AFGHANISTAN: News from the front line
Lisburn soldier takes us on a journey through
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
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."