Afghanistan — Cavalry soldiers protect engineers building new Helmand road

Cav­al­ry sol­diers from The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards have been pro­tect­ing British engi­neers and Afghan con­trac­tors as, over recent weeks, they have come under dai­ly attacks while build­ing a new road in Hel­mand.

A Royal Dragoon Guards Viking all-terrain vehicle and a soldier from the 1st Battalion Scots Guards move in to assist colleagues who have come under contact during the construction of Route Trident
A Roy­al Dra­goon Guards Viking all-ter­rain vehi­cle and a sol­dier from the 1st Bat­tal­ion Scots Guards move in to assist col­leagues who have come under con­tact dur­ing the con­struc­tion of Route Tri­dent
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Once com­plet­ed, Route Tri­dent in south­ern Nahr-e Saraj will link the Hel­mand provin­cial cap­i­tal Lashkar Gah with the eco­nom­ic hub of Gereshk, pro­vid­ing a safe and durable tran­sit route for the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion and ISAF forces across the province.

Sol­diers from 1 Troop, 1st Armoured Engi­neer Squadron, from Ripon, North York­shire, and Afghan con­trac­tors are build­ing the road and over the last few months insur­gents have tried to pre­vent progress.

The engi­neers and their Afghan col­leagues have come under dai­ly attacks as well as hav­ing to cope with impro­vised explo­sive device (IED) strikes around the build.

With the help of The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards though the attacks are being rebutted and steady progress on the road build con­tin­ues to be made.

The Cav­al­ry sol­diers from The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards are work­ing as the Viking Group in Hel­mand which has been pro­vid­ing over­watch and pro­tec­tion for the road build.

See Relat­ed Links to watch video footage of sol­diers from The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards’ Viking Group and Roy­al Engi­neers work­ing on Route Tri­dent in Hel­mand province.

Sec­ond Lieu­tenant Edward Bark­er, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing the Viking Group, com­ment­ed:

“We’re work­ing in close con­junc­tion with the engi­neers, who are them­selves super­vis­ing local civil­ian con­trac­tors — the idea being that it is their road and we want them to build it as much as pos­si­ble.

Viking vehicles from The Royal Dragoon Guards Viking Group provide security for Royal Engineers and Afghan civilian contractors constructing Route Trident
Viking vehi­cles from The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards Viking Group pro­vide secu­ri­ty for Roy­al Engi­neers and Afghan civil­ian con­trac­tors con­struct­ing Route Tri­dent
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

“We’re there to pro­vide the pro­tec­tion for that, whether that involves very close pro­tec­tion, by sim­ply pro­vid­ing an armoured sand­bag, or mov­ing into posi­tions to pre­vent the engi­neers from being fired upon by insur­gents.”

The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards Viking Group con­sists of the Cat­t­er­ick-based sol­diers from 1st Troop, D ‘The Green Horse’ Squadron, oper­at­ing out of Viking armoured vehi­cles. The agili­ty and manoeu­vra­bil­i­ty of the tracked vehi­cle, com­bined with its mount­ed fire pow­er from a 0.50-calibre heavy machine gun or the gen­er­al pur­pose machine gun, makes Viking the per­fect vehi­cle to pro­vide force pro­tec­tion for the engi­neers work­ing on the road con­struc­tion.

Cor­po­ral Adam Smith, Viking Group, Roy­al Dra­goon Guards, said:

“We move into posi­tions that pro­vide a pro­tec­tive block and also clear the route in front of the engi­neers from any IEDs.

“Most of the time, because we’re in armoured vehi­cles, we’ll sit there and take the shots because it is not doing any­thing to us, but as [the incom­ing rounds] get clos­er and clos­er to the engi­neer teams on the ground, we’ve got busier.

“We’ve returned fire with some heavy weapons recent­ly, esca­lat­ing our response as required, but with one eye clear­ly on the local nation­als. This has sent the mes­sage that we’re not here to mess about.”

The road is being con­struct­ed in lay­ers by the engi­neers, with the upper­most sur­face being topped with aggre­gate and stones.

A sniper from the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force engages insurgents from the back of a Viking vehicle
A sniper from the Counter-Impro­vised Explo­sive Device Task Force engages insur­gents from the back of a Viking vehi­cle
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The Viking vehi­cles pro­vide a mov­able ‘ring of steel’ around the engi­neers, allow­ing them to car­ry out con­struc­tion and move for­ward as progress is made.

Cor­po­ral Dar­ran Moun­sey, who serves with 21 Engi­neer Reg­i­ment, said:

“The basis of the build itself is a thing called Neoweb, which goes on the ground and is then filled to form a rigid struc­ture for the road so when the win­ter does come in it doesn’t wash away. A neo-grid then goes on top, so it forms a hard­ened road when it is topped.

“The lads are over­see­ing the local con­tac­tors, but they also have work to do them­selves, phys­i­cal work — the set­ting out of the road, the stitch­ing and plac­ing of the neo-grid itself and quite a lot of shov­el­ling.”

Despite insur­gent activ­i­ty, the route build con­tin­ues to gain ground. Sec­ond Lieu­tenant Bark­er explained:

“I think the project is actu­al­ly going very well. The intel­li­gence we have sug­gests that stop­ping the Route Tri­dent build is the insur­gents’ main effort in this area and that’s not some­thing they have been able to do.

“We have the armoured capac­i­ty to pro­tect [the engi­neers] at close quar­ters, but also the manoeu­vra­bil­i­ty to push out into depth and real­ly take the fight to the ene­my.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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