NAVY NEWS, SEPTEMBER 2010
● 40 Commando’s Sgt Lee Pegg leads a nighttime patrol from Forward Operating Base Jackson in Sangin
Picture: LA(Phot) Si Ethell, 40 Cdo
The town of 16,000 or so inhabitants, 22 miles downstream the Helmand River from Kajaki and the dam British forces helped to protect, will be handed over to US forces later this year.
It has been the scene of
regular – and ferocious – clashes between Taleban and British forces since the summer of 2005, including a ten-month seige over the winter of 2006-07. The ‘district centre’ – a very
rough equivalent of a market town – was an insurgent stronghold and remains a focal point of their activity, hence why it accounts for one third of all British deaths in Afghanistan. But away from the stark casualty figures and bleak reports in the mainstream media, the Sangin of 2010 is not the Sangin of 2005. Ask Capt Marty Adams RM.
contested town of Sangin is the last crucible of effort in Helmand Province for the Royal Marines of 40 Commando.
ITH Kajaki now in American hands, the bitterly-
Five years ago he was a sergeant with the Mobile Air Operations Team. The hub of British operations then, the Fire Support Group (FSG) building – an imposing brick building with a tower and surrounded by sandbags – was a magnet for enemy attacks, its rooftop constantly under fi re. Half a decade later, the FSG
remains an imposing structure, surrounded by sandbags, armoured vehicles parked up in the compound. But the rooftop is no longer subjected to regular enemy fi re and the vista from it has changed considerably says the now captain, back in town with 40 Commando.
He said: “In 2005 the security outside of the forward operating base was practically non- existent.
As soldiers, we couldn’t go outside the FOB for being attacked – and occasionally we were attacked inside the FOB. “Since then, due to the
progress that we’ve made, we’ve managed to push the bubble of security out from this location and beyond the centre of Sangin itself.”
in Sangin – be they security structures and military bases, or properties for the civilian populace – while a rarely-used crossing on the Helmand River (it was dominated by insurgents) is much busier now it’s safeguarded by Afghan police, who provide a security check on people moving in and out of Sangin.
“Now the local community have the freedom to have what is a normal life – which is what everyone wants anyway.
“They can go shopping, move around free from intimidation from the Taleban because of the security provided by the Afghan and international forces,” said Capt Adams. Troops, says the Royal Marines offi cer, can only achieve so much.
government agencies; beyond that is the economic zone, the bazaar and surroundings; and beyond that four suburbs based around Afghan National Army patrol bases. The whole area now covers around three square miles. Grants were offered to traders to encourage them to open shops and stalls in the bazaar. There are now upwards of 800 traders in Sangin selling everything from daily necessities to mobile phones, satellite dishes and cars.
Some four dozen schools have sprung up and fi ve free government-run clinics have been opened.
“The stabilisation force is the main effort really. They’re the people who are going to bring governance to this area,” he adds.
Buildings have sprung up
At the heart of ‘new Sangin’ is a series of zones: ‘governance’, home to a school and government and non-
“Economically and socially the lives of Afghans here are changing for the better on a monthly basis,” explained Phil Weatherill, a civil engineer serving as an adviser in Sangin. “It has taken a long time to get to this state and there have been, and will continue to be, challenges along the way but I honestly believe that slowly the people of Sangin are beginning to be won over.” And then you’re reminded
that however much progress there’s been, this is not a safe land. There is no such thing as a routine patrol.
Lt Jack Anrude of 40 Cdo was on patrol with Afghan troops around Sangin, chatting with locals as he went. “As we approached the local mosque, the usual pattern of life was missing and there was already a sense that something suspicious was happening from within the compound walls,” he said. “We were trying to speak to one of the village elders when an insurgent suddenly appeared behind a gate and fi red about 30 rounds at us with an AK47 rifl e.” Those rounds wounded the
RM offi cer – he was shot in the right arm, with shrapnel striking his legs while his helmet spared him head injuries – and two comrades; an Afghan soldier received fi ve bullet wounds, a soldier searching for home- made bombs was shot in the ankle.
on the incident and getting my lads out alive to give my injury much thought. It was only afterwards, on refl ection, that I realised how dangerous the situation was and that I was actually quite scared.
“Without trying to sound too clichéd I didn’t feel scared at the time, I didn’t have time for that, as things were happening so quickly – the training just kicked in.”
story, for the offi cer carried his shot Afghan colleague up a hill at one point, shrugging off his own injuries.
Which only tells part of the
It was, says 40’s CO Lt Col Paul James, “an extraordinary act of courage and he did all that while he was wounded.” It is not untypical. “What the guys are going
Over the next four and a half hours, the commando ensured his patrol reached safety – and the injured Afghan soldier was evacuated to hospital.
“I was too busy concentrating
through here, it’s quite humbling to see how the young lads are taking it on,” Lt Col James added. “It’s very frustrating at times but the guys are excelling and it’s testing their soldiering to the extreme.” Thankfully, that test of soldiering only has weeks to go; 40’s tour-of-duty in Helmand draws to a close next month.
‘To call you a friend was an absolute privilege...’
DRAWDOWN in Sangin or not, the confl ict there continues to take a bitter toll of the men of 40 Commando.
acting Cpl Adam ‘Ads’ Brown of Alpha Company who died instantly following a blast while on patrol near Sangin. The 25-year-old newlywed – he only tied the knot with his childhood sweetheart Amy in December – hailed from Burtle in Somerset and had served all over the globe during his six years in the Corps.
Since 2007 he had specialised as a signaller and it was in that
The latest fatal casualty was
capacity that he headed out to Helmand in April for his second tour-of-duty in Afghanistan. “Always a hero in my eyes and I am so proud of you,” his widow paid tribute. “I will treasure the perfect memories I have of our life together, always. “You are a true inspiration to all who knew you and you made me the proudest woman in the world when I became your wife. I love you now, always and forever.” Maj Sean Brady, Offi cer Commanding Alpha Coy, said the acting NCO was “the man to whom you would turn” in tricky
situations in Sangin – which meant he was “loved and respected by all of us.”
He added: “It was evident from the moment that I met him that he had a glittering career ahead of him.
“He was a true leader who possessed that vital ability to be able to remain calm whatever challenge he was presented with. “It was this aura that he
is hard and at times unforgiving, however the struggles are made
worth it by having had the privilege to serve alongside Adam and it is clear that we are better men for having done so.” Cpl Andrew Lock, section commander, 3 Troop, said Ads was “without a shadow of a doubt the best marine we have had at Patrol Base Almas.
projected which gave strength to those around him, his courage allowed others to fi nd theirs.” He continued: “The job we do
“Ads always found it amus- ing that I was a size 7 boot, and he was a size 12; his boots can never be filled.”
He continued “He was very calm and someone I could rely on in a sticky situation. “You could see from his personality that he was a content
a credit to the Corps, an inspiration to me and all who met you.
“I always looked up to you and to call you a friend was an absolute privilege.”
man and very much at peace with his life.” And from Mne Andy Hall of Alpha Coy’s Fire Support Group, this very personal tribute to a departed comrade: “You had time for any- one and brought morale to everyone you met. ““I always saw you as
dy Hall of Support rsonal arted
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