Lieutenant Richard Armstrong from 2 Troop of ‘Dog’ Squadron (1 Armoured Engineer Squadron), part of 21 Engineer Regiment (21 Eng Regt) blogs about plans to downsize a checkpoint in readiness for handover to the ANA, and how things didn’t quite go according to plan…
It’s been another productive week for the members of 2 Troop of ‘Dog’ Sqn (1st Armoured Engineer Squadron). Few could have predicted how it could have turned out. Unforeseen circumstances have conspired to confound the best laid plans of the troop commander, but as usual the lads came to the rescue and as they say, all’s well that ends well.
This week was supposed to see the troop reducing a check point (CP) in size, ready to be handed over to our colleagues in the Afghan National Police. We were then to move to CP AZADI, which we had built two weeks ago. We were to carry out the upgrade of the site for long-term occupation.
Mechanical faults with one of our key assets, a wheeled tractor, meant that neither of these jobs could be completed. However, it would be unfair to lay all of the blame with the operator and maintainer, LCpl Bliss, who couldn’t have seen the razor wire that damaged the rubber hoses.
After a hasty crisis meeting between Cpl John Curphey and I (now doing the job of the troop Sergeant) and the officer commanding Corunna Company of 1 LANCS, a new plan was hatched. This would see half my troop stay in Patrol Base (PB) PARAANG under Cpl Curphey to train the ANA in basic combat engineering whilst the other half, under me, would go to CP AZADI and clear tree lines to enable the defensive positions to see further. This in turn would improve the security of the checkpoint.
Cpl John Curphey’s section took the opportunity with both hands. LCpl Kenny Cunningham delivered an excellent lesson on field defences and a lot of knowledge was passed to our Afghan National Army colleagues in areas as diverse as sandbag construction to field hygiene and checkpoint layout. In their spare time, the lads also took it upon themselves to build a number of additional structures to provide some much needed shelter from the 30 degree heat.
The remainder of the troop, over in AZADI, went out on a patrol to clear a tree line which, although only 50m from the CP, felt a world away from the safety of the walls and razor wire. Progress was slow as the chainsaw had broken early in the job and hand tools were also going down due to the ‘spartan’ like work ethic of LCpl Karlos Newman who was cutting down obstructions with vigour. We were further hampered by the need to clear the tree line to ensure there was nothing there that could slow the task down and this was a drill that had been carried out many times before and was part of most tasks when working unfamiliar ground. It wasn’t long before we had reports of suspicious activity to our front and I made the decision to extract the troop back to the safety of the CP.
All in all, it’s been another hard, busy, but enjoyable week where the Afghan factor has played its part once again. ‘TIA’ (this is Afghanistan).