Thursday, October 1, 2009
Pic: Grenadier Guards training for Op HERRICK 11.
Report by Lt Col Roly Walker
Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards
11 LIGHT BRIGADE promises to be one of the best trained and supported British Brigades to take to the field: in 2006 the UK Government spent around £750 million on military operations in Afghanistan. In 2009 it will be around £3.5 billion.
We will be based in a relatively new area of operations so conditions will be pretty rough and rudimentary. Most of the soldiers will be living in patrol bases, which are basically local Afghan compounds improved with some barriers and sentry positions, in the heart of the local community.
Food will be mainly rations, self cooked. Water comes from local boreholes or is shipped in on supply convoys. We will wash using wash bowls and shower bags, and sleep on camp beds - some in tents, others in buildings of opportunity.
The routine will be busy, noisy, and dusty.
The majority of the time will be spent out and about on patrol reassuring the local population, or on deliberate offensive operations to disrupt the insurgents. The weights we will carry will come as a shock - over 70 lbs just to conduct a patrol - essential equipment, body armour, weapons, ammunition, batteries, water, and food.
The rest of the time will be spent in the patrol bases, either resting or guarding the base. Comforts will be hard to come by. There will be satellite phones, but access to the internet will be limited. Mail will be delivered whenever the supply convoys come through the area.
Once we get there, we have to succeed. Every man and woman will need to stay focussed on the job, stay alert, and maintain high standards of discipline.
Afghanistan is full of contrasts. Ancient traditions dance with modern, the terrain varies from the mountains of the Hindu Kush rising into the Himalaya, to the sand seas flowing into Baluchistan, and from farmlands to the rocky barren deserts. Our task promises to be no different.
Op HERRICK is a demanding and dangerous operation and I have been in the Army long enough to know it will change people's lives. But I have been overwhelmed by the determination and courage of the young men and women I have trained with over the last few months. They are proving to be a very tough generation, and their families and local communities should be very proud of them.