Friday, April 9, 2010
Road Warriors return from largest logistic patrol ever conducted in Afghanistan
British troops have returned from the largest coalition logistic patrol ever conducted in Afghanistan
Soldiers from the newly arrived 6 Squadron, 12 Close Support Logistic Regiment, returned to Camp Bastion on Tuesday (6 April) after conducting a gruelling week long patrol to Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, near Musa Qala, in north Helmand province
Final checks are undertaken
The Squadron was joined by soldiers and vehicles of 6 Close Logistic Battalion from the United States Marine Corps and 68 Close Service Support Battalion from the United States Army.
The mission was to assist in the delivery of US specialist equipment, stores and personnel to FOB Edinburgh, and the return of UK soldiers and equipment to Camp Bastion. The convoy comprised 609 soldiers and 217 vehicles of which 130 soldiers and 46 vehicles were British
The total distance travelled was 206km.
Soldiers wait for the order to move
The Musa Qala district recently transferred from the British to the United States area of operations. The logistics patrol was tasked with supplying the incoming United States Marine Corps and drawing down the equipment and supplies of the outgoing Household Cavalry Battlegroup.
A marshall holds vehicles for their place in the convoy
The convoy left Camp Bastion during the hours of darkness at the end of March after receiving a detailed series of orders, rehearsals, final intelligence briefings and a service of blessing conducted by the Padre.
The patrol leaves Camp Bastion
Over 200 vehicles take part in the patrol
The patrol was accompanied by soldiers of the Force Protection Team and the Route Clearing Team who dealt with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and protected the patrol from attack.
Lieutenant Jim Sutton (26) from Pontefract, West Yorkshire, Officer Commanding the UK Force Protection Team said: “Civilians would come out of their compounds and wave as we drove by. The move out wasn’t intimidating at all. We enjoyed the interaction, but never lost focus on the possible threats around us”.
After 61 hours of continuous driving and one attack by insurgent fire, the patrol arrived at FOB Edinburgh.
The unloading of equipment and stores started immediately. Lt Karl Beck (24) from the Wirral, Cheshire, was responsible for the loading of all UK stores and equipment: ‘’It was a testing morning”, he said. “Everyone was exhausted, but everyone just got on with the job. No-one complained. Everybody knew that the main effort was to deliver the US equipment before picking up the UK stores to return home. The sooner it was done, the sooner we could go home”.
The patrol was turned around within a 48 hour period, to complete the return leg of the journey. On the return journey, the patrol was contacted by insurgent fire on another two occasions, from a variety of weapons including mortars, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and small arms.
After 1 week and over 200km, the patrol returns to Camp Bastion
The patrol arrived safely back at Camp Bastion in the late hours of 6 April. No casualties were sustained during the course of the patrol.
Private Carla Lewis (19) from Lianelli, Wales, who was on her first combat logistics patrol, said: “The hardest thing was staying awake, but I did really enjoy it, especially the cross country driving.
“Where we were passing through the Green Zone, the roads were really narrow and the trees obscured the view, so you had to keep a pretty close eye on the vehicle in front of you.
“It’s extremely exhausting driving non-stop for so long, but you just get on and live with it”.
The patrol returns through the gates of 12 CSLR compound
Private James Berridge (20) from Newbury, Berkshire, said: “The driving conditions were bad. The dust in the desert stages just reduced visibility down to a matter of a few metres, so you really had to stay alert to vehicles in front and behind you and also to watch out for signs of IEDs”.
Private Stuart Gaylor (23) from Dunfermline, Fife said: “I was on top cover when three bullets went whizzing past my head. I heard the noise, but it was my first operation, so I didn’t really know what it was until the driver told me”.
Soldiers clean and maintain their vehicles, ready for the next patrol
Corporal Craig Williams (26), from Hartlepool, Cleveland, said: “I was the vehicle commander on the way up to FOB Edinburgh. As the vehicle went static, we started to receive Indirect Fire (IDF). The first round landed about five metres from the vehicle and the next one hit the back of the truck, displacing some of the load.
“The legs of the guy on top cover started to shake, but it was his first tour so he was a bit afraid. This is my second tour now and I’ve done lots of patrols before, so I knew what to expect. Because I was a commander I didn’t have time to think about it. It’s my job was to make sure everyone else was OK”.
The desert is removed from dust filters
The patrol was led by Major Jo Chestnutt, Officer Commanding 6 Squadron, 12 CSLR. “I’m extremely proud of my troops”, he said. “They never gave up. They were determined, resolute and immensely professional. Every member of the patrol – both UK and US – remained fully focussed in fighting this logistic patrol through”.
Soldiers clean their personal weapons and kit
Picture credit: Corporal Lynny Cash RAF