Lieutenant Rob Treanor is B Troop Commander of 15 Squadron, Combat Support Logistic Regiment. In this blog he reports on an operation to collect British vehicles and equipment from Sangin.
I’ve just got back from the last ever Operation LOAM. Our mission was to recover all of the British vehicles and as much of the kit up in Sangin as possible, as part of the handover to the US. Some of our vehicles were also used to take up some kit for the Afghan National Army (ANA) as part of one of their current operations. The convoy spanned over two miles through the Afghan desert.
My role for the Operation was Log Commander, so I was responsible for briefing the Troops who would be carrying the loads, dealing with the incidents on our way to and from the objective, as well as keeping a handle on exactly how many people and vehicles were with us at any one time.
Our journey up, although lengthy, was relatively incident-free. We did have one improvised explosive device (IED) strike which destroyed a set of mine rollers and took us a while to correct, but the main thing is that we made it up OK. As we got near Forward Operating Base (FOB) NOLAY our route took us through some of the local farmers’ fields, with our vehicles leaving big tracks straight through the newly ploughed land. We carry money to compensate local people when we damage their property and the Combat Logistic Patrol (CLP) commander instructed me to hold a shura with the locals to apologize for the damage. By the time my vehicle arrived at the scene there was a crowd of children watching us go past, as well as a tribe of elders watching on from afar. I dismounted my vehicle and waved to them as I walked over. I took my helmet and eye protection off to show them that I meant no harm. They were pleased to see me and it was useful to have the ANA with us because they were able to translate for me (Pashtu not being my first language). I shook hands with and apologised to the farmer. He assured us it was OK, and that there were no IEDs in the area. We chatted for a while as the kids ran around, and he seemed quite surprised when I told him he would be compensated for the damage to his fields. The atmosphere was good and we parted on good terms, although we made a note not to push our luck by coming back the same way!
Once in FOB NOLAY we got all the kit onto our trucks and got ready for the return leg. FOB NOLAY is possibly the dustiest place I have ever seen. In parts it was knee-deep and it got absolutely everywhere! When we’re out on a CLP water is rationed so we don’t shave, and some of the lads looked really old with their dusty grey hair and shaggy beards!
The return leg was more kinetic and we came under fire a few times, from a great distance away. The rounds were mostly inaccurate and it was difficult to make out the firing points so we weren’t always able to return fire. After the first day we laagered up for the night in the middle of the desert. I remember craving a McDonald’s that night and having the song Dr Jones by Aqua going round in my head as I listened to the radio in the early hours. Our rations have much improved recently and the main meals are generally very good. Having said that lunch is usually a mixture of dry biscuits and nuts and raisins. This gets very boring after a couple of days and my radio operator likened it to eating bird seed – which explains my longing for the golden arches, but not the strange pop song… it must have been very late!
The next day we made for Camp Bastion, passing through the town of Gereshk during the lunchtime rush hour. There were people everywhere and it was a really vibrant place. At one point I noticed two lads on donkeys shouting and waving at me as they raced to keep up with my vehicle! Getting back to Bastion was a great feeling, and having not washed for 6 days it was good to get a shower and get some fresh clothes once we had sorted all our kit out.