Reserve Engineers compete in Italian Raid

Reserve Engineers from 350 Field Squadron (EOD) took part in Italian Commando Raid competition. It tested their physical endurance, technical skill and teamwork needed to succeed. 

One Thursday afternoon, 350 Field Squadron RE embarked on a NATO patrol competition based in the Italian Alps North of Milan leaving Foresters House in Chetwynd, Nottingham with bags packed and sunglasses ready. We felt prepared for what lay ahead having tested our fitness, problem solving and navigation skills and compiled a basic yet educated kit list. However, no matter how sunny it was we were always going to get wet.

On arrival at the airport Cpl Lancashire gave us our first fright when he realised his passport was still on the transport heading back to Notts. Luckily the driver was still close, however we’ll ensure he never forgets it again.

The event started on the Friday with a live fire assessment. We got our hands on a variety of weapon systems including the Berreta 92F pistol and the FN 7.62 rifle. An awesome experience and a great gauge of how the SA80 A2 compares with weapons from different nations.

Reserve Engineers compete in Italian Raid

Next we set off to the main start point in the hills of Bisuschio near the Swiss border. Stunning would not describe it but sightseeing had to wait. Teams around Europe and the USA were set off in intervals after a kit check and mission questionnaire. Our two teams were released into the dark after 2200hrs and after a couple of hours of night navigation arrived at the first checkpoint. The concept was simple but a 5 hr observation point was not expected. As the cold alpine chill of the night set in we took turn in our groups of 4 to ‘stag on’ and listen for enemy activity. It was a long night and slow unexpected start to the exercise.

The next day we set off under command of the directive staff and quickly approached the river crossing. All the kit went into a Bivvi bag and on went a waterproof jacket along with some flip flops held on with green tape. We lifted the ‘giant sausage’ up, to the bemusement of the various teams and made our way to the water. Funnily enough both teams scored highly as we used our experience to ensure the basics of soldiering (360 cover etc) were maintained.

The day went on and included more live dynamic shooting with assault rifles, shotguns and pistols. Once again allowing us a bit of fun and an insight into the weapons used by allied forces. Later that morning we found ourselves at 300m above sea level looking up at the next check point of 1000m. So off we went.

AbseilingAlong the way our new friends the Germans were making steady progress and took the lead while we took refreshments and did a nav check. Our team IC LCpl Nightingale went ahead on multiple recces and passed the Germans at speed earning the nickname ‘mountain goat’, at least we think that’s the translation.

Tasks at the top of Mount Orsa (equivalent to Snowden, Wales) included abseiling, room clearance and search tasks. Abseiling was a rush and also funny watching 3 staff members trying to put LCpl Buckingham into a harness. Needless to say it didn’t fit his monster legs.

We continued down the mountain next to the Swiss boarder and quickly realised how inaccurate the maps were. Teams were appearing from all manner of footpaths along the way and only good guess work helped us down, to the relief of our feet.

The day wore on and we were quickly approaching checkpoint ‘Kilo’. The map showed us that the stand was on the far side of a shallow river, so we decided to follow it to a nearby bridge then backtrack to the stand. Only to find it was another river crossing, nicely avoided. The directive staff were bemused but rewarded us for ingenuity.

At this point we had been on patrol for approximately 15hrs and were feeling the pinch, but on we trot up another hill.

We finally arrived at ‘Lima’ where we were preparing for a sniper targeting stand when came the bad news. Teams at the top of mount Orsa behind us were caught in rapidly progressive poor weather and were reportedly suffering from Hypothermia. This meant that the exercise was terminated so that a recovery phase could be initiated.

Reserve Engineers compete in Italian Raid

It was sad for us as there was not far to go. Out of 58 teams only a handful made it to the end. It was disappointing as we didn’t need the rain to dampen spirits. However, our 2 Reserve Royal Engineer teams placed 9th (led by LCpl Carlisle, finishing top of the British Military contingent) and 41st based on overall time and scores from each stand. But a huge congratulations goes to A.S.S.U. Lugano Hellvetics from the Swiss Military Academy for winning the event, and a massive thanks to Sgt Daniel Waterfield for organising the trip.

The experience was amazing, the staff were friendly and it was great to see how different nations prepared and competed – should you get the opportunity, grasp it and have a go, you won’t be disappointed. Needless to say we will be back next year with sunglasses packed.

By LCPL Steven Evans

By Royal Invitation – Garden Party at The Palace

Invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace

By SSgt A Standley

Me and Mrs Standley.

Me and Mrs Standley.

When you arrive back to work after your Christmas and New Year break it can seem a very long time to the summer and those lazy hazy days drinking Pimms (other drinks are available). So as in previous years one of the first emails which arrives, comes courtesy of the adjutant, this year on the 6th January giving serving personnel the opportunity to apply to attend the Queen’s Garden party.

Being in my 40th year of service as either a Regular Soldier, TA Soldier or as an NRPS (SQMS) I figured that this year it must be my turn.

So, as I have done for many years now, I filled in my application and applied for myself and my good lady to attend one of the dates available. Then as in previous years forgotten about…. until…

Lets fast-forward to the 23rd of April, and many celebrations in the Standley house as it is our 26th Wedding Anniversary. I departed for work with the words ‘ thought you could at least have had the day off to be with me, I have taken time off’ (whoops!) Then I receive a call mid-morning asking what I have done wrong as there appears to be a letter from the Palace. I think I may know what it is, and sure enough we had been fortunate enough to receive an invite to this year’s Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

My thoughts immediately turned to ‘jeez how much is this going to cost’?

Dress…Check
Shoes …Check
Hat…Check
Small handbag…Check
Really good deal on the Train….Check
NO Forget that………first class on the train….Check
Top-up Oyster card…..yup forget that taxi only, if you like.
Premier Inn…you get the idea.

So off we set to attend on the 3rd June on a lovely sunny day. We arrive in London in good time to check into our hotel, get dressed into our outfits for the day; with the wife looking pretty good in a spotty number with various matching items. And, if I say so myself, I looked pretty cool too.

We left in good time to arrive at the palace for about 3.15pm and on arrival we joined the queue with other attendees. We spent about 15 minutes in the queue, then we were into the main gate after the first security check had taken place. You get to walk under ‘THE BALCONY’ and through the courtyard and the inner quadrangle and finally through the rear part of the Palace for the final security check and on into the garden.

The garden is laid out with 2 long marquees and 2 military band areas and the Royal tea tent (for invited guests only) along with numerous tables and chairs dotted around the grassed area. It is a very, very big garden. At approximately 3.55pm the Royal party arrived headed by the Queen with various family members including The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Edward and Sophie and also many of the younger members.

Our view across the lawn to the rear of Buckingham Palace

Our view across the lawn to the rear of Buckingham Palace

Smallest plate in the world

The event then starts with the National Anthem. This year it was followed by what can only be described as a downpour of biblical proportions, which then changes all the plans for the day so instead of 4 different Royal groups mingling about, the Royal family are ushered to the Royal tea tent with attendants producing brollies, as if by magic! With all the other guests all trying to squeeze into a marquee that is probably large enough for about a third of the invited guests. It was at this time we realised that the expensive matching brolly was indeed not that much use – it was still in the hotel room!

Still with military guile and not a small amount skill we managed to find our way to the front of the cake and sandwich queue where we selected from such as an ice coffee or tea, sandwiches cut into soldiers with no crusts, made of various fillings including Cucumber and Mint, Egg Mayo, Smoked Salmon, Gammon Ham to name but a few and many various other nibbles along with a selection of very small but exceedingly tasty cakes which included Dundee cake, Victoria sponge, Strawberry tart all served on the smallest plate in the world, I kid you not. But all very pleasant nevertheless.

Then as suddenly as the rain started out came the sun, so time to leave the marquee and explore the gardens. Many people were taking photos and no one seemed overly concerned (but none of inside the house). The gardens and the lake at Buckingham Palace are huge and it took around an hour to walk round soaking up the atmosphere of the day and to be fair, mainly people watching and having the occasional laugh at the ladies sinking their heels in the grass. The afternoon finishes off once again with the National Anthem and as the Royal Party retires, the guests then start to leave. It is quite amusing how the guests become a tourist attraction themselves as on the way in and out there are many people photographing us.

Afternoon tea

The history bit now, the Queens Garden Party albeit originally a breakfast party, primarily for debutants and the likes started in the 1860s by Queen Victoria and took place twice a year but by the mid 1950s there were now 3 a year and took the form of an afternoon tea party between the hours of 4 till 6 pm and along with the Royals there also present are the Yeoman of the Guard, Gentleman at Arms and Gentleman Ushers. At the garden party, you will see and meet many members of the public and service personnel from around the Commonwealth, there is also numerous attendees from across all religious divides, classes and race. With people attending in National costume, or Service personnel in uniform (albeit not required), lounge suits or morning suits. With the ladies in a variety of outfits and hats (dress as if you were attending a wedding being the best advice).

It is an event to be part of and savoured. Both my wife and I feel privileged to have received an invite and to be able to attend an event that is part of British history.

The Royal Stamp on the Envelope.

The Royal Stamp on the Envelope.

 

About 159 Regiment RLC

159 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) is an Army Reserve Supply Regiment, which is responsible for more than a million items of equipment, spares and stores of the Army. Its soldiers work alongside Regular troops from 102 Logistic Brigade; 6 Regiment RLC and 7 Regiment RLC.

Members of the 159 Regt RLC run a regular blog http://159er.blogspot.co.uk and are sharing their story with us.

Setting sail with adventurous training

Setting sail with adventurous training

Adventurous training teaches powerboat sailing and navigation

By Corporal Dawn Gibbs

A party of 12 soldiers from different squadrons of 159 Regiment RLC arrived at Kiel Yachting Club early in the afternoon of Friday 16th May. It was a beautiful place with views from the harbour looking across the Baltic ocean to the coastline of the rugged landscape of the northern fjords in Germany.

Once all the logistics of accommodation had been organised we were introduced to the instructors and split into two groups, one for sailing the other for powerboating. After collecting our prospective wet weather gear for the following four days, the rest of the day was ours and we took the time to explore the local town and surrounding harbour area.

Saturday morning began at 5am with beautiful clear skies but by breakfast fog had come in from the ocean reducing visibility to about 500 metres. However by 10am, beautiful blue skies again, a sharp warning of how quickly the weather could change in this area.

The day began with a lesson in the classroom regarding safety and the aims of the course. We then all piled out to our various boats. Myself, WO2 Williams (243 Coventry Squadron) and Sgt Johnson (123 Telford Squadron) made up a three man crew for our powerboat with instructor Nigel.

We spent the morning learning basic navigation in the harbour. At a speed of 2 knots we learnt how to steer, moor and leave a jetty and how to keep a boat motionless. After lunch we left the harbour area and Nigel demonstrated controlled faster moves, at 7 knots, which we all had a go at. Below is Sgt Johnson practising steering with Nigel and WO2 Williams looking on.

Sgt Johnson practising steering .

Sgt Johnson practising steering.

Sunday morning was spent consolidating low speed manoeuvres, learning how to turn the boat 180 degrees on the spot followed by some slalom navigating. We crossed the bay to Laboe for lunch and visited the German submarine. It was fascinating to see where so many men lived underwater in exceptionally cramped conditions, even the officers.

After lunch we ventured further out into the ocean where we could travel up to 20 knots and learnt high speed turning and emergency stopping. ‘Bob’ was used for man overboard drills, which came in very handy as I was thrown overboard the next day, just hours after we were awarded our personal certificates for power-boating- enough said!

Sleeping quarters for seven men and a torpedo!

Sleeping quarters for seven men and a torpedo!

Monday morning we took our test, which we all passed. To celebrate we returned to Laboe for their famous fish and chips. We spent the final hour of the afternoon speeding around the open ocean doing amazing figures of eight and just generally having fun.

Our course only lasted three days, so all six of us who were on the powerboats had a spare day on Tuesday. We were allowed to take a yacht out (with an instructor) to learn some basic yachting skills. This was a completely different experience from powerboating, a much slower but definitely more difficult skill to acquire.

Me and Sgt Johnson are raising the sails.

Me and Sgt Johnson are raising the sails.

With beautiful weather, we again crossed the bay to Laboe. We visited the War Museum and climbed the Naval War Memorial which stands a staggering 279 feet above sea level.

The whole adventurous training package was a truly remarkable and amazing experience.

For more information on sailing and other adventurous training opportunities, all paid for, visit your local Army Reserve Centre or search for Army Reserve careers.

 

About 159 Regiment RLC

159 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) is an Army Reserve Supply Regiment, which is responsible for more than a million items of equipment, spares and stores of the Army. Its soldiers work alongside Regular troops from 102 Logistic Brigade; 6 Regiment RLC and 7 Regiment RLC.

Members of the 159 Regt RLC run a regular blog http://159er.blogspot.co.uk and are sharing their story with us.

Training Afghan Medics: The Language of Healing Pt7

Lisa’s Diary 2014

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin is a REME Reserve Officer currently on a three-year Full Time Reserve Service commitment with the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit.  She has spent 15 months learning Pashto and Dari before deploying to Camp Bastion to be the 2 IC of a team of medical personnel set up to mentor Afghan medical personnel. This is her third tour of Afghanistan and her second blog, as she blogged during her last tour in 2010/2011, when she was deployed as a Female Engagement Team Commander.

 

29 Apr

left behind

As I sit in my tent typing this it feels very odd as everyone else in the tent is packed up and ready to go back home. The Med Group personnel are changing over so it is out with the old and in with the new, apart from a small number of people that will endure like me. Many of the people going have become my friends and I shall miss them, and most of the Med Dev team have changed over so there will be a period of adjustment for all of us. My new OC (Officer Commanding) is a good bloke so I think we will work together well and the new CO (Commanding Officer) of the hospital seems to be good too, and he understands the importance of what the ANSF Med Dev Team does and will support us in our endeavours.

The new team are bedding in to their roles at the moment so the atmosphere at Shorabak is very different when we go over; the guys are finding their feet and our Afghan colleagues are assessing them and seeing how they work. It takes a bit of time to develop a good relationship- and the previous team had an excellent relationship with the Afghan medics and doctors- so I am sure in time the atmosphere will be as it used to be. There is some continuity with me still being here as 2 IC (Second-in-command) and our 3 British clinicians will not change over for a few more weeks. It does feel as though I am being ‘left behind’! I will go through this again in July too as most medical personnel only do 3 months at a time out here so later in the year I shall witness another changeover.

Hi, I’m Lisa

 

I got to meet Al Murray, who was performing a show.

I got to meet Al Murray, who was performing a show.

I was lucky enough to see Al Murray perform when he came out here recently. More than that I also got to meet him in his dressing room before the show. I stumbled somewhat over introducing myself as I thought ‘Hi I’m Lisa’ was perhaps a little too informal, but ‘Hi I’m Captain Irwin’ was too formal. So, instead I looked a bit of an idiot when shaking his hand as I said ‘Hi, …….I’m………Lisa’! The show was excellent though, including the 2 support acts. I haven’t seen many shows whilst deployed, as I haven’t been in the right place at the right time, but they are always excellent for morale so well done to the artists that volunteer to come out.

7 May

There has still been little kinetic activity (fighting) out here, as the Afghans and insurgents have been focussed on harvesting the poppy, so that has meant few casualties. The harvest finished recently and there still hasn’t been much of an increase. It is a difficult one as we are glad that less people are being hurt but it also means less opportunity for the team to mentor the Afghans in difficult medical situations. There have been instances of casualties arriving at Shorabak whilst we are there and that happened again recently with one of the medics telling me ‘casualties are coming’ as the ambulance pulled up at the Emergency Department door. The casualties were 2 ANA that had been burned when a cooking pot exploded. We watched how they dealt with the casualties, who mainly had burns to the arms and face, and interjected with advice on occasion, and the casualties were dealt with promptly and efficiently. It perhaps was not how we would do things but their way worked for them and the casualties received appropriate treatment and are now recovering well.

With our time left out here rapidly reducing we need to make the most of every opportunity that we have to mentor so that we can leave the ANSF trauma care in as good a state as possible. To enable that we sought permission to mentor at night too and that permission was recently granted and was enacted tonight. An ANSF casualty came in to Bastion via helicopter and his injuries were such that the ANA doctors in Shorabak would not quite be able to manage him on their own but would be able to with some of our team mentoring them. After several phone calls made by my OC and I the casualty was transferred over to Shorabak, a small team of mentors was sent over ( with Force Protection) and I am happy to say that the case went well and the casualty is now recovering. It was the first reactive mentoring case carried out at night and the team, plus everyone else involved with ANSF Med Dev, felt it was a step forward in the mentoring process.

14 May

The past week has been a bit of a blur as I have been very busy. Not only have I been busy with the usual tasks of my job but I also volunteered to teach basic Dari to anyone interested in the Medical Group (though primarily the ANSF Med Dev team). Dari is not my best language (Pashto is much easier for me) and I am not a qualified language teacher, but the classes seem to be well received and the small things that I teach enable the team members to communicate better with their Afghan colleagues and thus help to develop their relationship.

An Afghan Warrior is treated by Afghan medics.

An Afghan Warrior is treated by Afghan medics.

We had a day last week when there was an influx of ANSF casualties presenting both to Bastion Hospital (having been evacuated by ISAF helicopter) and to Shorabak Hospital. The first I was aware of the casualties coming in was via a phone call at approximately one in the morning which necessitated me dressing quickly and heading in to work. There I met the OC and our clinicians waiting for the casualties to arrive. The next few hours passed in a blur of phone calls, discussions about treatment and where the casualties needed to be treated (ie did they need to stay in Bastion or did Shorabak have the capability to manage them) and a host of other things. Suffice to say I had 2 hours sleep that night (my OC had less!) and still worked a full day the next day. I think I was running on adrenaline!

This week my OC and I were introduced to an Afghan Major General who commands the ANA 215 Corps (the ANA we work with belong to his Corps). As usual I was wearing my headscarf, which he commented on as good because it showed my respect for their culture, and I had a conversation with him and then gave him a brief on the Shorabak hospital and its capabilities- all in Pashto. At times I was uncertain if I had the correct word but I looked to the interpreter who nodded at me to carry on and the General listened intently and thanked me for my brief. The interpreter reassured me it was good Pashto and I felt really pleased. My language ability has definitely improved during my tour- although I am far from fluent I can definitely get by.

I shall be moving to a new job next week to cover someone’s R&R and I think it will be another varied and interesting job- even if I am only doing it for 2 weeks. It involves working as an advisor with some of the Afghan Doctors who are responsible for training frontline medics, to ensure ANA casualties receive the correct care when they are first injured. It will enable me to develop a deeper understanding of the whole casualty care piece, from point of wounding to receiving treatment at Shorabak (or in some cases at the moment in Bastion) and so I am looking forward to it very much. Particularly as the doctors appear to know of me and are looking forward to working with ‘Touran Leila’, as I am known in Shorabak (Touran is Dari for Captain, Leila is my ‘Afghan’ name).

 

Pt1: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt2: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt3: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt4: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt5: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt6: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Read Lisa’s previous blogs from 2010/2011:

Lisa’s Diary 1: October-December 2010

Lisa’s Diary 2: January-March 2011

‘So, how would you like to go on tour?’

‘So, how would you like to go on tour?’

Experiences of a Mobilised Reservist Troop Commander in 1 Logistic Support Regiment

By Second Lieutenant Sam Walton (160 Transport Regt)

Reservists of 159 Supply Regiment deal with a 'casualty' during Mission Specific Training for Op HERRICK 20.

Reservists of 159 Supply Regiment deal with a ‘casualty’ during Mission Specific Training for Op HERRICK 20.

My journey began in September 2012 when I first met my CO. Having just commissioned his first question to me was, “So, how would you like to go on tour?” 18 months later I find myself finishing Mission Specific Training (MST) about to deploy to Afghanistan. My path has changed slightly, from originally commanding a Transport Troop drawn from my own Regiment, 160 Transport Regiment, to commanding a Troop of Suppliers from 159 Supply Regiment. I now command Materiel Troop of 1 Logistic Support Regiment (1LSR) who deploy as the Theatre Logistic Group for Op HERRICK 20.

The first stage of MST was the 159 Regiment Battle Camp. The Regiment has a strong history of providing supply capability, deploying a troop of 23 soldiers to Afghanistan every six months since 2011. The camp was an excellent introduction to the Regiment for me and allowed me to have an input into the selection of the lucky soldiers who were capable, robust and dedicated to deploy on operations.

Under the flags

The next step was to travel to Germany and join 1LSR. Due to the changing nature of Op HERRICK 20, the Reserves were divided across the Regiment, with only 12 under my command in the General Support (GS) Squadron. Day One set the tone for the ethos of the ‘First Regiment’, with an ‘orientation’ run around the airfield – the first of many!

The first week with GS Sqn included the Squadron Sergeant Major’s (SSM) parade ‘under the flags’. 1 LSR, and the GS Sqn particularly, contains soldiers from all over the Commonwealth and flags from each country represented are displayed on the hanger wall. I spent the majority of the week learning the ropes from the Technical Warrant Officer and practiced issues and receipts whilst asking lots of questions. Gaining an idea of what each department did, enabled me to ask the right questions during the hand-over with the outgoing Troop Commander. I felt fully prepared for the Field Training Exercise (FTX).

About to deploy

Reservists LCpl Jones and LCpl Molloy on Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRX).

Reservists LCpl Jones and LCpl Molloy on Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRX).

The FTX was held at the Supply Training Facility (Germany) (STF(G)), a facility designed to test suppliers on the technical aspects of their trade. The Reservists had quickly gelled with the Regulars and there was little to tell them apart as soldiers and the previous training gaps were quickly identified and remedied; both through hard work from the Reservists and from excellent teamwork and tutoring from the Regulars.

The FTX stretched everyone with a high volume of supply activity to be completed – mirroring the current operational tempo in Afghanistan. The FTX wasn’t just about trade skills though and there were plenty of ‘kinetic’ serials throughout to keep everyone on their toes.

The next few weeks flew by, with leave and courses before the Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRX). So here I am now at STF(G), on the final step and looking forward to the hot summer ahead. With many of my NCOs already or about to deploy, the remainder have had an opportunity to step-up and work in other roles, pushing themselves professionally than many had thought likely.

As a Troop Commander my main priority is ensuring that my troops are ready to deploy in the best possible manner. The mobilisation process, from selection to MRX, has been challenging and rewarding. The pre-selection work ensured we arrived at 1 LSR with the right people to do the job and represent the Reserve Army on operations. The work done since has honed our skills, including mine, and been a positive experience which will see all of the Reservists deploy in as good a state as possible.

 

About 159 Regiment RLC

159 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) is an Army Reserve Supply Regiment, which is responsible for more than a million items of equipment, spares and stores of the Army. Its soldiers work alongside Regular troops from 102 Logistic Brigade; 6 Regiment RLC and 7 Regiment RLC.

Members of the 159 Regt RLC run a regular blog http://159er.blogspot.co.uk and are sharing their story with us.

Training Afghan Medics: The Language of Healing Pt6

Lisa’s Diary 2014

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin is a REME Reserve Officer currently on a three-year Full Time Reserve Service commitment with the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit.  She has spent 15 months learning Pashto and Dari before deploying to Camp Bastion to be the 2 IC of a team of medical personnel set up to mentor Afghan medical personnel. This is her third tour of Afghanistan and her second blog, as she blogged during her last tour in 2010/2011, when she was deployed as a Female Engagement Team Commander.

 

13 Apr

Hard to say goodbye

Today was a momentous day for me, my eldest son turned 21! Being in the military can be really hard at times as you want to be able to share special occasions with family and friends and the separation can be tough. However, the wider military family are very supportive of each other and we all know how difficult it can be so there is a lot of understanding and support. We are actually quite lucky now as the military has become pretty good at welfare provision. We have internet and telephone access, and even when I was working at small remote check points on my last tour I was able to make calls via a satellite phone and not feel completely cut off from home.

There has been a definite reduction in insurgent activity over the last few weeks, despite the Afghans holding their elections. The Afghan Government increased operations conducted by their security forces and it seemed to work, with relatively few casualties coming in. However a few days ago one of our interpreters phoned to say they were expecting a number of casualties injured by an IED.

Initially it was difficult to get a clear picture of what had happened and when the casualties were expected but after a couple of minutes of speaking to my interpreter he handed the phone over so I could speak to the ANA Colonel in charge of the incident myself. Well, my Pashto isn’t bad but trying to conduct a conversation over the phone, without the cues of body language and gestures, is quite difficult! However, to my relief (and, I think, the Colonel’s) I understood what he was telling me and realised that the casualties were several miles away, coming by road. I relayed the message to the Bastion hospital command team and asked the interpreter to call me when the casualties arrived.

Several hours later in the early hours of the morning, he rang back to tell me the casualties had made it to Shorabak and there were two that the ANA doctors were concerned about. I quickly got dressed and hot-footed it to the hospital (thankfully only a few minutes from my accommodation) and informed the night staff that the ANA were requesting to transfer two casualties to us for examination. A couple of phone calls later we had the go-ahead to receive them. One was not too sick and was returned to Shorabak after being examined but the other had multiple injuries and needed an urgent operation. Thanks to the expertise of our medical staff, and to all those involved in moving the casualty to Bastion, he is now recovering.

17 Apr

The lull in kinetic activity has continued so we have seen few casualties either at Bastion hospital or at Shorabak. Those that have presented to Shorabak have been managed competently by the Afghan clinicians and medics and moved as soon as possible to Kabul to receive further treatment if required, or to recuperate. In terms of mentoring, the best teaching opportunity is when a case comes in that is suitable for reactive mentoring but that also enables us to conduct other teaching sessions with the clinicians and medics simultaneously, though it can sometimes be difficult to hold their interest!

We are now coming up to the handover/changeover of the Bastion hospital personnel, which also means most of the personnel in the mentoring team. It will be hard to say goodbye to people that have become my friends but I know they are all hugely looking forward to going home. I shall be the continuity (although the new doctors have been here for almost a month already) so it will be very important for me to keep communication flowing in the team and for me to look out for them. They will be working in a strange environment and most of them will never have worked with ANA before, so they are facing quite a challenge. However, I am sure that they are looking forward to it as much as I was, and I will be able to reassure them that it is an interesting and challenging, if at times a little frustrating, role.

Pt1: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt2: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt3: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt4: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt5: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Read Lisa’s previous blogs from 2010/2011:

Lisa’s Diary 1: October-December 2010

Lisa’s Diary 2: January-March 2011

Training Afghan Medics: The Language of Healing Pt5

Training Afghan Medics: The Language of Healing Pt5

Lisa’s Diary 2014

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin is a REME Reserve Officer currently on a three-year Full Time Reserve Service commitment with the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit.  She has spent 15 months learning Pashto and Dari before deploying to Camp Bastion to be the 2 IC of a team of medical personnel set up to mentor Afghan medical personnel. This is her third tour of Afghanistan and her second blog, as she blogged during her last tour in 2010/2011, when she was deployed as a Female Engagement Team Commander.

 

31 Mar

Rest and recuperation

I have been lucky enough to have been able to go home for almost two weeks’ rest and recuperation this month so I haven’t been over to Shorabak as much as usual over the last few weeks. It was lovely to go home though and see my fiancé and children. I also managed to go up to Scotland to see my parents and siblings, but driving to visit everyone did mean that I was almost glad to come back to Afghanistan for a rest!

My fiancé and I managed to go and see our wedding venue in Scotland and it is lovely so we are both really happy and looking forward to the big day. I also managed to fit in a shopping day with my daughter and bought her bridesmaid’s dress. She looks absolutely beautiful in it and without doubt will overshadow the bride, but as the bride is me, and I am a very proud mum, I do not mind at all!

Happy New Year!

Whilst I was away there weren’t many casualties so things quietened down a lot for the team, and in particular for my Commanding Officer and the Sergeant Major who was covering for me. The team continued to go over to Shorabak on routine visits to carry on with mentoring tasks but there were fewer reactive mentoring cases. My R&R also coincided with a few changes on the team and we now have a completely different set of clinicians. The General Surgeon, Orthopaedic Surgeon and Anaesthetist changed over as doctors do shorter deployments than the other team members, so there were some new faces when I returned. They weren’t completely new to me though as I had met them when training prior to coming on tour.

Customary Afghan food to celebrate the New Year.

Customary Afghan food to celebrate the New Year.

When I was on R&R Afghanistan celebrated its New Year (their New Year is usually around 21 March) so before I went on leave I made sure that the team were aware of the relevant cultural practices and had plans to take some food to Shorabak to share the New Year celebrations with our Afghan colleagues – and importantly that they also knew how to say ‘Happy New Year!’ in Pashto. The Afghans had a two-day holiday to celebrate the occasion so the team didn’t go over on the actual day but celebrated with them when they returned to work afterwards.

A cake decorated with the Afghan flag and the words 'Happy New Year'.

A cake decorated with the Afghan flag and the words ‘Happy New Year’.

When the team arrived at the medical centre they were taken to the ANA Colonel’s office and as is customary the food was set out on a cloth on the floor. The team sat cross-legged on the floor (not always easy for Westerners!) and ate the food with their hands, which is traditional Afghan custom. I was told by the team that the food was delicious, which I was not surprised about as I shared meals with Afghan families several times during my last tour.

The ANA hospital personnel were also very appreciative of the cake that the team had commissioned for them (pictured). It is always good to share these experiences with our Afghan colleagues as it shows an understanding and appreciation of their culture which is something we must always remember.

Observation sangar collapsed

Although casualties have been fewer of late I have still been called in on occasion when an ANSF casualty is en route to Bastion to arrange for transfer of the casualty to Shorabak where possible. Dependent on the extent of the casualty’s injuries the mentoring team will often go across to assist the ANA clinicians. Sometimes we get calls from the hospital in Shorabak asking us to review patients that they are concerned about, which involves bringing them over by an escorted ANA ambulance. One such casualty came in to the hospital a couple of days ago; he and several of his colleagues had been injured when an observation sangar collapsed. The ANA medics had noticed that this patient’s condition in particular seemed to be deteriorating and asked for the help from the Role 3 hospital at Bastion. On arrival he was assessed as having suffered a crush injury to his chest which had probably caused air and/or blood to escape in to the chest cavity, which was making breathing difficult. Further tests revealed the initial diagnosis to be correct so the team in ED prepared to insert a chest drain to rectify the problem.

The ANA medic who had brought him over asked if he could watch the procedure as it would be a good learning experience for him – with the added bonus that he spoke some English and could act as an interpreter. I stayed too and translated from English to Pashto to the medic, who was then able to translate my Pashto into Dari for the patient (my Dari is pretty basic). It was a slightly unusual set up but it worked! It certainly tested my language capability as I had to explain every step of the procedure; not only so the patient knew what was happening but also so the medic understood what was happening. I think my brain was fried afterwards!

Pt1: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt2: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt3: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt4: Lisa’s Diary 2014 

Read Lisa’s previous blogs from 2010/2011:

Lisa’s Diary 1: October-December 2010

Lisa’s Diary 2: January-March 2011

A Reservist Adventurous Training Weekend

A Reservist Adventurous Training Weekend

By Lance Corporal Hoskins (243 Sqn, 159 Regt RLC)

On the weekend of 7- 9 March, 243 (Coventry) HQ Sqn set off on an adventure to the Island of Anglesey. A convoy of three vehicles packed with passengers and adventure training equipment made their way to the Joint Service Mountain Training Centre to begin a weekend packed of excitement, adrenaline fuelled and challenging fun, all for a cost of just £15.00. As each vehicle ‘de-bussed’ the troops were met by SSgt Khan (the Regular Permanent Staff Instructor) who gave each individual the good news that there was free Wi- Fi in the rooms – luxury in Army terms! After receiving the arrival brief, with beds made and kit packed away, we got some sleep before the weekend began on Saturday.

65 feet up in the trees!

65 feet up in the trees!

A sunny Saturday morning greeted us as we rose from our beds with rolling hills and sheep grazing, which is presumably the same as what they had done the day before, and the day before that and the day before that. After a bit of breakfast and plenty of flask filling we made our way to the Nuffield Training Centre in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll- llantysiliogogogochuchaf on the banks of the Menai Straits on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. No, I did not type loads of words, this is the name of the local area. I dare you to try to pronounce it. For those interested it means ‘St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave’.

‘knees wobble and lips wibble’

We were split into two groups and were each given an instructor who took us through a series of stands which included low wire activities, high wire activities, zip wiring and a trapeze jump. The low wire was quite exciting, it really tested your balance and co-ordination skills but as we progressed on to the high wire at a soaring 65 feet it definitely was enough to make the knees wobble and lips wibble! On each of the wires we had to make a steady climb up the side of a tree as it swayed from side to side in the wind and then believe that we could let go and walk across a plank whilst being supported only by a wire that was being held down by your mate on the ground. We were tasked with completing a full 360 degree turn and then a star jump before stepping off the platform to be lowered to the ground, some of us faster than others.

Into the arms of safety.

Into the arms of safety.

George in the Jungle

Next we moved on to the zip wire. We were to clip ourselves to the rope and then stand at the edge before our instructor kindly pushed us off. The only way we were going to stop was to either have our mates at the other end of the wire hold a wooden wedge down using a rope, or crash into the fast-approaching tree. The method worked well with the wooden wedge until Cpl Wright jumped off unexpectedly. Those of us who were supposed to stop him just carried on watching as he flew towards us. Luckily, LCpl Scrimshaw and I picked up the supporting rope just in time or he’d have carried out a really good impression of George in the Jungle.

Moving on through the activities we got to the Trapeze Jump. As with the other activities we had to steadily climb up the side of a tree until we reached the top where a horizontal bar presented itself to us. At 65 feet in the air with a tree swishing from side to side it takes a lot of nerve to have trust in yourself and your mate, who is stopping you from falling to the ground, beneath you, to jump reaching out for the bar…  And missing! All of a sudden you feel like you are falling to certain death, the adrenaline rushes up to your head, heart beating faster and then you realize you’re not going anywhere, at which point your legs turn to jelly. For SSgt Coley (237 Squadron) this was particularly challenging. It took what seemed like an eternity for him to jump, but up there, I bet it felt like a lifetime for him. After some strong words of encouragement he made the leap of faith and flew to the bottom. A big well done to you.

Gathering our thoughts.

Gathering our thoughts.

After this, we needed a break so we walked over the grass back to the training centre; something that none of us felt entirely comfy with as it goes against everything you’ve been disciplined in. Our last activity for Saturday was a race between the two teams to build a raft and work our way through a course designed by our instructors. After a tie between both teams and an allegation of cheating there was a forfeit. The first team with all members to jump into the lagoon won. As soon as were informed of this, with a few exceptions, all of us ran and got wet as our rafts naturally never sank. Getting wet however was not great when you didn’t have spare change of clothes… Ahem. At this point I should also point out that both instructors were incredibly knowledgeable and it was a pleasure to be with them both. Saturday concluded with a night out where all of us got together and made friends with the locals.

‘Those who have’ and ‘those who haven’t’

Sunday was the end to a great weekend. The sun was shining again as we packed up our lives back into our bags and made our way to the Indoor Rock Climbing School, Indy. It’s Anglesey’s best rock climbing centre which is just outside of camp. It has beginner walls right through to the more advanced walls for real life spidermen. We spent two hours here and split into two groups ‘those that have’ and ‘those that haven’t’ which soon transpired into ‘those that can’ and ‘those that can’t’. By the end of the two hours I think it was fair to say that we all ended up into the category of ‘those that can’.

The whole weekend was a steal, at £15 per person for travel, accommodation, food and equipment hire you can’t complain and it was good to see the squadron do things together as friends, things that are fun and things that we will talk about for a while. Of course the added bonus was that those that attended we getting paid to do these things too, something that others can only dream about. I’d certainly recommend Adventure Training to anyone. It’s something all the squadron should do together, after all, it’s not all work and no play is it? On behalf of all the Soldiers that attended, I’d also like to thank SSgt Khan for working extremely hard in organising this whole weekend. As a witness to endless work on the way down I can say that his phone did not stop ringing. Well done to all those that attended too, I think we smashed it and I believe the next AT weekend will be just as good, if not better.

 

About 159 Regiment RLC

159 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) is an Army Reserve Supply Regiment, which is responsible for more than a million items of equipment, spares and stores of the Army. Its soldiers work alongside Regular troops from 102 Logistic Brigade; 6 Regiment RLC and 7 Regiment RLC.

Members of the 159 Regt RLC run a regular blog http://159er.blogspot.co.uk and are sharing their story with us.

 

Training Afghan Medics: The Language of Healing Pt4

Lisa’s Diary 2014

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin is a REME Reserve Officer currently on a three-year Full Time Reserve Service commitment with the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit.  She has spent 15 months learning Pashto and Dhari before deploying to Camp Bastion to be the 2 IC of a team of medical personnel set up to mentor Afghan medical personnel. This is her third tour of Afghanistan and her second blog, as she blogged during her last tour in 2010/2011, when she was deployed as a Female Engagement Team Commander.

 

7 Mar

The past week has been a challenging one for the ANSF Med Dev Team and a tiring one for me.  We have been busy with routine visits to Shorabak when possible but also busy doing some reactive mentoring.  The Shorabak hospital has been relatively quiet so the guys in the team carried out teaching on things such as airway management rather than direct patient care and encouraged the Afghan medics to carry out necessary reorganisation of equipment.

Whilst the guys were teaching my role was a little interpreting, chatting to everyone to maintain relationships and assisting in teaching.  I had a book of Afghan poetry which was written in Pashto, and I showed it to some of the patients as I know that poetry is an important part of Afghan culture.  They were surprised that I had such a book and even more surprised that I could to read it. I read some poems to patients who were unable to read (in the past many Afghans were unable to attend school) and they really appreciated it. It was such a simple thing but elicited a warm response from everyone in the hospital, patients and staff alike.

VIP visit

Ed Milliband visited the hospital at Camp Bastion.

Ed Milliband (left) visited the hospital at Camp Bastion.

We had a VIP visitor to our team in March.  Ed Milliband was visiting Bastion and as he was coming to the hospital he visited our team due to our mission being considered important.   He seemed a personable man and listened intently as my OC, Fletch, explained exactly what we do and introduced the rest of the team.  He seemed interested in our role but I am sure that is a skill that all politicians quickly develop!

Preparing for surgery

As the week progressed the ANA were due to start a large military operation and therefore we started to prepare for a potential increase in casualties.  As the casualties started to come in I was frequently called in to the hospital to be there as the casualties were brought in by helicopter.  Once the casualties arrived I waited for the doctors to decide if the casualties could be treated at Shorabak, or remain in Bastion, for those who could be transferred I co-ordinated the transfer of the casualties to Shorabak.  Some of them were suitable to be transferred without the team going over to mentor and others required mentoring.  Our aim is to take over cases that are slightly complex and useful for us to mentor in order to increase the Afghan doctors’ knowledge and confidence, but not so complicated that they may be overwhelmed or not yet have the capabilities needed.

The current set-up is a bit like a field hospital, and the new hospital being built will not be ready before July, so it would not be fair to the doctors or the patients to send over cases that are currently too complex.   One of the first suitable casualties required abdominal surgery, and the operation was more complex than had been done at Shorabak before.  However, the patient was assessed to be stable and suitable for transfer.  We decided to take over only the team members that were needed, rather than the whole team, and gained permission to stay over slightly later than normal (our working hours in Shorabak can be restricted depending on the security situation).  So the smaller team, with our Force Protection, headed over.

When we arrived at the hospital the casualty was already in the operating theatre being prepared for surgery so the surgical team scrubbed up and went in to mentor the ANA doctors carrying out the operation.  Meanwhile one of our nurses and I went in to the ward to see how many patients there were and make sure everything was up to date. I chatted to the medics and patients that were there, including two patients who remembered me talking to them in the Emergency Department in Bastion hospital – I suppose a blonde, white woman speaking to them in Pashto probably makes me quite easy to remember!

As the operation progressed I was frequently checking on progress to see if we were going to be OK for time.  I also reminded the Afghan medics that they needed to prepare a bed space for the patient to return to when he came out of theatre, with oxygen, monitoring equipment and other such things that a complicated post-op patient would need.  Once the surgery was complete, the patient was taken to his post operative bed for overnight monitoring and care, and we were able to return to Bastion – the team satisfied with a job well done.  The drive back to Bastion was slightly surreal as I had never driven through Camp Shorabak in the dark before but other than feeling slightly more vulnerable we didn’t encounter any problems.

8 Mar 2014

Talking to the patients on one of the ANA hospital wards at Camp Shorabak.

Talking to a patient on one of the ANA hospital wards at Camp Shorabak.

The next day was almost a repeat of the previous day, with several more casualties coming through, some of whom remained in Bastion hospital and some of whom were transferred to Shorabak.  Of the ones transferred to Shorabak another required abdominal surgery so again the team was stood up to go over and mentor the case.  This time the as the surgery was ongoing there was another casualty with a gunshot wound to deal with, so three of us cleaned, irrigated and dressed his wound.  We then moved him to the ward but no sooner had we done that than word came through on the radio that the Afghans were bringing in 3 seriously ill casualties evacuated by their own helicopter.

Immediately I started chivvying the Afghan medics to make sure the Emergency Department was set up to receive them as the medics haven’t yet fully grasped the concept of preparation and tend to be more reactionary.  At the same time I had to keep an eye on how the surgery was progressing as I was aware that we had a limited time in Shorabak.  Eventually it became clear that the operation wasn’t progressing as planned and that we needed to take the casualty back to the hospital in Bastion, and at this stage there was no sign of the Afghan casualties.  So after numerous phone calls and radio messages we loaded the casualty into an ambulance and we all returned to Bastion.

Casevac’d for needing to pee!

The next morning as I sat at breakfast reflecting on the past 2 long days my phone rang again as more ANSF casualties were en route.  No relaxing breakfast for me then as I headed in to work.  There had been an IED incident that resulted in a number of casualties and some were on their way to Bastion.  On arrival the most seriously injured were immediately taken in to the Role 3 Hospital Emergency Department for assessment and treatment but one casualty appeared to have only minor injuries so he remained in the ambulance while he was assessed, as it appeared likely that he could be transferred straight to Shorabak.  However, although the assessing doctor couldn’t find any obvious injuries the casualty was still grimacing in pain.  Unfortunately due to the number of casualties all the interpreters were busy with other injured Afghans and so I climbed into the ambulance to speak to him to see if I could find out where he was in pain.  Quite quickly I discovered the source of his extreme discomfort….he had an extremely full bladder and was desperate for the toilet! Once he had been able to pass urine he was absolutely fine (apart from a slightly sore back).  Possibly the first time someone has been casevac’d for needing to pee!

After yet another full and busy day I eventually crawled in to bed, exhausted.   I suppose this is how my life is going to be for the next few months, with me taking advantage of any breaks I can get but acutely aware that I can be called in at any time.  I wouldn’t have it any other way though as I enjoy the challenge and variety that the role can bring and I really enjoy being able to interact with the Afghan personnel and hopefully positively influence them.  It may be small steps but I really do feel that my job, and more importantly the work of all of the ANSF Med Dev Team, is making a positive difference.

Pt1: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt2: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt3: Lisa’s Diary 2014

 

Read Lisa’s previous blogs from 2010/2011:

Lisa’s Diary 1: October-December 2010

Lisa’s Diary 2: January-March 2011

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  February 2014
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Pirbright
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Weekend 6

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Rise and shine

Weekend 6 began in the same vein as the previous 5, with a very early start on Saturday morning. Once the shock of waking up had passed, it was time for the day’s lessons. We were all quite apprehensive throughout the weekend as we knew that it was the final TAB on Sunday. The TAB is the course output standard and if failed to finish in the given time we would have to go back to weekend 4 and try all over again! That was not a prospect any of us particularly relished. Saturday’s lessons were a mixture including values and standards, health and hygiene and an introduction to CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear). Saturday evening ended at about 19:00 with a session of circuits in the gymnasium. I made the mistake of eating too much at dinner and spent the whole session tasting blackcurrant cheesecake mixed with savoury rice! Another mistake I will never make again.

Warming up nicely in my CBRN kit.

Warming up nicely in my CBRN kit.

Sunday was a similar day to Saturday and there was a fair bit of hanging around waiting for lessons. We were in the classroom for a few early lectures and then we were off for our first shoot. The indoor range consisted of laser equipped SA80 rifles. They are tethered to a sophisticated machine that records exactly where your shots fall on the screen to your front. They are also CO2 operated so you get a good sense of the recoil that would be experienced when you get to fire the actual rifles.

This was the first time that most of our course had ever shot a rifle and I was impressed to see how quickly everyone mastered the marksmanship principles that we had been taught. The idea is to create as small a spread of shots as possible on the target. Clearly, being able to shoot proficiently is an important skill for any soldier. I don’t think anyone on our course will have too many problems in this area!

Good luck

The finale of our six weekends was quickly upon us and we were all lined up ready for our three-mile TAB which had to be completed in 45 minutes to pass the test. We set off at the required pace and soon we were getting into the 15-minute-mile rhythm. Things began to get a little unpleasant when we turned off the nice tarmac road and headed for a muddy track around the perimeter of the base. The track is very hilly and had now had large puddles full of foul-smelling stagnant water! However, we all pressed onwards and soon we were heading for the finish line outside the gym. Then it was done. We all passed the TAB and with a little bit of course administration to complete, our six weekends came to an end. It felt nice to stand on parade knowing that we had completed the first phase of our Army Reserve careers.

Fall out!

Fall out!

So now we can all look forward to TSC Bravo. I know it will be much harder and more demanding than TSC Alpha. However, we have had a tremendous grounding and we have had first class training. You hear many people say that the British Army is the finest Army in the world. Well, I can honestly say that if we continue to receive the standard of instruction that we have had so far, then I won’t disagree with that statement. I feel proud to have come through this phase of training and I feel fortunate to have had such capable and helpful instructors. My thanks to you all for helping a middle-aged man through some demanding days!

As I look back I have to be honest and say that some of it was physically demanding. Some of it was mentally demanding but all of it has been thoroughly enjoyable. I am sure that each one of us has now found that we have different areas of strength as well as areas that require more work. I have learnt a lot about myself over the last few months and hopefully I can improve on my weaker areas in time for TSC Bravo.
It is time for me to sign off. I hope that you have enjoyed my blog and I really hope that any of you who are thinking of joining the Army Reserve will now have a better understanding of this phase of training? All I can say is that if I can do it then so can you! Good luck.

The Team together at the finish.

The team together at the finish.

I hope that it is all okay? Thank you for the opportunity to write this blog over the last few months. I have enjoyed it very much. Also, a big thank you to all the staff at ATU South. It has been a very rewarding time for us all and we all feel confident that we are ready for TSC Bravo.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here