Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WO2 Sean Semple Frontine Blog

The Mirror

Moshtarak Day 2 - Staring Down Taliban Spotters

IT'S day two of our gripping diary from WO2 Sean Semple - our correspondent who is with Manouevre Support Group in IED-infested Shawal, Helmand Province.

At 38 Sean is a Gulf veteran and has served in Northern Ireland. He's one of the most experienced soldiers out there - at the spearhead of Op' Moshtarak.

Here's his second account of being in the once Taliban-ruled Showal, where the insurgent flag was lowered at the weekend.

Our troops watched in Shawal as the Afghan flag was raised by proud Afghan National Army. But the Taliban are always watching - as Sean tells us:

"Woke up after a night under the stars. No cloud cover all night. Absolutely freezing. Lying in my issue green sleeping bag - it's affectionately nicknamed the bouncing bomb - I couldn't feel my feet and hands. The sleeping bag is good, but this was cold, bloody cold.

The Engineers job on Op Moshterak is three fold - and all of its critical to the success of the British end of the Op.

Job one: punch through IED belts, ploughing or blasting our way through - after making sure no civilians can be injured, of course. To put the bad guys on the run and force them to change tactics.

Job two: build the things that we and the locals need - bridges, bases, road improvements.

Job three: push through open ground, making a path for the Logies - Logistics guys - so they can bring in much needed supplies. For us, that means water, ammo and food for the infantry - to keep them fed and going - and starting to build new bases for Afghan troops. For local civilians, it means building equipment to get cracking with reconstruction.

With the Taliban on the back foot, or putting their weapons down and scarpering, we have a window of opportunity. We've got to take it.

Talking of the Taliban, yesterday we spent most of the day watching them watching us. Then they moved away.

Late in the afternoon, we saw something we didn't like. One of the Royal Tank Regiment sentries, Sgt Andy Ford, saw a group of men - fighting aged males - aggressively remonstrating with a local elder. It was a good spot.

A few minutes later there was a lot of activity. The elder was hurrying the women and children out of the compound and into a vehicle. Meanwhile two males were sitting in the field, pretending to work, but all the time looking up at our location. Interesting.

The Royal Tank Regiment's OC, Major Mike Taylor, grabbed a Quick Reaction Force - a dozen blokes and four Vikings APCs - and headed out pronto. Just as the family were heading off he got to them.

They were scared. The Taliban had kicked them out of their compound. We were being scouted for an attack, probably at night, possibly from several positions.

Maj Taylor persuaded the family to stay, escorted them back to the compound and inspected it to make sure there was nothing there there shouldn't be: weapons, ammo, explosives. They stayed. When the insurgents saw us coming back they legged it.

Back at out leaguer, we made sure everyone was aware of 'Actions On,' those are the drills that kick in when something kicks off.

A lot of good soldering is about preventing an attack, acting firmly, not sitting around and waiting. Thanks to the quick work of the Royal Tank Regiment guys, insurgents didn't take over the compound, and we got to get a decent night's sleep.

Back into my bouncing bomb. Another clear night. Stars above. Say what you like about Afghanistan, but the sky at night is truly breathtaking. I lay there thinking about my wife and kids.

It was Valentine's Day yesterday and my thoughts were with her. When we have down time here, I think about her and the children lots. I miss them.

But when I am working, I know she wouldn't want me to be thinking about anything other than the job in hand: keeping the boys safe, getting the job done, and looking after myself too. So that's what I do."


  1. This is brilliant, very interesting. Great to get it "from the horse's mouth", so to speak. And almost real time. Keep it up.

  2. **Great stuff, guys!!** Keep up the good work!

  3. Keep up the good work.

  4. Yes this is much better than the mainstream stuff.

  5. Great report. You guys are doing brilliantly. I don't know anyone out there but thank you ALL for keeping us safe, stabilising Afghanistan, thinking of you all always. So proud! You rock :)

  6. great to hear the news of the unit my son is serving and the great work that the REs are doing

    it was a great treat for me and my wife to attend the christmas ball as a guest of our son Carl

    as a ex-regular (25 years)it makes me so proud of all soldiers.

    Thank you for taking the time to write your blog as you must be very busy


  7. I am so glad I found this blog. Thank you for all that you do and thanks to your wife and kids for the sacrifice they are making, too.

    signed, an American soldier's{stationed @ Bastion}wife