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CO’s Blog 2

Welcome to my second blog as the Commanding Officer of the OMLT BG; I have now been in Command of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Battle Group for just over a fortnight. All of the mentor teams are deployed on the ground and the RSM and I have visited the first of the Patrol Bases (PBs) in Musa Qaleh and Sangin. We have also had our first troops in contact with the enemy and our first combat casualty which thankfully was not life threatening. Our teams are patrolling daily with their Afghan counterparts, spread throughout much of Helmand province. A true testament to how we are operating is that from our furthest base south to our base furthest in the north is well in excess of 100 miles. Our soldiers are operating with other Battle Groups and in certain places alongside other soldiers from our NATO allies.

At both Musa Qaleh and then Sangin, the RSM and I saw first hand how they are living, working and fighting next to the ANA Warriors (what the ANA call their soldiers). In Musa Qaleh the Patrol Bases are closely located, enabling their defences to overlap in many places and allowing them fields of view and fire out into enemy territory. They are literally on the border between the Afghan Government-controlled areas and those areas out of reach where the Taliban still has influence. Each joint patrol between our teams and the ANA assures the population and fosters greater self-belief for the ANA commanders on the ground. Our commanders already have a good working rapport with their ANA counterparts and are nurturing relationships with the populace. In Sangin, for some, it is familiar territory, as it is where A and elements of D Companies were based on the last tour – less than 17 months ago: how quickly it comes round again! Here they are located in a city which is a beacon of Government control in an area that was mostly Taliban controlled. Here, our joint patrols are again furthering the legitimacy of the Afghan Government and promoting the ANA in the eyes of the local populace.

Our troops have been working with the ANA Warriors for nearly three weeks now, helping them to dominate the ground and fighting the Taliban with them. We have had several battles with insurgents and taken the fight to them each time, with several new soldiers straight out of training distinguishing themselves. It was during one of these battles that our first casualty was sustained in the area of Garmsir. Sgt Dennis was injured taking cover from a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) that exploded close by. He was quickly evacuated from the area – ahead of the timescale that casualty evacuation

The Mercian Eagle

requires – and was swiftly treated for his injuries. He has now returned to UK and his family despite his enthusiasm to stay. I wish him and his family the best of luck in his recovery and look forward to him returning to duty.

Our soldiers are working really hard and are enjoying their rôle and I am truly proud of what they do and what they sacrifice. We are now well into our first month and morale remains high. I still plan to visit the rest of our PBs and will keep you informed of these visits; I also hope to get photos of where the men live and work so that you can get a feel of their locations.

For those families and friends of the Battalion at home, we pass on our best and hope that you are well.

CO’s Blog 3

We have now been operating in Helmand for three weeks. The temperature is slowly creeping up but there have been some terrific electrical storms crashing above us. Notable occurrences this week include combat operations in Nad-i-Ali and Musa- Qaleh, and Shuras to engage with the local population. We have also been visited by the Commander 19 Brigade, the Chief of the Danish Defence Staff and an American Colonel responsible for mentoring the Afghan Corps Headquarters. We are working with our Afghan Army counterparts and I have spent a lot of time with the Afghan Brigade Commander, General Muhaiyodin.

Your soldiers on the ground have worked extremely well with their Afghan National Army (ANA) partners, operating in Nad- i-Ali and Musa-Qaleh. In Nad-i-Ali, we conducted an operation fostering security, building new Patrol Bases (PBs) and reassuring the local population. Drawing from elements of the ANA, our OMLT, soldiers from Estonia and other British units, they were successful in several clashes with the Taliban and resulted in the Afghan Security Forces being able to assert more influence in these areas. Working outside of the relative safety of their bases they deployed onto the ground for several days and fought, ate and slept in their vehicles and alongside the ANA. These joint operations will bear fruit in the future allowing more ANA troops to operate in the areas enhancing their authority in the eyes of the population.

In Musa-Qaleh, there has been increased interaction between ISAF and the ANA. Several Shuras have also taken place recently – what the Afghans call local meetings involving local Elders, Maliks (religious teachers who have completed the Haji to Saudi Arabia) and Mullahs (a religious preacher who has completed education at a Madras or religious school).

These are where our British Company Commanders and the local Afghan Kandak (Battalion) Commanders meet with the local people and any grievances, successes and plans can be discussed. These can be initiated on the spot on a case by case basis, or planned regularly in advance. With copious amounts of green tea being consumed (an Afghan tradition during meetings), this enables reassurance and allows discussion to be fostered, furthering the “consent winning” approach of our troops.

On a lighter note, soldiers in Camp Tombstone have taken part in Easter festivities; the Padre held Good Friday and Sunday services in the Church and we received Easter cards from children in the UK - another example of how little things can really help the morale of the soldiers on the ground. The padre also put on an Easter film festival in the Church with the Great Escape being shown on Bank Holiday Monday.

Next week, I move to visit your soldiers in Garmsir, previously the scene of fierce fighting but now a bustling town, and I intend to tell you more of the 3 Brigade Commander, General Mohaiyodin: he is a lynchpin for our work.

As always, we pass on our regards to those in the UK and hope you had a pleasant Easter.

CO’s Blog 4

The last three weeks have been a busy time indeed for the 2 MERCIAN BG. We took part in an Operation that helped push the Taliban out of one of their last strongholds and worked with the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) in doing so. The Operation started just over two weeks ago with joint planning between the ANA, ANP, local leaders, 19 Brigade and under the watchful eye of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment. It was a prime example of how the Afghan National Security Forces are taking responsibility for their security and taking the battle to the insurgent forces operating in Afghanistan. Starting on Monday 27th April, more than 150 warriors of the Afghan National Army and 60 Afghan National Policeman deployed on Op Zafar which means “Journey” in the local Pashtu language.

Two teams of ten men from 2 MERCIAN Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT) accompanied the Afghan warriors while Gurkhas supported the Policemen. The operation was coordinated on the ground by the 2 MERCIAN Battlegroup headquarters. In total, 35 of your soldiers were involved in the operation at all levels including myself.

➤ October 2009 51

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