Saturday, February 20, 2010

Operation Moshtarak battlefield diary: Fighting to build bridges

By WO2 Sean Semple for The Mirror

A slightly frustrating day: full of problems but productive in the end. We were up before first light. Every sinew of you wants to stay inside the sleeping bag, but we needed to crack on clearing the proposed logistic supply route – one of our key tasks.

We made a bit of progress - then another IED, dug into the route in front of us. We dealt with it without incident. Back home the public only hear about the few IEDs that go off, injuring or killing guys. What they don’t see are the dozens that we find and make safe. It’s a cowards’ way to fight a war: Indiscriminate. No wonder the locals around here hate the insurgents. They just want peace.

Next problem: there’s a large ditch on the route. We could just fill it in and move on, but that would damage an Afghan farmer’s livelihood.

So we decide to bridge it instead, which means calling in a Chinook carrying an underslung bridge.

Again, what the public don’t see is the incredible lengths we go to to build bridges – forgive the pun – with the Afghan people. We could go quicker and give the insurgents less time to plant IEDs, but that would mean upsetting local people, and the Engineers are here to improve the route, not trash it.

We wait for the Chinook and observe our arcs – i.e. making sure we’re covered in cash of ambush. We also chat with the locals.

We give the children sweets and compensate a farmer for driving over his wheat crop – good on him for not planting poppies. I have kids myself, and when I see these Afghan children living such a primitive existence, it makes me want something better for them. This is a world away from how we live our lives.

The CO showed the locals a Girls Aloud video on his iPod. Their eyes almost popped out, they loved it - bet they’ve never seen that before in Helmand . The Boss told us it was on his iPod because his kids put it there. I have my doubts though.

It prompted a long debate between the lads as to who was the best looking in the group: Kimberly came out as the overall winner. The CO has invited them to the after-tour party, but we´ve yet to get a reply. We agreed that he must be a closet Girls Aloud fan.

The Chinook came in with two apaches for protection. What a great sight! Engineers love this sort of stuff. They like it on exercise but to do it for real on Operations is another experience altogether – even under the watchful eye of Taliban ‘scouts.’

Gently, the Chinook lowered the bridge into position and we set about constructing the finishing touches - all that lifting and carrying we did on pre-tour physical training paid off. The boys were all over it and glad of the exercise too.

It was last light when we finished. We set up the vehicles in all round defence. Meatballs and pasta for evening meal, and then into my sleeping bag.

I think of all the things I’m looking forward to after the tour.

We didn’t get as far as we wanted, but we did put in a bridge which will be used by the Logistics girls and guys to re-supply Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), and for the locals to get produce to market: a little victory for hearts and minds, so crucial for this campaign.


  1. Job well done guys.I like the diary format that has been posted so far on site. To me it's better than what the main media post.:)

  2. Great stuff! Well done, Sean!
    Keep giving "Terry Taliban" a pasting... :)

  3. Well done lads keep it up and keep safe .We are all thinking of you .Lots of support back home lol xx

  4. Great stuff Sean, well in mate, keep up the good work, well better than news sites.

    ... oh yeah keep on kickin ass

  5. i read this blog most days !!
    well done to all those that provide the frontline blogs . best wishes to you all out there x

  6. This is great....I wil read this every day..

    As you say...Back home the public only hear about the few IEDs that go off, injuring or killing guys..
    It's great that you can help the locals etc.

    I can't imagine what it must be like out there.

    Hope it all goes well for you all..Good luck...
    Mark , Near Eastbourne..