COLUMN: Afghan Diary

Sgt Campel watches during a counter-improvised explosive device training session for Afghan National Army members. (S)
Sgt Campel watches during a counter-improvised explosive device training session for Afghan National Army members. (S)

Lt Rosie Brooks re-caps another week for Ripon’s 21 Engineer Regiment during their tour in Afghanistan:

Time is flying for the officers and soldiers of 21 Engineer Regiment as many of them are entering their second month in theatre.

Construction works are continuing in earnest and the advisory aspect of working alongside the Afghans continues.

A special mention should go to the troops who have been attached to us from 42 Field Squadron, 28 Engineer Regiment of Hameln, Germany, and the TA soldiers from 75 Engineer Regiment and 591 Independent Field Squadron who have deployed with us for the duration of the tour.

The transition and integration has been seamless and at this stage of the tour you would not know the difference between the core 21 Engineer Regiment and those who are attached.

L/Cpl Jone Caniogo, 33, has been reflecting on the tour so far and thinking ahead to when 42 Field Squadron and 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron (AES) are both disbanded next year as a result of the Army 2020 Review.

He said, “When we disband next year the people that made the good times at 42 and 73 Squadrons will not be forgotten, Operation Herrick 17 would have been one of the best tours to remember. As part of 1 Troop 73 AES, the deployment so far has been busy and demanding, but at the same time enjoyable.

“The grenade screen we erected at the Afghan Uniform Police Headquarters (AUP HQ), and the now-completed reconstruction of the front gate at Camp Gereshk have been outstanding tasks to name a few. They have provided us with every opportunity to test our artisan trades as well as work with the Afghan National Army (ANA).

“The work at Camp Gereshk has been much appreciated and the reception welcoming, as they allowed us to regularly sample their local dishes and ‘fine tune’ our Pashtu language.”

Craftsman Gary King, 25, one of our TA soldiers who is normally an IT consultant for the NHS, has been patiently trying to coach Squadron Sgt Maj Steve Robinson, 38, through advanced computer skills. However, despite helping the Squadron Sgt Maj, he was still unfortunate enough to leave the operations room’s door open and was subsequently treated to the standard punishment of filling sandbags – five to be precise Strangely enough, Craftsman King has not been back to help with his IT skills again!

Over the course of the week, soldiers of the Brigade Advisory Group (BAG) have been assisting the Afghan National Army with the delivery of training, including counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) instruction. They have also put their impressive engineer skills to the test and upgraded their accommodation at their patrol base (PB). Having constructed permanent housing for six people in just four days, they are now well set for the approaching winter. Although five of them participated, it was largely down to the hard graft and carpentry skills of L/Cpl William Hayward, 31, although their officer, Capt Tom Bird, 28, did provide lots of advice from the sidelines!

In other news, CplBryan Griffiths, 37, from 4 AES has rallied five members of his squadron in preparation for a modified triathlon event in aid of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society.

He said: “We are going to cover the distance from Kandahar Airfield to Claro Barracks starting on November 5 and finishing in time for Christmas.

“Each person will be required to cycle 694km, row 81km and run 186km to complete the 3,586-mile distance between the two bases. I chose this charity because my wife is an MS nurse, based at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.”

As the Talisman Squadron continue to work hard in support of other operations, Maj Pete Young, Officer Commanding, said: “Selflessly, our soldiers are routinely placing themselves in front of UK forces to prove and assure that routes are free from explosive devices.

“At times it can be an exhausting and nerve-wracking task, but the men and women of ‘Dog’ Squadron have risen to the challenge admirably; demonstrating the character, pride and professionalism one would expect of the 1st Armoured Engineer Squadron.”

As another week draws to an end, I too am looking forward to my first trip out to join elements of 73 AES on a bridge build and see first-hand just a small part of the impressive work our regiment has been doing in support of the transition effort in Afghanistan.

l If you would like to make a donation to the 4 AES charity event, which begins on November 5, please visit: Bryan will keep us updated with how the event progresses over the next few weeks.