In his first blog, Sergeant Dale of 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (3 MERCIAN) – currently deployed on Operation HERRICK 14 in Afghanistan – writes carrying out Operation WILD COBRA on the ground within their area of operations.
Operation WILD COBRA was a deliberate joint company operation with the Aghan Army Tolay (Company) I work with and D Company, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA) to understand the population within the villages in our area of operations (AO).
I was part of a 2-man Tolay Advisory and Training Team (TATT) which was headed up by Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary Latta, who had already been here for a few weeks during the handover period. The Tolay was partnered with D Company 2 PARA for this operation. Over the course of Operation HERRICK 13, D Company 2 PARA showed an excellent approach to partnering and it was clear when I arrived for Operation HERRICK 14 that there was a strong relationship between the Afghan Tolay and the British Company.
The first day of Operation WILD COBRA saw the joint company pushing South from our Patrol Base (PB) in Nahr-e Saraj South District towards the village of Akhonzada – an area which WO2 Latta was keen to inform me was an insurgent breeding ground.
He went on to say that every time he had been to Akhonzada he had ended up being in a fight with the insurgents. As we pushed through a wadi and started to head west towards the village, we started to get reports of movement from fighting-age males in an and around various compounds in the village. When we finally got into the village, without any incident, we started to notice that the local population were going about their normal daily business. I thought at this point WO2 Latta was trying to employ scare tactics about the area because it was my first patrol here.
The second day of the Operation passed very quickly and with no incidents. We did however have reliable intelligence stating the insurgents knew we were there and that they were there too.
On the third day we pushed the joint company towards the Abposhake Wadi where we conducted the same patrol in a village called Shooragas. From the moment we started crossing the wadi we had intelligence that we were being watched and our movements were being reported back to the insurgents. At this point everyone was a little more anxious than normal.
Once in Shooragas, WO2 Latta and Lt Gul Mohammed – the ANA Baluck (Platoon) Commander – conducted a shura with the village elders. Whilst they were all sitting down I was with the ANA assisting in security. It was then that I noticed something not looking quite right. Before I knew it I was on my belt buckle brushing away dirt to see what I had found. Fortunately all was clear.
Once the Shura had been completed we started to move off towards a compound that had been identified by the ANA Tolay Commander as worth a look. It was as we moved between two multiples (half platoons) from D Company we found we had moved into the killing area of a multi-firing point complex ambush as the insurgents opened fire. Both the ANA and D Company Commanders formulated a quick plan and set off to seize the upper hand. The company group was turned to face the firing positions and returned an aggressive initial rate of fire. As I lay in a firing position alongside the Afghan Tolay returning fire towards the now overwhelmed insurgent WO2 Latta informed me that I had now in fact lost my “Afghan cherry”.
During the contact the ANA dispelled quite a lot of myths and horror stories that I had picked up from pre-deployment training. They reacted exceptionally well, were well spaced out, and made excellent use of the minimal cover that was available. Their rate of fire was as I would expect from any British rifle company, and they certainly were not just ‘brassing up’ the area to their front as I feared they may do. The only observation would make would be an RPG gunner who fired off four RPGs with the safety pin fitted with outstanding accuracy, but to no avail. Fortunately WO2 Latta, from the Small Arms School Corps, was quickly on the scene to advise the gunner and ensure further engagements were successful.
The contact soon died down and the insurgents blended back into the Green Zone. We moved forward but were unable to confirm the success of the contact. For us however we had no casualties and were able to continue on with our mission.
The remainder of the Operation continued with no insurgent interference. Perhaps they were cautious after such a good reaction to the ambush. Either way we continued the joint operation, taking it in turns with D Company 2 PARA, to take the lead a point platoon.