Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Herbert, the Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS), looks back over his tour.
Our tour is fast approaching the end and, as I write this, we have less than a month to go. It is a timely opportunity to look back and reflect on what we have achieved during this challenging, fascinating and, at times, frustrating tour.
Six months ago we deployed as the OMLT Battle Group – trained, structured and prepared to mentor the Afghan National Army (ANA). As is well known, we were required to restructure very significantly in our first few weeks. That we achieved this so rapidly and as a capably as we did, says much for the flexibility and mental agility that characterises 1 SCOTS. That Waterloo Company went on to achieve so much in a role that they had not specifically trained or prepared for speaks equally well of the leadership, fighting spirit and initiative of all involved in the company. They have been in the thick of the fighting over recent weeks, and have excelled.
For the rest of us in the 3/215 Brigade Advisor Group, we inherited in late March 2010 an almost brand new Afghan Brigade headquarters with no experience, little training, limited understanding of its role, and little confidence in its own ability. We leave behind us a headquarters that is better manned, better trained, and better able to contribute significantly to this campaign. It has been well tested too, on two demanding Brigade level operations, which, with our support, were genuinely Afghan-led. Operations OMID DO and OMID SEY were major milestones in the development of the ANA in Central Helmand and I for one am rather proud of what we have achieved with our Afghan colleagues. All ranks should feel the same.
Similar levels of progress have been achieved across the 3/215 Brigade Advisor Group. Our infantry kandaks have developed across the board. They are better manned, better equipped, and boast better infrastructure than before, and their appetite for the fight is seemingly greater than it was six months ago. We have developed a recce company, IED disposal and search capabilities, and have transformed their artillery and engineers, to an extent far greater than anyone had anticipated. We have fielded a new Infantry Kandak, assumed responsibility for the Highway Kandak, and have worked tirelessly to support their logistical tail. We may not have created an organisation in our own likeness during our time, but we have most certainly achieved an enormous amount, and in doing so have set the conditions for success.
Of course, like other battalions out here, our tour has not been without tragedy, and our thoughts lie with the family of Lance Corporal Joe Pool who made the ultimate sacrifice earlier this month. Killed in action at the vanguard of the Brigade Recce Force, he is missed by all of us, and will be forever remembered. He leaves a fiancée and two young sons, and our thoughts are with them, his parents and his younger brother at this terrible time. Our thoughts are also with those who may never fully recover from their injuries sustained during this tour. For them, the progress made on this tour cannot compensate for the sacrifice that they have made, but I take some comfort in the knowledge that their sacrifice during Operation HERRICK 12 has not been in vain. They are the true heroes of this campaign, and I know that all ranks and all supporters of 1 SCOTS join me in sending them our very best wishes as they battle back to fitness, with the same indomitable spirit that they showed here in Afghanistan.
I am also enormously grateful to those who have provided such sterling service on the home front. They are too numerous to mention, and it would be invidious to single out only a few individuals. Whether involved in Rear Ops, welfare, fundraising, websites, community engagement or media activities, we are indebted to them for their unfailing support to the deployed component.
In signing off, I must add that it has been a privilege and an enormous pleasure to have commanded the 3/215 Brigade Advisor Group on Operation HERRICK 12. We have been an unusual organisation, drawn from fifteen different Regiments and Corps, plus a Royal Navy linguist! I could not have asked for a more dedicated, hard working or courageous group to command, and thank all ranks for what they have achieved over this tour. Thank you.