A soldier’s life in Helmand’s Green Zone

In his lat­est blog, Pri­vate Gra­ham ‘T’ Thurston, a British sol­dier from 1st Bat­tal­ion The Princess of Wales’s Roy­al Reg­i­ment (1 PWRR), cur­rent­ly deployed to Afghanistan, gives an account of life in a check­point on the front line in Hel­mand province.

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Mem­bers of 1st Bat­tal­ion The Princess of Wales’s Roy­al Reg­i­ment con­duct a joint patrol with mem­bers of the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces in Hel­mand province, south­ern Afghanistan [Pic­ture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Jek­er is a rel­a­tive­ly new check­point and packed with the lat­est tech­nol­o­gy to help the patrols get on the ground with as much intel­li­gence and knowl­edge as pos­si­ble. We also have BFBS [British Forces Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice] TV and two inter­net com­put­ers and this gives us a good change to relax in the wel­fare tent that dou­bles up as a cook­house.

The oth­er two B Com­pa­ny check­points aren’t as lucky but they get up about once a week and check their mail and chill out. With solar show­ers and toi­lets with a door (poo in a bag vari­ety) this check­point is classed as a lux­u­ry here in the Green Zone.

We are sur­round­ed here by farms with deep irri­ga­tion ditch­es. These range from ones you can step over to ones that come up over chest height and you have to wade through. The banks are often very steep and it’s impos­si­ble to get out with­out being dragged out by your mates on your stom­ach because it’s so slip­pery and mud­dy.

The locals are very hap­py that we are in the area and help us out by walk­ing over the bridges to prove they have not got IEDs [impro­vised explo­sive devices] or putting down logs for us to make a cross­ing. This may be just to stop us walk­ing in their crops but it strength­ens our rela­tion­ship with the locals and helps us with our patrols and shows who we can trust in the pop­u­la­tion.

As a mixed pla­toon, half from 2 RIFLES [2nd Bat­tal­ion The Rifles] and half from 1 PWRR, the way we do things is the same as if we were all from the same unit.

“The locals are very hap­py that we are in the area and help us out by walk­ing over the bridges to prove they have not got IEDs or putting down logs for us to make a cross­ing.”
Pri­vate Gra­ham ‘T’ Thurston

We split patrolling and guards and duties so that when you come in off patrol you can do admin and make sure your kit is 100 per cent in work­ing order. This is impor­tant for your body as well or it will start to go down and fatigue will set in and that leads to a hard­er time for all.

It has been quite qui­et here and the locals are still busy with the har­vest. But we must nev­er let com­pla­cen­cy set in. That said, on a recent foot patrol to a local vil­lage and after a shu­ra (meet­ing with vil­lage elders) we head­ed north and, in a vil­lage in the south, 5 Pla­toon were mov­ing away when they were fired upon.

The con­tact was short but there was a lot of fire­pow­er used. We moved to sup­port but 5 Pla­toon with­drew back to their check­point [CP].

Back in CP Jek­er we checked our­selves over and no-one was hurt in the fire fight, but the insur­gents had slipped away.

Dropped in by heli­copter

With the win­ter clos­ing in fast, it appears that the main fight­ing sea­son is com­ing to an end. Patrolling is becom­ing eas­i­er; how­ev­er select­ing total­ly new routes to patrol is becom­ing more dif­fi­cult as time goes on.

A recent oper­a­tion into a small vil­lage south of the Riv­er Hel­mand saw us patrolling into an area not pre­vi­ous­ly vis­it­ed by ISAF. We had heard that the vil­lage was being used by insur­gents as a bed-down loca­tion and as an area to store weapons and IEDs.

We were dropped into the vil­lage by heli­copter which allowed us to move in quick­ly. We entered the vil­lage with three ISAF mul­ti­ples and three ANA [Afghan Nation­al Army] mul­ti­ples along with the Offi­cer Commanding’s group, with me being in Sergeant Janes’ mul­ti­ple.

There were a lot of sol­diers on the ground which allowed us to quick­ly secure the out­er com­pounds. With the ANA search­ing, we moved through the main group of com­pounds very quick­ly.

Once the ANA had com­plet­ed their task, Sergeant Janes moved us to a bridge cross­ing; how­ev­er as soon as we moved we thought we saw an insur­gent scout run­ning away. The ANA went in pur­suit and soon caught the run­ner who was found to have IED com­po­nents in his pos­ses­sion.

After talk­ing to a local elder about the detainee, it was decid­ed to send the man to Camp Bas­tion for fur­ther ques­tion­ing. With all the mov­ing parts work­ing well, a lot of intel­li­gence gained and one less insur­gent to wor­ry about, this oper­a­tion was seen as a suc­cess.

As the tour has gone on, Cor­po­ral Wat­son, an attach­ment from 5 RIFLES [5th Bat­tal­ion The Rifles], has become very good at using the HIIDE [Hand­held Inter­a­gency Iden­ti­ty Detec­tion Equip­ment] bio­met­ric enrol­ment cam­era. As such we are using this kit to good effect on most patrols. In gen­er­al the locals are hap­py to give up a few min­utes of their time to be enrolled onto the sys­tem in order to help keep their com­mu­ni­ty safe.

Pri­vate Gra­ham ‘T’ Thurston serves with 5 Pla­toon, B Com­pa­ny, 1st Bat­tal­ion The Princess of Wales’s Roy­al Reg­i­ment — known as the ‘Tigers’ — in the Nahr-e Saraj dis­trict of Hel­mand province as part of the 5 RIFLES Bat­tle Group. For more blogs see the offi­cial British Army blog site at Relat­ed Links.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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