Thursday, November 26, 2009
CO 3 RIFLES reports from Helmand
Picture: Commander of 2 Platoon, A Company, 3 RIFLES, Lieutenant Palmer Winstanley, discusses the patrol with his Afghan National Army counterpart
Lieutenant Colonel Nick Kitson, Commanding Officer, 3 RIFLES
We had the great honour to take over from our sister battalion, 2 RIFLES, on Monday 19 October 2009 here in Sangin. It was fantastic to arrive, to catch up with many familiar faces and trade stories.
2 RIFLES have given much and made many sacrifices but they have also made remarkable progress during their time here. They have left us many opportunities which we are eager to take forward for the people of Helmand.
We have assumed the role of Battle Group (North), with our area of responsibility in northern Helmand province stretching from Sangin up to the Kajaki Dam.
Throughout the area the Helmand River winds its way along the flood plain from the dam southwards through the mountainous desert landscape. It creates a strip of richly farmed fertile land either side of it, laced with irrigation channels and known as the Green Zone.
Patrolling is our main activity. We are bringing security and stability to the area, reassuring the local population around us and encouraging them to go about their normal routine.
As and when the need arises we will launch deliberate operations and take the fight to the enemy, clearing areas of insurgents and disrupting their activities.
We also work closely alongside our Afghan hosts in the nascent Afghan National Army and Police, exchanging ideas and tactics with them so they grow in ability and confidence in order to tackle the insurgency.
I am hugely impressed by their professionalism and dedication. We all have much to learn from them too and have much faith in their abilities.
Most have been pleasantly surprised by the living conditions in the Forward Operating Bases, not exactly home-comforts but certainly manageable, and accommodation is generally decent.
The majority of our food comes in the form of 'compo' rations, prepared by a small and dedicated detachment of chefs, who are always finding new ways to turn fairly basic ingredients into exciting meals for hungry riflemen. We top these up with fresh produce whenever the opportunity arises.
The Royal Engineers are always hard at it, trying to make our stay more comfortable by improving the showers, toilets and lodgings.
The temperature is now a very agreeable 25 degrees in the day but drops off sharply to around five degrees overnight. We expect the cold weather to hit over the next few months.
Who knows, maybe we shall see a white Christmas in the desert! We shall certainly see rain and the liquid mud it will create around us.
This is already proving to be a tour that will test and shape us all. The operation remains a difficult and a dangerous one but all the men and women under my command are totally up to the challenge.
We have all received excellent training to get us to this point and we have access to some of the best kit I have seen during my time in the Army.