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The Operation began with a move into villages around Basharan to clear the Taliban out and allow Afghan security forces to establish themselves. Within ten minutes of the operation beginning, fighting broke out with the insurgents and then lasted for two days. The Afghan Army cleared the enemy held areas and Policemen secured villages and reassured the local population. The Afghan Warriors fighting alongside your soldiers proved to be seasoned fighters and fought hard to provide security in this part of their own country. Under the careful guidance of the Gurkhas, the Policemen reassured the local people. During this week-long operation, many Taliban insurgents are known to have been killed while the ANA and 2 MERCIAN sustained only a handful of casualties, none serious. The action pushed the Taliban out of several villages near to the provincial capital of Helmand, Lashkar Gah. By the end of the week, UK stabilisation teams were conducting meetings with the local elders, religious teachers and leaders who have been under the shadow of the Taliban for some time, offering a range of ways to help the villagers from refurbishing schools to improving healthcare provision and security.


My Battle Group headquarters was involved in the initial phase of the operation when the enemy provided a determined resistance and were not willing to give up the area without a fight. During one three hour stage, all elements of the force were involved and we called in air strikes and artillery bombardments to support the troops. With the enemy outmatched, they soon withdrew and, by Wednesday, we were in a position to start building up permanent bases for the ANA and ANP in this newly captured area. Within 30 hours and with protection from our forces, the ANA and the ANP, the Royal Engineers had secured and fortified an area the size of two football pitches. This operation was another example of the progress being made by the Afghanistan National Army. They proved to be flexible, committed and brave. On more than one occasion it was touch and go as the enemy fought hard but the Afghan Warriors did not retreat. You can be assured that the MERCIAN soldiers fought hard and were absolutely indomitable. They are fine successors to many thousands of infantrymen who have joined and fought with the Regiments raised in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Worcestershire for the last 300 years. This was the largest operation that 2 MERCIAN has been involved in since we took over and I am very proud of my soldiers.


With just over a quarter of the tour passed, I am confident that we are up to the task in hand and will continue to work with out Afghan friends to further the security situation in Helmand.


As always we pass on our regards to those in the UK and hope you are well.


52 October 2009


Commanding Officer’s Deployment Message


The last year has been a busy one for the Battalion with overseas exercises to Belize and Jamaica and UK exercises to Brecon, Kirkudbright and Magilligan. The Battalion was represented throughout the Army in Sports that included Triathlon, Cross Country, Football, Rugby and Canoeing. Time was also found for Adventure Training expeditions in Canoeing, Parachuting and Sailing. With the announcement of our deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, pre-tour training intensified. In addition to the soldiering basics of fitness, administration and shooting there is a plethora of courses and qualifications to be attended and attained. Specialist weapons training, driving courses, language skills and communications training to name but a few.


2009 started in earnest for the Battalion with setting up 19 Brigade’s Live Firing Package - the Combined Arms Live Firing Exercise. This enabled all units within the Brigade to fire every weapon system before deployment to Afghanistan - no small task. Quickly following on from this was the Mission Rehearsal Exercise, which was 2 weeks on Salisbury plain working with soldiers from Afghanistan to allow the Battalion to get used to its rôle of mentoring the Afghanistan National Army - our final test before deployment - and very challenging given that nearly two feet of snow fell during the exercise, a far cry from the 40°C+ we will be expecting in Afghanistan. Departure events quickly followed in Worcester, Nottingham and Derby, the 2 MERCIAN Rugby match v Derby RFC being the pinnacle before the Battalion was given 2 weeks’ leave.


Deployment is now complete and all are now in theatre and in the locations they will call home for the six months tour. Half the Battalion will be working as Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) training the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) whilst the other half (two Companies) are attached to the Light Dragoons Battle Group - another chance at an exciting and varied tour for what will be the third deployment for some to Afghanistan. New recruits joining the Battalion are coming at a key and exciting time: you will quickly put into practice what you have learned at the Infantry Training Centre, gain new friends, hone your fighting skills and do what you joined up to do - serving on operations.


A demanding schedule for 2009 incorporating the third tour to Afghanistan in five years means that, once again, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment will have the chance to prove itself and its mettle, standing by its motto:


“Stand Firm, Strike Hard” The Mercian Eagle


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