Friday, June 19, 2009

3 SCOTS repel sustained Taliban attack

Scottish soldiers have found a large quantity of Taliban weapons and drugs in an arduous six-day operation which saw them coming under sustained enemy attack for several hours.

Under the cover of dark, troops from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) were dropped by helicopter into Kandahar Province on 10 June 2009 in an operation called Op Tora Arwa.

The Battle Group came under sustained attack for several hours from insurgents using machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) yet repelled the attacks to amass the large finds.

In all, the unit found numerous weapons including AK47s and pistols, AK47 magazines, anti-personnel mines, 1176 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, 150 rounds of 9mm ammunition, explosives as well as 118kg of wet opium, 190kg of marijuana, and 110kg of marijuana seeds.

Tragically, during the deployment, Private Robert McLaren, from the Isle of Mull, who had recently joined the unit after passing out from training, was killed by an improvised explosive device.

Major Matt Munro, Officer Commanding Alpha (Grenadier) Company, said:

"Op TORA ARWA 1 was an enormous success. We emphatically achieved our mission of disrupting the insurgents, we secured the area and killed large numbers of insurgents and found and denied large quantities of his equipment and material."

"The operation was overshadowed by the tragic loss of 20-year-old Private Robert McLaren. He was a huge talent and, despite his tender years and inexperience was very highly regarded.

"He was killed by the blast from an improvised explosive device as he manoeuvred forward under accurate enemy machine gun and rocket fire in order to support imperilled colleagues. He was the epitome of a proud and effective Highland soldier. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten."

Renowned as the "heart of darkness" by ISAF commanders, the Black Watch deployed into the region from six Canadian Chinook helicopters in the early hours backed by Canadian artillery and American jets.

Operating in rugged terrain, blistering heat and under intense weight from body armour and other equipment, Maj Munro expressed great admiration for his troops.

"The Jocks are awe-inspiring. It is very hard soldiering out here and the boys are shouldering huge weights in very high temperature for days at a time in a complex, demanding and dangerous environment."

In addition to Pte McLaren, two soldiers from the Afghanistan National Army were similarly killed by an IED, and other soldiers were injured in the blast that killed Pte McLaren.

Despite the losses, the morale amongst the troops is buoyant. Private Liam Salter, aged 19 on his first tour of Afghanistan, said:

"These were the most difficult six days of my life; mentally, physically, and emotionally, definitely the hardest, but also the most exciting and rewarding."

The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), took over in Afghanistan as the Regional Battle Group (South) on 10 April 2009 from 42 Commando Royal Marines.

The battalion is responsible for supporting a variety of operations across the whole of southern Afghanistan, not just those of the main UK Task Force in Helmand province.

The battalion will be based within Camp Roberts at Kandahar Airfield for their deployment and will work directly to the Dutch-led divisional headquarters known as Regional Command (South), part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force.

Kandahar is home to the forces of seven nationalities within the ISAF coalition and contains a huge array of supporting equipment.

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