Sergeant Dale of 3 MERCIAN blogs from Afghanistan about a dramatic encounter with insurgents.
In 2008, whilst on a battlefield tour with some recruits from the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, I got speaking to a British World War 2 veteran. He told me that during his time in the Army, the one thing they couldn’t teach him and his friends was how to get up and move forward when the rounds of the enemy were landing on and around their position. He went on to tell me that it took pure courage and discipline to do so – or as he put it, ” a lot of balls”. This is as true today as it ever was – as members of 4 Platoon found out, when they found themselves helping the Afghan National Police (ANP) fend off an attack on to their Check Point to the south of the village of Pupalzy. The ANP found themselves being attacked by what was assessed to be approximately 20-30 Taliban fighters.
Fortunately for the ANP, as the Taliban were manoeuvring into a position to launch a final assault on the Check Point (CP) itself from the last line of compounds to the north, a couple of Warriors [armoured vehicles] from 4 Platoon were passing by. Corporal Taylor was the Junior Non-Commissioned Officer (JNCO) in charge of the dismounts contained within. He quickly deployed with his men and moved into a position from which he could support the ANP. Initially, upon arrival of the men of 4 Platoon, the Taliban showed no signs of ending their assault and continued to suppress the CP with effective fire. Corporal Taylor made the assessment that he and his men would need to move forward and take the fight to them. So with the support of the Warriors, he launched an assault that even Colour Sergeant Instructors at the Infantry Battle School in Brecon would struggle to find fault with. Amidst all the confusion and noise, in the heat of battle and with effective fire support from the ANP, the men moved forward and successfully caused the enemy to withdraw, rapidly. Even when outnumbered, the courage, discipline and “balls” of the Mercian soldier, coupled with the ability and determination of the ANP, proved to be too much for the insurgents. When all of these factors are combined with selfless commitment and the mutual respect shared between the ANSF and ISAF troops, it really does demonstrate to the local population that there is no place in Afghanistan for the insurgent and that the ANSF are well on the road to providing the much-needed security by themselves.
The past month or so has shown a decrease in contacts with insurgents and has seen 4 Platoon continue their normal routine of Patrol Base life, local patrols and Operations, all partnered with the ANP. On one such helicopter-borne partnered operation, in the vicinity of the Arghandab river valley, 4 Platoon and the ANP had a succesful find. The ANP – and their ability to search compounds and outlying areas effectively – is another clear demonstration that the ANP are becoming more and more capable as time goes on. In one instance, the ANP proved that they understood insurgent practices and came across a cache of approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition, radio parts, clothing and a notebook full of written information, in a melon field used by the insurgents to move to and from a number of compounds out of view.
Time in theatre for 4 Platoon is gradually getting shorter and shorter, with the majority of the Platoon already having taken their 2 weeks of rest and recuperation time (R&R). Morale still remains high, particularly as the many many “chuff charts” are starting to show less and less days. And the parcels from friends, family and the generous groups and organisations back home in the UK continue to arrive, particularly for a couple of certain individuals within the Platoon.
In summary, 4 Platoon continues to work hard and remain fully focussed as the preparations for the end of tour handover are about to begin.