Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Doing the right things and doing them right

Statement by Lieutenant Colonel Andy Hadfield, and Lieutenant Colonel Paul James, ahead of today’s repatriation flight to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

By Lieutenant Colonel Andy Hadfield Commanding Officer 1 MERCIAN

Without doubt this has been a difficult week in Afghanistan, with a number of men losing their lives. But the soldier does not have the freedom to choose where he is sent and what he must do when he gets there. He does however have the freedom to choose to do the right thing and to do it to the very best of his ability, and sometimes this requires that he make the ultimate sacrifice.

With the obvious exception of their loved ones at home, no-one feels the pain of the losses in Afghanistan more than the servicemen and women out here. I read a lot in the media that questions whether the sacrifice is worth it, and whether anything is being achieved through our efforts. The answer is overwhelmingly yes.

Those who have never been in the Armed Forces, or who have never been on the front line, would find the sense of optimism and fortitude amongst the troops humbling, but would simply not understand the motivation that leads men to risk their lives daily for seemingly little reward in pursuit of what some people see as an unachievable goal.

We mourn the loss of our most recent dead, the four men who died assisting the Gereshk City Police, but we know that their efforts were improving the police in preparation for longer term stability and were making that City of 80, 000 people safer. The rest of the team who are left are focused on continuing their work, and have demanded a replacement vehicle and crew to enable them to get out on the ground again. That is the true definition of teamwork, and the meaning of living a life of true purpose. This is the indomitable spirit that sets these men and women apart from much of society back home, and elevates them above those who seek only personal comfort or reward, or those who seek to point ou! t what h as or what may have gone wrong.

The work being done to provide the security for the reconstruction and growth of Afghanistan is being done by the finest men and women that the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth can provide. Most people at home don’t know their names, or have their photos on their wall, but everyone can depend on them. It is due to their commitment and selfless courage that things are improving for ordinary Afghan people, and will continue to do so.

By Lieutenant Colonel Paul James CO 40 Commando Royal Marine

It has been an immensely hard week for 40 Commando, and though we mark the loss of 3 irreplaceable men, we will not break stride. We owe it to the sacrifice these brave Marines have made to remain entirely focused on our mission; to protect the people of Sangin in partnership with the Afghan army - and we shall.

The Taliban cannot win as they offer only violence and intimidation, and the people of Sangin know it. Even in the most pro-Taliban of areas there is only 20% support for their cause. It is slow, hard and often painful but we are making progress here. There are well over twice as many shops in the Sangin bazaar than this time last year and there is irreversible momentum being achieved in the areas of governance and development.

40 Commando remain absolutely resolute. To be morose, to be introspective, and to doubt is to give ground to our enemy. If we are anything other than ruthless in our pursuit we will lose. As Commandos we are familiar with adversity, with the need to endure and to maintain our mental fortitude. We will prevail in Sangin.


  1. Your right, our troops do not have a choice on their deployment and where ever they are, they will do their best - the media questions if this is 'worth it' - I believe it has to be questioned - 4 soldiers (this article) lost their lives when assisting the ANP - protecting a village of 80,000 - even if 200 villagers stood their ground against the Taleban/insurgents that would be a start:

    Colleagues have no choice but to carry on - no time to mourn - and as usual we hear ' they died to help the people of Afghan' - true - they did - and perhaps initially, this thought helps the families concerned grieve, but the truth of the matter is...they are without a loved one....and their lives will be changed..instead parents/wives and young children can look at a 'medal on display'.

    I think, no I know, I am more annoyed at the fact that two Lieutenant Colonels have written this....and I feel it was written to try and help 'smooth over' how we (definately me) feel - never doubt, I have the UTMOST RESPECT FOR OUR TROOPS - and I am only 'an Army mother' but when you look at the number of seriously wounded/deaths and perhaps in the future mental health issues...really what are we doing????

    Our troops (Nato/Isaf) cannot give this country what is needs as the Insurgents/Taleban doesnt stem from here - and the Afghan people are not doing enough to help themselves and so it will go on and on...

    I write this knowing that some of you may have already lost 'loved ones' and you may well feel that that person would have died in vain - but that would never be the case as things have changed in Afghan..just not enough to warrant any more death or injuries.

  2. Whilst I deeply respect the views of the 'Army Mother' above and have nothing but sympathy for the terrible grief the families of the fallen experience, I cannot help but disagree with one of the comments she has made...

    "I think, no I know, I am more annoyed at the fact that two Lieutenant Colonels have written this....and I feel it was written to try and help 'smooth over' how we (definately me) feel"

    Whilst I do understand and respect her right to an opinion and to express it, and therefore her right to feel annoyance, I can honestly say from personal knowledge (and knowing the two Lieutenant Colonels who have written so eloquently), that these statements are completely heartfelt, genuine and honest.

    In no way would the integrity and moral fibre of these two fine Commanders allow them to be used simply to "smooth over" the feelings of those who have suffered such loss and heartache. They feel every loss and every injury to their soldiers acutely, and to imagine that they would produce a statement simply as a 'spin exercise' belittles them both as men and soldiers. I also know that each of them has such great respect for the families of those that have either been injured or killed, that they would never wish to insult them by participating in such an exercise in appeasement.

    I hope that the 'Army Mother' will not be upset by what I have said as I do not mean to hurt her feelings in any way, but I also dearly wish that she would reconsider her opinion. I know that it would upset both these officers greatly to imagine that she would believe them capable of this intent.

    I would also add that whilst I have added this anonymously I am not a serving soldier myself, but like the previous contributor an 'Army Wife' (but not married to either of the gentlemen concerned.)

  3. Dear 12.25

    I have taken 'on board' your comments - I am a cynical person and perhaps I have been rather unjust to these 2 L/Cs; therefore, I apologise to them, their families and friends. (Army Mother)

  4. Having fought in a war and lost friends and family members I know the sadness of war. We were conscripts so it was worse than for the regular men who signed up to fight. The pain of losing a loved one never completely goes away. I empathise with the family of soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free.
    However the job of an infantry soldier is to fight for his country. His officers try to make the right calls to keep that man alive. The politicians decide on where men fight. So the professional soldier fights and there is a cost to that.
    The saddest thing for me is that it is 30 years since I last fired a weapon and now I think what a waste of life on both sides. Cie live!

  5. To 'Army Mother' - Thank you for your post. I do understand the turmoil of emotions we all feel during these most heartbreaking times, but am glad that you have been so generously open minded to my comments.

    Bless you.

    'Army Wife'