Corporal Paul Birkett is a Communications Systems Operator (CS Op) currently stationed with 1st United Kingdom Armoured Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment (1 (UK) ADSR) based in Herford, Germany. He recently deployed on Op HERRICK 15 where he is employed as Communications Centre (COMMCEN) Operator/Commcen IC.
He is responsible for transmitting, receiving and distributing messages within Main Operating Base (MOB) Lashkar Gah. Secondary duties include providing support via telephone to outstations around the area and monitoring the communications systems.
Reality of the deployment hit approximately one week prior when my entire room in Herford was packed away in cardboard boxes. The time to deploy loomed closer and the only possessions left in my room were a mattress and a laptop. I was now eager to get on the transport and start the adventure in Afghanistan. After a very long couple of hours and feeling rather tired we finally checked in and then proceeded to get a little sleep in the departure lounge.
After the long haul we touched down, deplaned and were immediately penned into a tent to receive a short brief. We were then allocated temporary accommodation and filled out forms to check into theatre. This felt like an eternity as we had been travelling for about 16 hours and just wanted a bed and some proper sleep. However some good news arrived, we were informed that we would have a day off before starting an intense five-day initial theatre entry package which consisted of the following:
DAY 1 – This consisted of lectures and although long, it involved many interesting and pertinent points regarding the elements of operations that are relevant to everyone.
DAY 2 – The second day was more practical than the first, with ranges and a few briefs as background activity. We commenced the day with a 2 km march to acclimatise. Even though temperatures were not too hot we still managed to break a sweat, as the body armour is not exactly light.
DAY 3 – I really enjoyed Day 3, but I hope that I would not have to put the training into practice, as it involved searching for and confirming Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). That said it was a very interesting day and I picked up a lot of useful information that would prove vital if I was to encounter such a situation.
DAY 4 – Again another interesting day as we were taken through the procedure of recording biometrics of personnel such as retina scans and finger prints.
DAY 5 – In typical military fashion the final day was a confirmation day covering what the week had taught us. This was done in the form of an exercise containing a mixture of scenarios and we even had the pleasure of operating alongside an infantry call sign.
On completion of the theatre entry package we packed our bags, just leaving out the essentials (wash kit etc…) for the morning, as we had an early start. Thankfully it was only 20 minutes or so to Lashkar Gah. On arrival into Lashkar Gah we dropped off our kit in the tents and went for some lunch. After lunch we pretty much went straight into the HOTO with 21 SR (AS). The HOTO started with a brief to inform us of the role of the Troop followed by an orientation of the camp. Each Subject Matter Expert took their counterpart through the relevant systems.
The job itself was relatively easy to pick up and the hardest thing over the next few days was actually accounting for the equipment. After three days in location the handover was complete and we were now confidently in the driving seat. We can now look forward to settling into the job, getting into a routine and welcoming the remainder of the Troop in a few days. This will be the first time that the troop will be in the same location, at the same time, as we have all been away conducting our own individual pre-deployment training.
I must say, it’s good to have us all together.