Padre Robin Richardson writes from Afghanistan about meeting Rob, a Parachute Regiment Physical Training Instructor.
Rob is a quiet man, but wherever he is, things happen. He is practical in ways I know I shall never be, with an eye for detail that means everything he puts has hand to is done well. Rob is also one of 3 Parachute Regiment Physical Training Instructors (PTIs) and so daily ‘phys’ is an important part of his routine. Now, I’m sure that many of you will have an idea of what a Parachute Regiment PTI is like and how he would get the best out of people, and many would be wrong. Rob’s quiet, encouraging nature and his desire to see everyone improve their fitness, strength and endurance means that he skilfully differentiates within what he demands of a group so that all get pushed hard enough to improve, but not so hard as they get injured.
Rob is also keen to keep alive the old form of PARA fitness, long distances, high speed and battle ready at the other end. For his own fitness regime here at Shahzad he has therefore marked himself out a mile-long route that he runs in body armour and carrying a general purpose machine gun (GPMG) every day. He has also decided that he would like to up his challenge by running a marathon in this kit around the uneven and dusty track that he’s been using. That Rob is also 39 years old is also no mean feat, as years as a PARA take quite a toll on the body. Rob sums up in many ways much of what is astonishing about the fitness and determination of paratroopers. Many units have a good number of exceptionally fit individuals serving within them, it just seems within the Parachute Regiment it is almost everyone and for a lesser mortal like me it makes it quite a challenging environment in which to work – but massive fun!
Rob is planning to do the run in February, after he has had been on his R&R and enjoyed some time at home with Jenny and he wants it to raise money for the Afghan Trust and for the NSPCC. It would be great, therefore if any of you read this blog, to make a donation to either of those organisations, and as you do so think of Rob and of all the other members of the Battlegroup and beyond who day in and day out are pushing themselves in amazing ways as they do their best to support the Afghan people, government, army and police.
But also, please think of and pray for all the local people we are getting to know and who we are trying to help whose lives are so tough and for years have been so downtrodden. Attendance at shuras is going up all the time as many of those who had been previously intimidated by insurgents feel confident enough to come and have their voices heard at the meetings. More and more boys and girls are getting to go to school as their parents feel it is safe for them to do so and local medical centres are getting built and supplied with staff and equipment. And all this work is being driven by the local political leaders with whom we are working and that has to be good news for those whom we are serving.
I hope that Rob’s effort in his upcoming marathon in body armour and with a GPMG will make a difference to the lives of people he will never meet through the money he raises, and similarly, it is my hope that the wider efforts of the Battlegroup will make a massive difference to the lives of those whose voices are now not only being heard, but which are also bringing change.