Friday, August 20, 2010

Helmand Blog has moved!

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan has moved to a new location!

The new look Helmand Blog has now officially replaced this site. All the posts on here have been migrated and, as always, new posts are going up daily.

The reason for this is our rebranding to UKForcesAfghanistan, in line with our YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and Audioboo accounts.

Thank you very much for your support and we look forward to seeing you in our new home at

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

British and Afghan troops keep Helmand highway open

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion Scots Guards (1 SG) and The Royal Dragoon Guards (RDG) have been working jointly with Afghan National Security Forces to keep traffic moving along a key road in central Helmand.

The key access road Route 601 is an important communications route that connects Lashkar Gah in Helmand with the city of Kandahar to the east. The metalled road is a key transport and commercial link for both local nationals and ISAF and Afghan forces.

A snap vehicle check point manned by members of the Scots guards and the Royal Dragoon Guards on route 601.

Based in a patrol base (PB) halfway along the road the British soldiers regularly patrol both on foot and in Mastiff and Jackal armoured vehicles to ensure that no improvised explosive devices or blockages are present on the road or in the surrounding area.

Daily checks include inspecting culverts along the route, setting up vehicle checkpoints to ensure that insurgents are not using the road as a supply route, and working with the Afghan National Police (ANP) to deal with breakdowns or the occasional road traffic accident.

A soldier keeping watch on route 601 with his General Purpose Machine Gun.

The PB commander, Captain Neil Gow, 1 SG, explained:

“We do two things – foot patrols are for the immediate security of the vicinity of where we are around the PB and for the local population.

“It also allows us to build up as much information as we can from the ground about what is going on… When we first moved here we had a lot of information about where the problems were, where the hot spots were.

“By going out on the ground firstly you can see what is going on, and secondly it gives you a chance to see if things are improving, or if things have changed for the better.

“We also do deliberate patrols up the road where we take our wagons, do culvert checks and speak to the ANP who are at different checkpoints along the road.

“By being here and having to do administration runs and just being around the area makes a difference… it acts as a deterrent.”

To read the full article, click here

To hear interviews with soldiers from 1st Battalion The Scots Guards then why not subscribe to the new UKForcesAfghanistan podcast at

Photos: Cpl Barry Lloyd RLC/MOD 2010

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David Cameron Comments on Afghanistan

By Tom Newton Dunn, Political Editor, The Sun

DAVID Cameron today reveals he is on a lightning mission to reform Britain – while his Coalition is still riding the crest of its popularity. The PM – in an exclusive interview with The Sun to mark a hundred days at No10 – declares he wants to sort out the country quicker than Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair did. He candidly admits the honeymoon period will end as tough decisions are made. But he vowed not to shy away from doing what is needed – and FAST.

He also told of the greatest burden for a modern British PM – “getting Afghanistan right”.

Mr Cameron told how the war against the Taliban – and the sacrifices of our brave troops – preyed on his mind.

He said: “Afghanistan is what keeps me up at night – making sure that we succeed.

“Obviously the most difficult and the biggest responsibility is the fact that we have troops in Afghanistan risking their lives on a daily basis.

“Tragically we have lost quite a number since I have become Prime Minister.

“All the time I am asking, ‘Are we doing the right thing, are we protecting our forces in the right way, have they got the right equipment, are we helping their families?’

“That is a really huge weight and a burden that you have got to discharge in the right way.” He admitted that being Prime Minister was a job he found “very daunting”.

But it was also “incredibly fulfilling and challenging”.

To read the full article click HERE

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Jersey reservists swap island life for Helmand

Two Territorial Army volunteers from Jersey Field Squadron have swapped civilian life on the channel island for the heat and dust of Helmand province, and are now working with the regular Army unit 21 Engineer Regiment.

As Royal Engineers, the soldiers are involved in a variety of tasks, such as building and improving forward operating bases and patrol bases, which includes constructing watchtowers, known as ‘sangars’, for security.

They support the infantry out on patrols by engineering ways to move safely through compounds, whether it is through walls or over them, and also by building bridges to create new routes.

All of these tasks ultimately support the main aim which is to provide stability and security for the local nationals.

21 Engineer Regiment are also working alongside the Provincial Reconstruction Team and Military Stabilisation Support Team to provide longer term assets for the country. This has involved building main roads, creating and repairing culverts and building bridges in order to allow the Afghan nationals to move around their country more quickly and safely.

One of the Jersey-based soldiers is Sapper James Shales, based with 1 Armoured Engineer Squadron.

Sapper James Shales on operations in Afghanistan with 1 Armoured Engineer Squadron
Photo: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

In 2 Troop, Sapper Shales has been based in Nad ‘Ali, a district in southern Helmand which was the main focal point for Operations PANTHER’S CLAW and MOSHTARAK. Nad ‘Ali has been one of the success stories in terms of engagement with the local nationals through the District Governor.

Meanwhile, Captain Leanne Christmas, who is based out of Camp Bastion in Helmand province, is working as the Regimental Media Operations Officer and a Joint Forces Media Officer, which means that she goes where needed to in order to cover a story with her trusty camera.

Captain Leanne Christmas meeting Afghan children during an operation designed to improve engagement with the local population
Photo: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

Primarily covering the engineers, Captain Christmas also looks after external press and VIPs. In civvy street, Captain Christmas is a chartered accountant for Barclays.

Despite enjoying their experiences on deployment both Sapper Shales and Captain Christmas are looking forward to returning to their civilian lives in Jersey:

“I am really looking forward to a pint, and going out with my friends too,” said Sapper Shales.

While for Captain Christmas it is the natural environment of her homeland that she misses most:

“I am really looking forward to getting home now for a rest and to walk barefoot on the grass and beaches again,” she said, adding: “I long for rain!”

To read the full story click here

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From war zone to boomtown for Helmand capital

BBC News South Asia Website

Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan's Helmand province, was a war zone when the BBC's Bilal Sarwary visited four years ago. Upon his return he discovers it completely transformed.

In 2006, Lashkar Gah resembled a ghost town. Deserted streets littered with shell casings, ruins in the name of buildings and dust-filled roads lined with burnt vehicles. The silence was occasionally broken by bursts of artillery and gun fire. There was the feel of death all around.

Well-connected by air and road with Kabul, Lashkar Gah's economy is thriving

Daily flights

But that was then.

Lashkar Gah today is teeming with life.

Fast-rising buildings, markets filled with shoppers and restaurants blaring loud music.

It seems the city wants to make up for lost time.

Its mud trails which once passed for roads have been replaced by two-lane asphalt streets. And instead of armoured vehicles, there are cars.

In fact, the number of motor vehicles has grown so much in the past few years that wardens have been deployed on all main intersections to ensure smooth traffic movement.

Although small, the city now has a proper airport - built by the United State's development agency USAID.

There are now daily flights connecting Lashkar Gah with the capital Kabul.

Earlier, there was only an air strip that was open only for Western forces and aid agencies.

Lashkar Gah city has grown rapidly as more people are attracted from less stable areas

Peace dividend

Residents, traders, Afghan government officials and others had to use the Lashkar Gah-Kabul road, which runs through the Taliban strongholds of Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni and Wardak.

The people now have the option to fly to Kabul.

But what has brought about this change?

The answer is peace, established by the Afghan National Army with the help of Western forces, particularly the British Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).

The PRTs are military and civilian groups which have played a key role in Nato's mission to stabilise Afghanistan.

Lashkar Gah city has grown rapidly as more people are attracted from less stable areas

For the transformation of the city, residents also credit provincial Governor Gulab Mangal, who has a reputation for probity and competent administration.

"Security is good in Lashkar Gah. Peace has helped business," says fruit-seller Haji Mohammad Khan.

"Also, heavy fighting in other districts of Helmand has forced people to flee to the safety of Lashkar Gah. The arrival of these people is providing the city a steady stream of cheap labour," he says.

Mohammad Pasoon, who runs the Bost radio station in Lashkar Gah, agrees.

''A year ago, people were afraid to step out of their homes. They wouldn't dare to even go to the park. There was nothing in the name of security. The presence of Western forces has dispelled that fear."

Construction boom

Mr Pasoon's radio station is also a beneficiary of peace.

Until a few years ago, Bost was struggling to stay on air. There was no money to even meet the daily expenses. But now there is a long queue of advertisers.

''Shopkeepers, construction companies, non-governmental organisations and government all send us advertisements. You do business when there is security," he says.

Lashkar Gah is also witnessing a boom in property prices.

"The news that business is good here has reached other districts of Helmand. People in those areas are willing to sell everything off in their native places for a piece of land in Lashkar Gah," a property dealer said.

Lashkar Gah's landscape is also changing, with banks cropping up on its main street

Lashkar Gah's landscape is also changing.

One can see branches of several Afghan banks along the main street.

There are also private clinics and hospitals.

''It is the result of good governance. If traders do not feel safe they won't open their business. Same for people, they will not leave their homes if they do not feel safe,'' an aide to the governor said.

Fertiliser used to make roadside bombs seized in Afghanistan

Afghan police have seized enough explosive chemicals to make hundreds of homemade bombs after finding it hidden in paint and pickle boxes in the back of a lorry in southern Kandahar.

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer was banned by Hamid Karzai earlier this year at the request of Nato troops because of its use in homemade explosives.
Photo: ALAMY

The 17 tonnes of banned fertiliser, which is the main ingredient in Taliban bombs, was being smuggled in 10lb boxes in a lorry from Quetta in Pakistan according to officers.
Gen Mohammad Shafiq Fazli said the lorry had been tracked before being seized south of the city. Four people were arrested including two Pakistan nationals he said.

Hidden homemade bombs targeting patrols and convoys account for nearly two thirds of Nato casualties and also indiscriminately kill hundreds of Afghans.
The bombs hidden in tracks and walls which maim and kill British soldiers in Helmand often contain less than 50lbs of explosive, meaning the haul could have made hundreds of devices.

To read the full article click here

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VIDEO: Sayedabad Flag Raising

Following on from the post last week, BFBS Reports utilised Combat Camera Team imagery to support their latest report.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sapper Ishwor Gurung killed in Afghanistan

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Sapper Ishwor Gurung from 69 Gurkha Field Squadron, 21 Engineer Regiment, was killed in Afghanistan on Friday 13 August 2010.

On 13 August 2010, whilst constructing a new sangar to increase the protection and security of the soldiers in the camp, his Troop came under insurgent attack and Sapper Ishwor was caught in insurgent fire. Despite the best efforts of his Troop to save his life, Sapper Ishwor was killed in action.

Sapper Ishwor Gurung

Sapper Ishwor Gurung was born in Pokhara, Nepal on 15 October 1988. Having passed selection for the Brigade of Gurkhas in Pokhara on 14 December 2007, he went on to complete initial infantry training in Catterick, North Yorkshire and Combat Engineer training at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Minley. He was subsequently posted to 69 Gurkha Field Squadron, part of 36 Engineer Regiment in Maidstone Kent and trained as a Bricklayer and Concreter.

Sapper Ishwor spent the last year preparing for this, his first operational tour. This included a large scale construction exercise in Devon and mission specific training in Ripon North Yorkshire. He excelled throughout these activities, proving not only his burgeoning professional knowledge but his keen desire to deploy on operations in Afghanistan. He was an outstanding sportsman and had represented 36 Engineer Regiment in Divisional cross country competitions and boxed for his Squadron.

Sapper Ishwor had been working with his Troop in support of 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster's Battle Group, Combined Force Nad-e-Ali (North), improving the defences at Forward Operating Base SHAHZAD. On 13 August 2010, whilst constructing a new sangar to increase the protection and security to the soldiers in the camp, his Troop came under insurgent attack and Sapper Ishwor was shot by insurgent fire. Despite the best efforts of his Troop to save his life, Sapper Ishwor was killed in action.

The family of Sapper Ishwor Gurung have made the following statement:

"Our family is devastated with the news of Ishwor's death in Afghanistan on 13 Aug 10. Ishwor was 14 years old when his father died and he fully supported the family as a young man. He was a very caring and a very bright boy. He followed his father's footsteps, his father was a soldier in the Indian Army. He loved the Army and was very proud to be a Gurkha. I am proud that my son served in the British Army and that he died doing a job that he loved."

Lieutenant Colonel Bobby Walton-Knight Royal Engineers, Commanding Officer 21 Engineer Regiment Group said:

"Sapper Ishwor Gurung was an exceptionally good soldier. He was enormously proud to be a Queen's Gurkha Engineer, he loved his Squadron and, like every Gurkha Engineer, he loved soldiering. Sapper Ishwor had bags of energy and his motivation never faulted. Even after the longest of days, on the most demanding tasks in the toughest of conditions, he would have a huge smile on his face and be ready for more.

"His enthusiasm was infectious and his friends loved him for it. He was modest to a fault, polite and, even when covered in dust and mud, still managed to be immaculately turned out. He was exceptionally fit, almost unbeatable at cross country and unstoppable in the boxing ring. Although he was still young, his potential had already been spotted and it would not have been long before he made it as a non-commissioned officer.

"Sapper Ishwor died putting his own life in danger to provide protection for others. He was doing a job he loved and was surrounded by friends. It was an honour to have him with the Regiment; his death is an enormous loss to us all and in particular to The Queen's Gurkha Engineers. Our thoughts and prayers are with his mother Sunkumari, brother Ramprasad and sister Richa in Nepal, his wider family and his many friends."

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Hulme MBE Royal Engineers, Commanding Officer 36 Engineer Regiment said:

"The loss of Sapper Ishwor Gurung has dealt a heavy blow to all ranks of the Queen's Gurkha Engineers. He was immensely talented as a soldier, a sportsman and an individual. Sapper Ishwor set the example for his comrades to follow.

"Sapper Ishwor had a bright future ahead of him, his dedication and his ability to focus and apply his efforts in even the most difficult circumstances marked him out above his peers. His bright and enigmatic smile brought cheer to even the most difficult of situations.

"He was active in all that he did, thoughtful for those around him and incredibly loyal. His service within the Queen's Gurkha Engineers, although short, will never be forgotten; he has left his mark on all that he did and on all those that he met. He will be sadly missed. Our thoughts are with his mother and family at this difficult time."

VIDEO: Dr Liam Fox in Afghanistan

BFBS Forces News interviewed Dr Liam Fox during his recent visit to Afghanistan.

Petraeus Opposes a Rapid Pullout in Afghanistan

By Dexter Filkins, New York Times

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces, began a campaign on Sunday to convince an increasingly skeptical public that the American-led coalition can still succeed here despite months of setbacks, saying he had not come to Afghanistan to preside over a “graceful exit.”

In an hourlong interview with The New York Times, the general argued against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011, the date set by President Obama to begin at least a gradual reduction of the 100,000 troops on the ground. General Petraeus said that it was only in the last few weeks that the war plan had been fine-tuned and given the resources that it required. “For the first time,” he said, “we will have what we have been working to put in place for the last year and a half.”

In another in a series of interviews, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” General Petraeus even appeared to leave open the possibility that he would recommend against any withdrawal of American forces next summer.

“Certainly, yes,” he said when the show’s host, David Gregory, asked him if, depending on how the war was proceeding, he might tell the president that a drawdown should be delayed. “The president and I sat down in the Oval Office, and he expressed very clearly that what he wants from me is my best professional military advice.”

The statement offered a preview of what promised to be an intense political battle over the future of the American-led war in Afghanistan, which has deteriorated on the ground and turned unpopular at home. Already, some Democrats in Congress are pushing for steep withdrawals early on, while supporters of the war say that a rapid draw-down could endanger the Afghan mission altogether.

General Petraeus, in his interview with The Times, said American and NATO troops were making progress on a number of fronts, including routing Taliban insurgents from their sanctuaries, reforming the Afghan government and preparing Afghan soldiers to fight on their own.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rifleman Remand Kulung killed in Afghanistan

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Rifleman Remand Kulung, from G (Tobruk) Company, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), attached to the Danish Battlegroup, was killed in Afghanistan on 12 August 2010.

Rifleman Remand Kulung
Picture: via MOD

In the early hours of 10 August 2010, a Chinook helicopter was conducting a resupply at Patrol Base Bahadur. Part of the helicopter came into contact with the sangar from which Rfn Remand was carrying out sentry duty.

The sangar collapsed and Rfn Remand sustained serious injuries. He was evacuated to Bastion Role 3 hospital before subsequently being moved to the United Kingdom for further treatment.

At 1258hrs on 12 August 2010, Rfn Remand Kulung died of his injuries in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, with his family present.

fn Remand’s wife, Sophy, paid this tribute to her husband. She said:

“My husband, Rifleman Remand Kulung, was a kind, brave and very honest soldier. He has always been sincere and devoted towards his responsibilities as a soldier, which Gurkha soldiers are renowned for.

“He sacrificed his great life while he was doing his duty. Though it was a great loss that can not be replaced, his passing has left me the reason to be proud of being a wife of a brave soldier like him.

“He’ll be missed by me and my family forever.”

To read the full story click here

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sapper Darren Foster killed in Afghanistan

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Sapper Darren Foster of 21 Engineer Regiment was killed on Friday 13 August 2010.

At 0653hrs on 13 August 2010 whilst manning a sangar in order to provide security to his colleagues in Patrol Base SANGIN FULOD, he was engaged by small arms fire and suffered a gunshot wound.

He received medical treatment on site and was evacuated by helicopter to the Bastion Role 3 Hospital where he died of his wounds.

Sapper Darren Foster
Picture via MOD

In a joint statement, the family of Sapper Foster said:

“He was a loving son, grandson and brother who will be sorely missed for his crazy flamboyant lifestyle. His only aim was to serve in the army, for which he made us all proud.”

Lieutenant Colonel Bobby Walton-Knight Royal Engineers, Commanding Officer, 21 Engineer Regiment Group said:

“Sapper Darren Foster was a young soldier with a great deal of promise. From the moment he arrived in the Regiment he was pushing to get out to Afghanistan as soon as he could. He arrived full of energy, itching to join his fellow Sappers and was quickly in the thick of it in Sangin.

“He loved soldiering and was fiercely proud of being a Sapper. He was never one to shy away from work or to leave a task half done; his section knew it and they loved him for it. He was a soldier you could rely on and one we could all trust. He was with the Regiment for just 3 months and in Afghanistan for just 3 weeks, but in that time he made his mark.

“His motivation, professionalism and his pride marked him out. He died doing a job he loved and whilst defending his friends. We have lost a good man and as a Regiment our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, girlfriend and his many friends.”

For the full story click here

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Operation Omid Sey – clearing the road to Gereshk

Following the success of Operation Tor Shezada in southern Nad-e Ali, where ISAF forces cleared numerous IEDs from key routes and installed new checkpoints, the Afghan National Security Forces have led an almost identical operation in central Helmand Province.

The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, working together on a major operation for the first time ever, at one point found IEDs at the rate of one an hour in Helmand’s second largest town, Gereskh.

ANA and ANP plan together for Op Omid Sey

The aim of the operation was also to drive insurgents out of the densely populated area with the support of ISAF troops and to build two new permanent police checkpoints to enhance security for local people.

Afghan counter-IED teams were brought from as far afield as Sangin and Nad-e Ali to search for roadside bombs which have been threatening the lives of civilians, soldiers and police alike in Helmand’s second largest town, Gereskh. One day they found eight in eight hours. The next day they found seventeen between dawn and dusk.

Most had been laid on a road alongside the canal, leading to an existing police checkpoint which had been attacked repeatedly in recent months. The road was also the direct route to market for the locals.

They hadn’t used it for months but were keen to see it reopened.

One Gereskh resident, Ali Mohammed, said: “The road is completely blocked by IEDs and we have to carry goods to market through the fields. I now have a really bad back as a result. We can’t wait to be able to use it again.”

ANP officer searches for roadside bombs as his commander watches on, with the support of ISAF troops

ISAF troops have attempted to use it but at their peril.

Warrant Officer John Waring, of 1 Mercian Regiment, said: “My vehicle had an IED strike here. A sizeable device, buried underneath the road. This device was believed to be a remote controlled device specifically designed to disable or destroy vehicles.”

The ANA Brigade Commander for 3/215 Brigade, Colonel Sheerin Shah, said: “Our mission is to open this route, clear all the IEDs and help keep it secure so that local people can use it.” But this was the first time the ANA and ANP had collaborated on an operation of this size. Both the ANP and ANA provided counter-IED search teams, trained by ISAF forces, and committed men and resources to protecting the counter-IED mission and the building of the two new checkpoints along the canal.

The ANA built them for the ANP, with British Army Engineers offering advice and support.

ANA Lieutenant Colonel Jangbaz said: “The ANA has equipment and this is the reason that we are building checkpoints for the ANP with the support of ISAF forces, for the local nationals.

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Herbert, the Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots), who also heads the Task Force Helmand Brigade Advisory Group, said the operation had been a huge success.

“The ANA and ANP proved they can do anything that ISAF can do,” he said. “The numbers say it all. They had 600 troops on the ground and we had just 100 offering support and advice. They seized the task with both hands and fulfilled it well. It is a great model for the future.”

Photos: Sarah Yuen/MOD 2010

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Lieutenant John Charles Sanderson dies of wounds sustained in Afghanistan

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Lieutenant John Charles Sanderson of 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire) [1 MERCIAN], attached to 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles Battle Group, died on Wednesday 11 August 2010 of wounds sustained in Afghanistan.

Lieutenant John Sanderson
Picture: via MOD

Lt Sanderson was wounded in an explosion whilst on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province on 13 July 2010.

He was treated at the scene before being flown to the UK for further treatment. On Wednesday 11 August 2010, surrounded by his family, he finally succumbed to his injuries.

Lt Sanderson leaves behind his mother, father and sister, all of whom live in Windelsham, Surrey.

His family have paid the following tribute:

“We have lost a brilliant and loving son and brother. John loved his Army career and was enthusiastically committed to his men and particularly his and their role in Afghanistan.

“He believed he was contributing to a better life for the Afghan people. We will miss him tremendously but we will never forget him and what he gave to us.”

Lieutenant Colonel Andy Hadfield, Commanding Officer, 1 MERCIAN, said:

“Lieutenant John Sanderson joined the Battalion in April of 2009, and after completing his Platoon Commander’s Battle Course arrived just in time to take his Platoon to Kenya. It was here that I really started to get to know him.

“Big-hearted, strong and imaginative, he quickly caught my eye as one to watch for the future. Whilst acting as ‘enemy’ he managed to evade us all and infiltrate the battlegroup headquarters, much to our dismay and his mens’ amusement.

To read the full story click here

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Inside Afghanistan: Lance Corporal Sophie Wright’s frontline home

In the last of an intimate set of portraits, Lance Corporal Sophie Wright tells how she she recreates home comforts on the frontline and about the small pleasures she misses while serving in the Helmand Province.

To visit the Telegraph TV Website direct and watch the video click HERE

On Monday The Telegraph joined Captain Abi Bradley on patrol with the men of the Gurkha Rifles and on Tuesday talked to Sergeant Carly Lambert about how she copes being away from her daughter in the UK.

On Wednesday Lance Corporal Ashton Mulligan, who joined up at 16, explained why she now has ambivalent feelings towards ‘home’.

Yesterday Lance Corporal Laura Roberts described what life is like for a single girl surrounded by hundreds of young men.

Each one of these remarkable women casts a different perspective on a long Afghan war.

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Even our Afghan Base is called Nightingale

By Caroline Crowe and Mark Mason, The Sun

CELEBRATED as the Lady With The Lamp for her tireless work helping injured soldiers in the Crimean War, she remains the most famous nurse in history.
And while today marks the 100th anniversary of her death, Florence Nightingale’s incredible legacy lives on.

The inspirational figure helped to transform nursing into a highly respected profession. And the school she founded in 1860 – now Florence Nightingale School Of Nursing And Midwifery at King’s College London – is today regarded as a centre of excellence for nursing education.

The Sun today meets modern day nurses who have followed in Florence Nightingales footsteps.

FLIGHT Lieutenant Vanessa, 41, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, is on her second tour in Afghanistan with Princess Mary’s RAF Nursing Service. She has also served in Iraq.

“Every day I witness something memorable – the bravery of the injured soldier, the life-saving work done by medics or the monumental effort the troops put into stretcher-bearing their injured to safety.

‘Being a nurse in the military is great’ … Vanessa Miles
Photo: Capt Leanne Christmas RE/MOD 2010

My mother and sister were nurses and I always wanted to be an emergency nurse.
I worked as a civilian nurse in the Field Hospital in Iraq and that inspired me to join the RAF in 2007.Being a nurse in the military is great. I feel really valued. We have lots of good kit and are highly respected.

I am the Officer Commanding of the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT).

The MERT flies on a Chinook helicopter from Camp Bastion, retrieves casualties from the ground and assesses and treats them during the flight back to the military hospital.

Targeted by the Taliban when flying out to casualties, we are protected by armour and the skill of the Chinook aircrew. Apache helicopters also escort and protect us.

In essence we take the emergency room to the casualty and that can make a real difference.
The influence of Florence Nightingale lives on.

Even the helicopter landing site at the hospital is known as “Nightingale”.”

To read the full story click here

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inside Afghanistan: Lance Corporal Laura Roberts, single woman

In the fourth of an intimate set of portraits, Lance Corporal Laura Roberts describes how it feels to be one of the only single women on a base of hundreds of men.

To visit the Telegraph TV Website direct and watch the video click HERE

On Monday The Telegraph joined Captain Abi Bradley on patrol with the men of the Gurkha Rifles, on Tuesday Sergeant Carly Lambert talked about how she copes being away from her daughter in the UK and yesterday Lance Corporal Ashton Mulligan, who joined up at 16, explains why she now has ambivalent feelings towards ‘home’.

Tomorrow Lance Corporal Sophie Wright recounts how she recreates her home comforts.

Each one of these remarkable women casts a different perspective on a long Afghan war.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Extra RAF jets announced as Defence Secretary visits Afghanistan

The UK is to send two additional Royal Air Force Tornado jets to Afghanistan, the Defence Secretary has announced on a visit to British forces serving there.

Dr Liam Fox, on his second visit to Afghanistan since being appointed Secretary of State, confirmed that the two Tornado GR4 aircraft have been sent from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, arriving at Kandahar Airfield tomorrow (Thursday 12 August).

The deployment follows a request by the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General David Petraeus, for an increase in air support to provide greater protection to ground forces. The aircraft will join the eight RAF Tornado GR4s already provided to support the multinational pool and will boost flying hours by 25 per cent, or an extra 130 flying hours per month.

Tornado GR4 with Raptor Reconnaissance Pod

Dr Fox, currently on his way back to the UK, said before leaving Afghanistan:

“The deployment of these two extra aircraft is another illustration of the UK Government’s commitment to achieving success in operations in Afghanistan. Tornado GR4s provide essential air cover to our service personnel on the ground and leading the fight against deadly IEDs from the air.

“The intelligence these assets provide to coalition forces will enable commanders to have the eyes in the sky that they need to protect their troops and help increase security for local people.”

Following discussions, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, and the Defence Secretary, have agreed that the extra Tornados will deploy for three months.

Joined on the visit by the Chief of Joint Operations Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the Defence Secretary also visited Forward Operating Bases as well as units based at Camp Bastion and Kandahar Airfield.

Dr Liam Fox is shown around a Tornado GR4

They saw first hand today the training of Afghan National Security Forces, which is ahead of schedule and represents the key to enabling British forces to eventually leave Afghanistan.

The latest encouraging figures show that the training of Afghan forces is making excellent progress. Already, 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 106,000 Afghan policemen have been trained, putting ISAF ahead of schedule for achieving its target of 171,000 fully-trained soldiers and 134,000 police by the end of 2011.

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‘Flying Robot’ pilot helps find IEDs in Helmand

Lance Corporal Rob McInerney is currently working at the forefront of counter-IED operations in Afghanistan piloting the ‘Flying Robot’, which is part of the Talisman counter-IED system.

Talisman has been designed to provide an increased level of assurance along routes throughout the region. It consists of a suite of cutting-edge equipment, including armoured vehicles, optical cameras and remote-controlled vehicles.

This life-saving equipment is being used to support combat logistic patrols, which can comprise several hundred vehicles and trek through the country delivering vital supplies to bases for the troops on the front line.

Lance Corporal Rob McInerney, aged 26, serves with 15 Field Support Squadron, part of 38 Engineer Regiment – the first troops to use the new system on the ground in Afghanistan.

LCpl Rob McInerney in front of a Buffalo, part of the Talisman suite
Photo: Captain Leanne Christmas RE
Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

His role is to pilot the MAV (Micro Air Vehicle), otherwise known as the ‘Flying Robot’ or ‘T-Hawk’:

“The MAV is a great piece of kit and complements the rest of the equipment,” he said. “The MAV has two cameras which feed information back to a laptop so that the commander is then better placed to make decisions.”

“We have been involved in a few contacts on a couple of the operations that we have been on, which made the day interesting! The most satisfying part of the tour for me is when we get the guys to their destination safely; after all, that is the aim of our job!”

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Inside Afghanistan: Lance Corporal Ashton Mulligan on going home

In the third of an intimate set of portraits, Lance Corporal Ashton Mulligan describes how she has mixed feelings about going home while she works in one of the world’s most dangerous environments, the Helmand Province.

To visit the Telegraph TV Website direct and watch the video click HERE

On Monday The Telegraph joined Captain Abi Bradley on patrol with the men of the Gurkha Rifles and yesterday talked to Sergeant Carly Lambert about how she copes being away from her daughter in the UK.

Lance Corporal Laura Roberts describes what life is like for a single girl surrounded by hundreds of young men while Lance Corporal Sophie Wright recounts how she recreates her home comforts.
And Lance Corporal Ashton Mulligan, who joined up at 16, explains why she now has ambivalent feelings towards ‘home’.

Each one of these remarkable women casts a different perspective on a long Afghan war.

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Tornado squadron welcomed home from Afghanistan

Over 2,000 well-wishers welcomed RAF Tornado crews and engineers home from Afghanistan on Friday when they paraded through the streets of their local town of Swaffham, Norfolk.

The parade, led by the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment, formed up at the Market Place where personnel from II (Army Cooperation) Squadron received their Operational Service Medals for Afghanistan from Richard Jewson, the Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk.

Members of II (Army Cooperation) Squadron on parade in the town of Swaffham, Norfolk
Photo: Senior Aircraftman Si Armstrong, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

The squadron returned from operations in Afghanistan two weeks previously when they flew into RAF Marham to an emotional welcome by family and friends.

They have had an extremely busy deployment in support of UK and coalition troops on the ground.

During that period over 500 sorties were flown, amounting to nearly 1,700 flying hours, all in direct support of ground-based forces.

Of those 500 sorties, approximately 100 were ground close air support requests where the Tornado GR4s were scrambled within 30 minutes of the request coming in for assistance.

The Tornado detachment’s contribution to Op HERRICK is very well understood and appreciated by those on the ground, who ultimately benefit from the presence in the air. The Tornados provide both close air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Officer Commanding II (Army Cooperation) Squadron, Wing Commander John Turner, said: “”My team have done a superb job during their very busy deployment in Afghanistan, and they should be justifiably proud of their achievements.”

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Inside Afghanistan: Sergeant Carly Lambert. Soldier, mother.

By Jane Mingay (camera) and Roland Hancock (edit) TV

In the second of an intimate set of portraits, Sergeant Carly Lambert describes the difficulty of leaving her three-year-old daughter at home while she works in one of the world’s most dangerous environments, the Helmand Province.

To visit the Telegrapgh TV Website direct and watch the video click HERE

Further videos will be released by Telegraph TV through the week. Yesterday Captain Abi Bradley of the Gurkha Rifles described the particular challenges facing female soldiers operating in one of the world’s deadliest environments, the Helmand Province. Lance Corporal Laura Roberts describes what life is like for a single girl surrounded by hundreds of young men while Lance Corporal Sophie Wright recounts how she recreates her home comforts. And Lance Corporal Ashton Mulligan, who joined up at 16, explains why she now has ambivalent feelings towards ‘home’. Each one of these remarkable women casts a different perspective on a long Afghan war.

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Afghan forces raise the country’s flag above Sayedebad, Helmand as the Decisive Phase of Op TOR SHEZADA comes to a close

Members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) have raised the country’s flag above the town of Sayedebad, which is now under ISAF and ANA control.

Sergeant Sheraga from the Afghan National Army said, “We are proud, as we have now taken control of this area. Before this area was under the control of the Taliban. They disturbed all the people. Now we are very happy. We appreciate the International Security Assistance Force in helping us with this mission.”

Sergeant Sheraga of the Afghan National Army standing in front of a recently raised Afghan flag in Sayedebad.

At the same time, forces from Corunna Company, the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment completed their clearance of the road from Nad-e-Ali to Sayedebad and met up with their sister company, Somme, who had held the town since Monday 2 August.

Lieutenant Colonel Frazer Lawrence OBE, Commanding Officer of 1LANCS on his arrival in the town to see troops and the progress made said, “The operation has been a huge success. There really hasn’t been much fighting at all. There has been a tiny bit of harassing fire from the insurgents, but effectively we have stolen the town of Sayedebad.”

Soldiers from Somme Company were treated to a cooked meal of fresh rations, before Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence patrolled through the town with his troops. On the way he spoke to locals, asking them about the arrival of ISAF and the ANA.

He commented, “It is a huge step forward for [the population]. The trick is now to secure the town with our Afghan partners and that will set the conditions for reconstruction and development to take place but importantly, for the District Governor to get down here, meet his people, confirm their needs, and then start to improve their quality of life.”

The Officer Commanding Somme Company, Major Darren Newman briefing the Commanding officer of the 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, Lt Col Frazer Lawrence OBE on the current situation on Sayedebad.

Working with the District Council and the District Governor over the coming weeks, ISAF will look to conduct development projects in the region. “The aim is to improve the school, get the school working again. To clean out irrigation ditches and to meet the other needs that [the population] are bound to have.” said Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence.

Somme Company extracted by Chinook helicopter as daylight broke on the 6th day of the operation after handing the security of the town over to Corunna Company and the Afghan National Army.

A community shura took place on 09 August 2010 involving more than 60 key leaders, tribal elders and members of the Security Council and Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Lt Col Frazer Lawrence, District Governor Habibullah and a senior representative from the Ministry of Education were in attendance to discuss the progress and how the area will move forward now that the security has improved. Numerous stabilisation and reconstruction projects were discussed and will begin in earnest in the next few days whilst the Check Points are being fortified. There will remain a continuous ANSF presence in the region to continue to provide the security to allow freedom of movement and to permit economic development.

Photos: Cpl Barry Lloyd RLC/MOD 2010

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