Friday, October 30, 2009

Humbled by his riflemen - Lt Col Robert Thomson, CO 2 RIFLES

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson with Major Karim of the Afghan National Army

When we were told in 2008 that we would become the Battlegroup responsible for the town of Sangin and the Upper Sangin Valley, we were only too well aware of the challenge that lay ahead.

Having deployed each and every year over the last ten years, we had the right operational experience but there was not one iota of complacency as we headed out to Afghanistan on our toughest assignment yet.

We have a saying in the Battlegroup that one is only as good as the next operation so, as we grabbed our rifles, body armour and packs, we knew we would be called upon to strain every sinew over six hard months. We were not wrong.

Our area of operations, the patch, was about the same size as Dorset, approximately 2,225 km2, a massive area for a Battle Group numbering 1,100 soldiers; there were over 25 different cap badges represented in our ranks including the RAF and one sailor! A Company 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers joined the Battlegroup to make us five Companies strong.

The Battlegroup was focused on the town of Sangin which has a population of 20,000 people, all living on the equivalent of about $2 per day. Life for the Afghans is harsh. Most are farmers or bazaar stall holders. Electricity, while limited, is improving and water all comes out of a well.

But the people of Sangin are as clever and committed as anywhere else and are determined to build a future for their children, free from the Taliban and its horrific threats.

For the full report click here for the Frontline bloggers site

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