Thursday, April 1, 2010
Around 400 Soldiers from Edinburgh have recently taken up front line posts, in Afghanistan, training and mentoring Afghan Army troops.
Soldiers from 1 SCOTS, based at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh, arrived three weeks ago. They have now deployed as Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT), working closely with Afghan troops to advise them on their military skills. It is a role the battalion has been rehearsing for since early last year.
Meanwhile, around 100 troops from 1 SCOTS’ ‘B (Bravo)’ Company are returning home to Scotland, after spending six months in the Sangin area of Helmand as part of 3 RIFLES Battlegroup; their near neighbours from Redford Barracks in Edinburgh.
1 SCOTS OMLT teams are working from a number of locations throughout Helmand - sharing patrol bases and partnering with Afghan troops to conduct training and security patrols. It is a demanding role which is held in high regard by British troops.
Second Lieutenant Struan Cunningham is currently based at the Afghan army camp of Shorabak, close to Camp Bastion, where he works in the Afghan training wing. “It’s a great opportunity to be out here” he said, “partnering with the Afghans and getting to know what the Afghan army is like. The guys are getting to know and understand the Afghans more, they’re starting to develop bonds with them and learning to enjoy training with them as well.
“There is a language barrier, but we overcome that by working with interpreters who are embedded within our units. It is a rewarding role, and an extremely important role, as it will ultimately help the Afghans deliver security for themselves”.
Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Herbert, Commanding Officer of 1 SCOTS, has overall responsibility for delivering mentoring to the Afghan Kandak (brigade). “We are developing what is effectively a brand new brigade, which was formed only a few weeks ago. We need to start developing their staff, logistics and personnel processes and encouraging the commanders to start developing command amongst the soldiers beneath them.
“But the current role will gradually change over our time here. General McChrystal’s partnering directive and strategy places less emphasis on mentors in the future, and increasing emphasis on partnering; which is the way to go to achieve rapid development and to protect the population”.
Soldiers from the battalion have been talking about the deployment. Private Ben Frayter, from Winchburgh, West Lothian said: “I was a bit worried at first about the risks involved in coming out here, but after the training I started to look forward to it, and decided that I wanted to get out of the country and do something different for a wee while. The toughest thing has been coping with the weather and the heat, so far, but it’s settled down not too bad”.
Private Richard Harvey, from Westerhailes in Edinburgh said: “There is a little bit of apprehension in some of the people about going forwards to the patrol bases, but the guys just get on with their job. The team spirit is very good. The guys are still having a laugh, as they usually do, and cracking jokes. I think they put what happens beyond the wire to the back of their mind whilst they are on camp, and just try and get on with things”.
A website has been set up for members of the public to show support for the battalion. The money raised will be used to support soldiers injured on operations and to assist bereaved families. It is intended to compliment rather than replace the work of various service charities that provide support already.
Examples of how the money is spent include providing much needed immediate support for bereaved families, and the purchasing of DVDs, books, magazines, civilian clothing and electronic games for those in hospital or convalescing. Members of the public can buy wristbands at www.support1scots.org.uk
Picture credits: Corporal Lynny Cash RAF, Lance Corporal Sean Hayes REME