Thursday, October 1, 2009
Lieutenant Colonel Roly Walker
Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards
Where are you deploying to?
We will be going to Helmand, which is one of the southern Provinces, sharing it with US and Afghan security forces. Helmand is an important province for the Taliban and narcotic barons, and so is fiercely contested by them.
What is your mission in Afghanistan?
It is clear to me that Afghanistan must not be ruled by extremists who themselves harbour extremists bent on international terrorism. The government in Afghanistan faces an insurgency which threatens the wish of the international community to rebuild the country. Alongside 40 other UN and NATO states we need to protect Afghanistan from those extremists by working with the Afghans to rebuild their state institutions to govern their people. That means defeating the insurgency they face. And that means protecting the population centres, building up Afghan security forces, and attacking the insurgents.
How have you prepared for this?
Countering an insurgency is exactly what we have been preparing ourselves for over the last few months. We started training in January, went to Kenya for six weeks in the spring, and then spent time training with some of the new operational equipment. The training became ever more sophisticated, and importantly became more integrated with the other civilian and military teams who will be with us. We trained alongside allies from the Afghan Army, the US Marine Corps, and an Estonian contingent, all of whom we will work with.
What conditions will the guards be living and working in?
Conditions will be pretty rough and rudimentary. The routine will be busy, noisy, and dusty. 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. Every man and woman will need to stay focussed on the job, to stay alert, and to maintain the high standards of discipline the Guards are famous for.
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.