to play a key role in the ANA Engineers capability development. Building a NEB was the last capability that they needed to be advised on and build; thus allowing advisors to take a further step back and allow the ANA to carry out all engineer works unadvised. The ANA mastering the canter lever method On 11 December 2012, following the clearance of the surrounding area, a strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and ANSF cordon was established to allow the ANA engineers to prepare for the build. An ISAF Engineer Troop from 4 Squadron, 21 Engineer Regiment, removed the damaged MGB and built another next to the proposed NEB site to allow access to the far bank and make it possible for the ANA to conduct ground works. The Sherwali Gul Pul, which is the Afghan name for the NEB was started one day after the clearance started. The SAT only provided advice and did not physically assist at any point, in order to ensure the ANA took complete ownership and could be proud of their work. The first task was to dig the bridge abutments to allow the bridge to sit level with the ground. This was the first problem. Page 22
THE BEAR NECESSITIES
The ANA plant operator was a little too keen and managed to dig a lot deeper than expected, despite the advice given. This meant that they had to back fill and eventually build up the bank to stop it washing away during the winter months. It was decided the easiest course of action was to hand dig the far bank to mitigate this happening again. One of the key challenges when working with the ANA is getting them to understand the importance of the ‘finesse’ of engineering; the small things like ensuring the abutments are level before the bridge seat goes in. By the time we came to ‘boom’ the first of the 500Kg Ibeams (large timber beams) across the gap the ANA wanted to use a crane so they didn’t have to man handle the heavy equipment. However, we needed to see that they could complete it the old fashioned way of using the ‘canter-lever’ method of balancing beams on each other and ‘booming’ one across the middle. To start with SSgt Stu Pearson advising the ANA they were reluctant and sceptical that this method would even work, with a bit of coaxing they agreed to try it. Eventually, they found that it was very effective, they even gave themselves a cheer and clap once they’d seen how they could build a bridge without the use of a crane. Brigadier Bruce was fortunate to watch the ANA engineers in action and they really worked hard, especially in front of the many VIPs on site. On day two of the build, the ANA were a lot keener and by the time we arrived on site they had already positioned the majority of the 15 I-beams across the gap using the canter-lever method and were clearly happy in their work. With the I-beams across and in position, it was then onto the spacers, spiking rails, decking and wearing surface. The nailing down of the spiking rails, decking and wearing surface was a long drawn out process. The wearing surface on a NEB is normally laid diagonally, but as it was their build, the ANA decided that it would be just as good straight; plus cutting it diagonally would have required a lot of cutting which they did not think was a good idea. Due to the height of the bridge road surface, the construction of ramps was necessary to allow access to the actual bridge. With the completion of the far bank ramp it was decided to test the bridge by getting the Medium Wheeled Tractor onto it to ‘prove’ it. With the bridge proven, it was then onto the home bank ramp to allow the bridges completion. All in all, it was a good couple of days of work from the ANA Engineers, who after being shown the methods to get the bridge built, went at it with plenty of enthusiasm. Putting in the decking A lot of pressure was placed on to a very inexperienced Tolay Commander (Lt Said Amran) to get the bridge completed within the three day period. With a slow start to day one, Lt Amran was briefed up by the Kandak commander which meant the ANA came out full of energy on day two. It was still expected to take the full three days but the fact they employed some of their own methods and swamped the site with men, meant that a long second day saw the completion of Sherwali Gul Pul. The bridge is named after an ANA Engineer Warrior killed in action last year. It is now up to the SAT to continue their work in training the ANA at their base in Camp Shorabak and allow the ANA Engineers to continue the good work outside, unadvised. Page 23
SSgt Gibson and LCpl Moorhouse LCpl Wilson and Cpl Storey
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
Cpl English, Spr Ferguson and Spr Hicks
Spr Chafer, Spr Firth and Spr Hicks
Spr Ward and Spr Walters
SSgt Wright and Spr Appannah
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 25
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
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.