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Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland


Lisburn soldier takes us on a journey through Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN: News from the front line

Lisburn soldier takes us on a journey through Afghanistan

LOCAL members of the Royal Irish Regiment are currently serving in Helmand province, following their deployment earlier this year.

Amongst the local heroes is Captain Nigel Campbell, who grew up in the Lambeg/Hilden area of Lisburn and is a former pupil of Friends' School, Lisburn.

Captain Campbell has begun writing a fortnightly blog about their mission, which started three months ago, and the Star will be following events in the war zone through his regular blogs.

June 21 2008 - Fortnightly Blog by Capt Nigel R Campbell.

ANA soldiers and Royal Irish river crossing."The 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment is currently deployed in the province of Helmand, southern Afghanistan. We have been here for three months as part of the multinational effort to increase the security of Afghanistan. So far it has been an interesting tour to say the least as we are working very closely with the Afghanistan National Army.

"Helmand is not the most stable of environments to be working in. Large areas are stricken by poverty, the use of government welfare facilities is generally subject to a tribal or Taleban tax and the province relies heavily on the farming and harvesting of poppies to produce opiates to support the economy. However, there has been a remarkable increase in quality of life for the majority of the local nationals living in the areas secured by the Afghanistan National Security Force (ANSF).

"Part of this force is the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) and that is where the Royal Irish come into the picture. The 1st Battalion form the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) that are responsible for the growth of the 3rd Brigade, 205th (Hero) Corps (3/205) based across Helmand Province. My role is to mentor Mohammed, the Operations Officer of the Kandak.

We met them in Sangin where they had been for two months already and were not as enthusiastic as we were to say the least.

"The Operations Officer has had no specific training for his role and due to the residual Russian influence everything must be planned or agreed by the Commander. This is a very laborious process and is unlike our methods where the Operations Officer works out the detail of any plan outlined by the Commanding Officer. Trying to persuade the Kandak Commander to allow the Operations Officer to make low-level decisions is only one of the many problems faced daily

"Thrown into mentoring the security for Sangin whilst trying to understand the language barrier (even with an interpreter) and cultural differences initially was a novelty. Thankfully, by the time the novelty wore off we all had built up a good rapport with our counter-parts.

"The patrols would last varying lengths of time. The heat would be the second consideration for any patrol, the enemy being the first. OMLT 1 was split between five locations, four of which had only limited supplies of water. To re-supply the water meant a trip along the main road that housed numerous surprises left by the Taleban for us. One of which my Officer Commanding found, to his discomfort, whilst returning to the main base from a patrol. Luckily, the vehicle took the majority of the blast. Even so, it still warranted the Medical Emergency Response Team to whisk him back to the main hospital and he is still undergoing a certain amount of treatment back in the UK.

"Sangin is now a relatively busy thriving town. Not quite Bow Street Mall on a Saturday afternoon but none the less people are in the Bazaar trading. There is still ample corruption to be found but the general economy is improving.

"Overall, we have had an interesting start to the six-month tour. Hopefully, I will be able tokeep you updated with the progress as we move around the country with our Kandak. The next three months are going to hold many more challenges. Soon we will be leaving the relative comforts of Shorabak Camp (the base we share with the Afghanistan National Army beside Camp Bastion) and will be heading up country once again."

Ulster Star