Captain Jo Timmerman, the officer commanding the Combat Camera Team on Operation HERRICK 12, writes about being on the front line during a major military operation.
Well the CCT is back into the swing of things after returning from a well-deserved R&R break in the UK. First up was a job to film the new Lynx Mk9a helicopter for a BBC documentary. Both Sgt Robinson and Cpl Lloyd spent the day filming inside and out, and above and below, the heli and its crew. They got some great stuff… but we will have to wait until next year to see the results on air.
Next on the cards was Operation TOR SHEZADA or Black Prince. This was to be the biggest operation of the tour for 4th Mechanized Brigade; an offensive move to clear the Taliban-held town of Sayedebad.
Travelling as light as possible – well sort of, given our rucksacks were full to the brim with our camera and transmission kit, and the odd spare pair of socks – the team embedded with Somme Company of the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for a helicopter assault to the south of the town.
Under the cover of darkness, on landing, we seized two compounds and established a foothold in the area.
Once in, it was a rush against the clock to package the video, written copy and photographs about the insertion for transmission back to the UK. Being at the forefront with the assaulting troops meant the media were eager for the material, and the story ran on the evening news of all the major broadcasters – BBC, Sky and ITN –with most of the nationals running the story and photographs the following day.
We had been up for nearly 24 hours and lay down exhausted for a few hours before everything started again at 0300 the following morning…
With sleep in our eyes we got ready to move out and clear one of the surrounding villages around Sayedebad. The troops met no resistance and were greeted well by the locals. We had been given a tip-off that one of the deserted compounds had been used by the Taliban to make IEDs.
On investigation by the Counter IED team it turned out to be true. A cache of bomb-making equipment was discovered and some of it was destroyed in a controlled explosion by the Ammunition Technician Officer.
This was a good follow-on to the heli-lift pictures. The operation was the third most popular story on the BBC website behind the one minute news round up and Chelsea Clinton’s wedding… Sgt Robinson was even in one of the photos that ran on the front page of the Telegraph.
On the third day (the early hours of the morning again) Somme Company moved out to seize the town of Sayedebad. Wading through chest-high irrigation ditches with over 60 kg of weight on our backs, and moving around recording material was hard. Atmospherics (general attitude of the locals) in the town were good and after establishing a foothold in compounds south of the town, two platoons fanned out with the Afghan National Army to clear the remainder of the buildings. Once again the CCT was at the heart of the action, being the first cameras into the town to “break” the story. Unfortunately we had to run our equipment on battery power. This meant it was a race against time to get the story and photographs out.
Unfortunately, Sgt Robinson just missed out on sending video due to his dead laptop batteries.
This operation was a great example of the CCT doing what it does best – reporting from the front line.