Thursday, May 6, 2010
1st Battalion The Royal Welsh back from Afghanistan
Over 120 soldiers of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh returned home from Afghanistan to Chester, for an emotional reunion with family and friends.
Elements of D and A Companies arrived at Dale Barracks yesterday, with the entire battalion of over 500 men scheduled to be back in the UK by the end of the week.
The battle group deployed in mid-December 2009 as an aviation assault battle group.
For the first six weeks the battle group conducted aviation assault operations into the insurgent-held areas of northern Nad 'Ali district, known locally as Area 31.
These operations, which lasted from 12 to 72 hours, were known as shaping operations as they allowed the soldiers to talk to the local nationals and degrade the insurgents' capability in the area the battle group would later secure during Operation MOSHTARAK.
These operations often found the soldiers in prolonged engagements with insurgent groupings.
The rest of the tour found the Royal Welsh Battle Group reconfigured as Combined Force 31 (CF31), which was composed of an Afghan National Army (ANA) Kandak from Kabul and their French mentors, an Afghan National Police (ANP) Kandak, the Afghan Task Force, an Estonian Company and the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.
In total CF31 had 1600 troops, 1200 of which would provide the aviation assault force for Op MOSHTARAK. The CF31 were one of the key UK units assigned to the operation.
During the first week of the operation members of A Coy made the biggest IED find in UK history in Afghanistan. Another major find was made a few weeks later by B Coy who found component parts capable of making IEDs.
During the first six weeks numerous shuras were conducted between CF 31, with Afghan Government (GIRoA) officials, and local elders. This allowed the local communities to voice their concerns and GIRoA and CF31 to address them. To protect the newly liberated population centres, 24 security base locations were constructed and manned by a mixture of ANA, ANP and ISAF troops.
The Royal Welsh developed an effective embedded partnering relationship, working alongside their Afghan counterparts to maintain security and allow the locals freedom of movement to go about their daily lives.
'A very positive tour'
Lieutenant Colonel Nick Lock, Commanding Officer 1 R WELSH, was among the soldiers returning. He said: “It has been a very positive tour. We have been heavily involved in Operation Moshtarak, which has been the key operation so far this year in southern Afghanistan.
"The aim of the operation was to clear the central belt of Helmand Province of overt Taliban and we conducted a large aviation assault operation – the largest since the first Gulf War – with a 1,200-man force of 1 R WELSH, an Afghan National Army battalion, an Estonian company and other force elements.
"It was a large and very successful operation, with lots of planning involved. We seized all our objectives by midday on the first day and then proceeded to provide security in the area.
“We have been working very hard, so to get back to Chester and see our families has been absolutely fantastic, but clearly tinged with sadness at the loss of Fusilier Jonathan Burgess. Our thoughts are with his family and also our soldiers who have been injured, as well as their families.”