The edge of the fight

Herrick 18 Stories

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.

Fight the ‘deep battle’

For those of you who haven’t seen a Warthog vehicle, they are made up of two boxes of armour on some rubber tracks. Incredible vehicles really, it’s just like someone over six-foot trying to actually fit in one comfortably – impossible.

If by some miracle you do manage to fit, don’t fall asleep. Unfortunately soldiers are programmed from basic training, to sleep anywhere. Particularly if they are about to be up for a long time and for some reason, particularly if you are on transport. So I fell asleep. Bad mistake.

All credit to the Royal Tank Regiment, I slept soundly for the whole journey, although I woke up with my head stuck at 90 degrees for the first 30 mins of the operation; and my neck in pain for rest of the Irish Guards operation (op) on the border of the green zone. This was an op to clear an area in the east of Helmand of enemy weapons stashes.

The Irish Guards are the Brigade Operations Company for this tour. The BOC as they are called, are there to fight the ‘deep battle.’ By this I mean their sole purpose is to target the enemy where he least suspects it and take his ‘lethal aid,’ the stuff he uses to attack us; bomb-making kit, ammunition, weapons.

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

The BOC prepares for Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from 1 Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from 1 Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from 1 Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Brush with the enemy

Before heading out on their task, they dropped us off at a compound with the tactical headquarters to watch the sweep start before we joined it. All was well initially, the guys got off to a good start clearing compounds as we watched them from afar.

Then the first rounds were exchanged. The enemy had reorganized and were fighting back after seeing what the troops were doing. It’s a strange thing; immediately looking to get somewhere more exposed when the shooting starts; but as a team we have to get the footage or stills of the action as it happens, to get the story.

As it was, the action was just out of sight and focused on the troops who had landed with the Helicopter assault force and it was cut short by the Apaches arriving overhead. I had a strange mix of emotions. From a professional perspective I was a tad frustrated on missing what could have been an interesting story, mixed with relief for the guys that it was over. Though we still had the rest of the day for excitement.

Following the BOC’s initial brush with the enemy, we moved out of the command compound and on to the ground with another set of guys. Just in time to see them uncover a hidden enemy weapons stash; which had home made explosives.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Explosive Ordnance Disposal team at work searching for IEDs. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Ordnance Disposal team at work. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Ordnance Disposal team at work. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Explosive Ordnance Disposal team at work. Sgt Barry Pope (RLC) phot

Enemy stockpiles

This gave us a great chance to see the Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) guys at work. I suspect there is nothing they like better than blowing stuff up. Following a suitably large bang, we continued on with the search.

Throughout the day there would be sporadic shooting as the enemy sought to harass and distract the Irish from their task but the focus of the troops meant that once the day was over five enemy stockpiles had been discovered.

For the combat camera team, we had had a productive time with the BOC. It was a chance to test our working methods amongst the some of the best troops around and, strangely, I found myself coming away frustrated at not getting more of the action, but pleased that we had been give the chance to test ourselves in a near fight before we were actually in the line of fire.

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Capt Mau Gris recharges his batteries before the operation. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Capt Mau Gris recharges his batteries before the operation. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

See you next time guys.

Read Mau’s other blogs here: Capt Mau Gris

Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris

9 thoughts on “The edge of the fight

  1. So proud of you guys out there, keep going. You do an amazing job in the toughest conditions and it does mean something. I wish you all a safe and happy return. Take lots of care and thankyou to the CCT for bringing this story out.

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  2. Thanks once again Capt. Gris,

    I am always happy to hear that your excursions are uneventful on the safety side. In my whimsical British sense of humour, I think of “Always look on the bright side of life” – followed by the whistling……can you guess? Of course Monty Python. The image of one of those shows still comes to mind – where they are teaching a self-defence course with a banana….need I go on, or the mini bridge crossing with the night in black armour…….

    I can’t imagine working the front-lines trying to stay one step ahead of the enemy and blowing their $h_t to kingdom come (putting it politely). They/you are very brave men indeed.

    Personally and without properly researching (please forgive), I thought things were winding down over there, but it seems it will be a never-ending ordeal trying to maintain stability in a country where some despise and some approve of the troops presence. I can only hope that everyone stays safe and vigilant and learns to use gut instinct – if they don’t already.

    If anyone needs an uplift, I would be happy to share funny emails and life in a different side of the world- unfortunately I don’t think it’s appropriate to post here, so I will include my email gaeaathena@gmail.com – if my email is against policy – then I apologize wholeheartedly.

    I am a writer (also did professional photography) so I appreciate getting your blog notices.

    Best go before I write a book here 🙂 Stay safe to all of you,

    Rachael

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  3. So proud of all you guys out there,your all doing a GREAT job out there,keep it up and stay and come back safe

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  4. You guys make us all proud with your total professionalism, I am hooked on the blogs and photos

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  5. So proud of my son and all his comrades in the Irish Guards out there in Afghanistan. Thoughts and prayers are with you each and every day. Up the Micks!! QS x

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  6. Pingback: In the midst of the fight | The Official British Army Blog

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  8. Well done to all of the CCT Your in safe hands with the Micks. Have a good tour and keep safe. From an auld ‘Mick’ tell the lads good shooting and loads of drama!…..Q.S.

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