We were effectively surrounded

Lance Corporal Roberts

Lance Corporal Roberts

Lance Corporal Roberts is a section second-in-command in 4 Platoon, B Company, 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (3 MERCIAN). He is currently based in Check Point Attal on Route 601, the main road to Lashkar Gah. He has previously served in Iraq, but this is his first tour of Afghanistan.

In his first blog he looks back at an operation to take the fight to the insurgents. It was an eventful day…

Recently 4 Platoon, B Company 3 MERCIAN have been involved in operations alongside multiples (half platoon) from the Royals Scots Dragoon Guards (SCOTS DG) and the 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS).

As the harvests draw to a close it comes as no surprise that we’re witnessing a spike in insurgent hostilities in our Area of Operations (AO). 4 Platoon have been continuing to push into new areas, the no-man’s-land, and take the fight to the insurgents in their own back yard, thus securing our AO and successfully completing our ongoing mission to provide security to the local population.

One key operation is engraved in my thoughts. We were going about our daily routine of patrolling, and as is often the case we received intelligence and an order from Battlegroup Headquarters to conduct a strike operation onto an insurgent shura (meeting).

The shura involved up to 60 insurgents, to the south of Check Point (CP) Yaklang, in an otherwise unpatrolled area. At 1000hrs we hastily departed, and were dropped 4km short of the objective – the location of the shura.

With temperatures reaching 47 degrees, and with 65kg of kit per man, the going was tough. As we advanced on foot towards the objective, atmospherics changed with every step. I distinctly remember turning to the Boss, Lieutenant Cook and saying: “Being point man is the loneliest place on earth”, to be greeted by a wry, knowing smile.

As we pushed on, the insurgent scouting screen was out in force, watching our every step from 1.5 to 2km away, tracking and feeding back our movements. My team went firm on a Built Up Natural Defence line, giving overwatch as another mulitple pushed past. From this position my team tracked 5 men taking up positions around the northern extremity of the shura, with one chap moving from man to man relaying last minute orders – an insurgent team commander. As is often the case we also saw families moving out of the area, knowing the likely outcome of this advance, as well as motorbikes sending messages and dropping men off around the area. Five minutes past and we were on our feet moving slowly but surely towards the objective.

Amazingly we made entry to the reported target building with no insurgents seen – those occupying the north of the target melting away into the surroundings.

Lance Corporal Roberts and one of his men look out over the Green Zone from the roof of a compound.

Lance Corporal Roberts and one of his men look out over the Green Zone from the roof of a compound.

I moved my team onto a compound roof, utilising the height the roof offered to get a better view. From here I placed the sharpshooter focusing on a compound cluster to our west, then having a Lance Corporal spotting for the general purpose machine guns covering the other directions as we faced a 360-degree threat. From this temporary bastion, the SCOTS DGs pushed a multiple forward to the compounds to the west. It was then that we got positive identification on two insurgents with weapons. I radioed the SCOTS DGs  to get them to pull back as myself and the sharpshooter were in a position to suppress the insurgents with fire – but if the multiple pushed on, our field of view would be obscured and we would no longer be able to engage.

It was too late and the multiple was already in front of us. The silence was broken by the inevitable crack and thump of the insurgents hastily-laid ambush roaring to life. As the exposed multiple dived for cover the arcs opened once again, allowing me and the sharpshooter to both accurately suppress the insurgents.

The fighting continued for 6 more hours, with the insurgents occupying firing points to our north, south, east and west. We were effectively surrounded.

Lance Corporal Roberts and his fire team take up a fire position over the wall of a compound.

Lance Corporal Roberts and his fire team take up a fire position over the wall of a compound.

In the exchange of fire we successfully suppressed the insurgents and prepared to return to our CP. As we prepared to extract I witnessed the most amazing spectacle to date. Two American A10 Tank Busters doing a show-of- force thundering flyby 50m overhead, giving the insurgents the fright of their lives and the lads at our location something to really cheer about. Finally on our extraction, after calling for emergency close air support (ECAS) we got an Apache on station overhead. Loaded with a 30mm gun and Hellfire missiles it created a good incentive for any remaining insurgents – who had so effectively boxed us in all day – not to mess with us anymore.

Thanks to the hard work from all the men on the ground we successfully disrupted the enemy, punched into the heart of the insurgents’ territory, and diminished  their numbers. We extracted  a casualty with a broken ankle (a lad who fell on the way out)  and survived for a prolonged period with limited supplies and no chance of a resupply. A true testament to the professionalism and tenacious character of the British Army.

Good to finally be doing the job we all trained for so long

In his first blog, Lance Corporal Ryder of 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (3 MERCIAN) – currently deployed on Operation HERRICK 14 in Afghanistan – writes about undertaking reassurance patrols in Maiwand.

This week has been interesting and eventful both inside our Patrol Base (PB) and out on the ground. The majority of the early part of the week was taken up by “Find, Feel and Understand” operations in a village called Camparack, which is to the northw north west of our patrol base.

Most settlements in our area of operations (AO) has been fairly easy to influence and essentially are on our (ISAF) side. However the area around Camparack has not been as easy as the rest, and so it has seen an increase in ISAF presence of late. As a result the villagers and locals seem to be starting to trust us and, more importantly, understand why we are here. The last patrol into the area made it clear to see the positive influence we had are having as numerous locals approached the patrol wanting to talk and get to know us. This is a huge step forward from the early patrols where everyone made an effort to avoid us due to fear of insurgent intimidation.

As well as getting to know the local population, this week has proved to be a perfect opportunity to spend time working with our new Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) counterparts. By working closely with them we’ve been able to see the similarities and also differences between the way we work on the ground. It’s also been an ideal time to identify areas in which we can assist them and help them improve. We have also successfully started to introduce them to the people of Maiwand, giving the local people a trusted Afghan face and the first port of call should a problem arise.

Life in our PB is ever-changing. PB Lashkamear Durai – being fairly new – is a place that is constantly expanding and improving. We’ve recently had an internet terminal installed so we are now able to communicate home over that rather than just using the satellite phone.

Overall the morale here is high, made better by the fact blokes have started to go on R&R. Everyone’s cracking on with the job at hand and we are enjoying it the majority of the time!

It’s good to finally be doing the job we all trained for so long.