Officially Half Way

Major Mark Suddaby, a Company Commander with 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) is commanding an Adviser team charged with developing the 1st Kandak, or Battalion, of the Afghan National Army. Here, Advizer 10A – as he is known, he writes about continuing to develop his ANA charges, discovering that one of his soldiers has multiple girlfriends, and almost buying a cow.

My Headquarters received a message recently requesting that one of my Jocks call his girlfriend as she was worried about him.  Apparently he had not been in touch for a while.  It turned out that the young man in question currently has five girlfriends and so was in a bit of a pickle.  In the end he rang them all, but he still doesn’t know who called our Welfare team, as he couldn’t ask directly.  Bless.

It’s not been a particularly great week to be honest.  An ANA Warrior from 4th Tolay (Company) was shot and killed this week and one of my Platoon Commanders was injured too. The Warrior sadly died despite the very best efforts of the medics on the ground.  Advizer 10A wishes my injured man a full and speedy recovery.

So, we are now officially about half way through the tour.  Half way to achieving all that we can in terms of developing the Afghan National Army (ANA). Half way to finishing our contribution to a safer and more secure Afghanistan.  Some days it’s as if we’ve only been here a moment.  As far as 1st Kandak of the ANA goes – my Kandak to mentor and develop – sometimes you can almost touch the progress that they are making.  Smell it in the air.  This is a desperately poor country. Some Warriors join for nothing more than three square meals a day.  So it is an amazing feeling when you witness a Warrior who finally gets it.  Whether it be the application of a tourniquet in basic first aid training or when one steps up to the plate during a fire-fight.

Wars change and tactics and thinking must change with it, but often Afghan officers will choose to go with what they know, even if that knowledge was gained during the Russian occupation.  This is an old country with little Western influence: things happen slowly over here.  What takes a season to become old news back home, will take a decade or longer to change here.

But training and advising the ANA is rewarding if sometimes intensely frustrating. We have dug them water wells in their outstations; built them a Headquarters building and compounds for ammunition storage; helped develop their intelligence capability and facilitated the generation of a medical reception station here in Shawqat.  We patrol and fight alongside them, ensuring that our own expertise and knowledge is shared at the moment when it is most useful – during incoming.  And yet, they sometimes look at us as if we have some hidden agenda; as if there must be a catch.

We know that the Afghan National Security Forces are the ticket to a stable Afghanistan and that is our agenda.  No more safe havens for terrorists.  Afghanistan is a poor country, which has been the battleground of two superpowers for too long.  I just hope I can make the difference that will one day enable the ANA to take over from us, so that the blood we have spilled here won’t be for nothing.

I think I bought a cow the other day after I paid a farmer for crop damage.  There wasn’t any really, but we had to walk across his field.  I don’t think he understood and tried to give me his cow.  It didn’t look particularly healthy, which may have been a contributing factor.  But when I realised we didn’t have space for a cow in our Jackals, I politely declined his very kind offer.

Oh and the Prime Minister very nearly visited one of our outstations yesterday.  We drove up to the base, did rehearsals and all the usual stuff.  But he couldn’t come. But it was my birthday.  I’m not going to divulge my age, as it is too depressing.  Still, the boys made me a birthday card out of a ration box and plastered it with photos with unrepeatable speech bubbles, so that was nice. It’s late now and I have reports to compile so this is Advizer 10A off to dream up new ways to help the Afghans help themselves.