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Soldier digs up Taliban bomb

with his fingers An infantry soldier recently found himself digging for 20 minutes with his fingers and a paint brush to uncover a Taliban bomb buried on a dusty road in Helmand.

Colour Sergeant Ben Cox of the 2nd Battalion went out one morning at about 1000 hours on routine foot patrol near Patrol Base Arygll, in the Nad e-Ali area (a lush green area with poppy and wheat fields on either side but dust roads) as part of a ten man mentoring team with around 30 members of the Afghan National Army. CSgt Cox was the ‘point man’ at the front of the patrol: part of the point man’s duties is to observe and check the track ahead for anything potentially dangerous and CSgt Cox was concerned that an area ahead would present an ideal opportunity for the insurgents to plant an improvised explosive device (IED) - a homemade bomb. He halted the patrol just after 1100 hours so that he could investigate this area in detail and, very soon, he began to get a strong indication on his metal detector. He said: “I’m not a bomb specialist, I’m an infanteer. To get down and start looking for some bomb, a lot goes through your head. You have to remove dirt so slowly it’s unbelievable - it could go off at any time. It’s quite an experience, you should try it! “The Taliban try to blend in what they have buried with the rest of the ground but I saw something noticeable.”

Those signs were enough to confirm the presence of the IED: “What you’ve been taught comes into action. You go through your drills, then start your fingertip search. A lot of stuff goes through your head then, as you can imagine. It took about 15 to 20 minutes to dig with my fingers and a paint brush until I found it.” Rather than remove the device, an extremely dangerous process, the area was marked and a specialist team called out to remove it. CSgt Cox said: “This is a busy junction used by the local population. It could have killed anybody. The way we see it, every one we find saves lives. If that went off, that would have taken a whole vehicle out. The next day they found another one and ten days later we were in the same place and found another two, so we found four in ten days. Imagine if those four devices had gone off - what kind of casualties?”

CO 2 MERCIAN, Lt Col Simon Banton, said: “The quick reactions and use of the correct equipment and drills undoubtedly saved life that day. In addition, the insurgents were denied their precious arsenal and sustained casualties as a result. This incident proves once again that the British force in this area will not be deterred from their mission to provide a peaceful and stable environment for the local population. Also, the Afghan National Army unit was given a demonstration of professional drills saving the lives of local people and the soldiers themselves. The hope is that they will continue to learn from these lessons and put them into practice within their units.”

Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess

It has been an extremely busy time since the last Mercian Eagle seeing a number of key Mess members come and go during the high tempo schedule of pre-deployment training (PDT). WO2 Chatterly handed over CSM C Company in July 2008 to become CSM of 19 Bde Recce Force (BRF) at the same point relinquishing his position as PMC to WO2 Page (CSM A Coy) who, on completion of six months, handed over to WO2 Muckle in December 2008. The current PMC has since run a number of functions and did an outstanding job as vice as he keeps reminding WO2 Page.

In June 2008, we bade farewell to Capt Cresswell with a very memorable dining out even if we did take one casualty with a dance off and the Mess hosted the Officers’ Mess after the Regimental Boxing night. The Mess held its Summer Ball in July with the theme of 1960’s/70’s/80’s. Some great outfits were dug out of moth balls with the world’s largest “afro” proudly donned by the QM, Maj Cotterill. Sgt Brough cut some outrageous shapes on the dance floor dressed as a slightly overweight Dangermouse. It is a shame he wasn’t as sure-footed in Otterburn during B Company’s CALFEX!!! The casino tables proved a big hit with the single Sergeants, however, not sure if that was for the gambling or the young female croupier. The night was a fantastic success and it is with great thanks to the hard work of D Coy SNCOs under the direction of WO2 Clarke. The month of October saw the dining out of Capt “Dog” Hallam and, yet again, to the cry of “Man Down”, there was a casualty - only this time it was on the hang tough competition.

Since September, most of the Mess members have been away for different courses, range packages and exercises as part of PDT. November saw Christmas arrive early in the shape of the Christmas Draw: a joint committee of A and C Company SNCOs planned the event but, due to a last minute change to an exercise yet again, WO2 Clarke and his seniors were left to finalise the plans and tie all the loose ends and again, as expected, he produced a fantastic night; both Nobby and his crew are now available for function hire at reasonable rates. It was not until the Games Night in December that the Mess was finally back together for some well-earned drinks and merriment before Christmas. The Mess again hosted the officers for this event and, after the officers took their time to get into the correct dress code for the night, the games began. Some interesting jousting amongst some of the officers and seniors followed by some Platoon Commander/ Platoon Sergeant Dance offs. Again, Sgt Brough cut some great shapes, however, Sgt Burrell’s efforts left a lot to be desired. Eventually, the Adjutant stepped up to the plate and surprised all with his dexterity and grace. The officers managed to bring three non-combatants with them so, for their own safety, they were dressed accordingly and looked after by a responsible SNCO. The night was a great success with the WOs’ & Sgts’ Mess predictably taking the honours. We look forward to our return invitation next year to the Officers’ Mess: it will make an interesting away match…

In January, almost the whole Mess deployed to Otterburn to run the Brigade CALFEX for a couple of weeks before deploying onto the MRX and then finally in February returning to Palace to start the Pre-deployment administration and freight. Late February saw the Battalion go on some well- earned leave before returning for deployment with Bn HQ leading followed closely by the OMLT and finally with A and B Companies deploying last under command of the Light Dragoons Battle Group. On this deployment, the Battalion are spread throughout the operational theatre of Afghanistan in a myriad of different rôles and tasks; it will be a hard, testing tour but one, as always, that will find the SNCOs of 2 MERCIAN staying true to the motto “Stand Firm, Strike Hard” at every opportunity.

CSgt Ben Cox [Picture: MOD Media Ops]

Finally, congratulations go to WO2 (RQMS (T)) Mitchell on his promotion to WO1 (RSM) 3 MERCIAN: we wish him well. Congratulations, also, to WO2 (RQMS (M)) Lewis on his selection for promotion to WO1 and appointment as RSM 2 MERCIAN after Easter 2010.

The Mercian Eagle October 2009 47

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