Afghanistan — Gurkhas help Royal Engineers continue Babaji regeneration

British Engi­neers with the sup­port of the Gurkhas are help­ing with the regen­er­a­tion of Baba­ji by con­tin­u­ing to upgrade a major road through the dis­trict.

B Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
Sol­diers from B Com­pa­ny, 1st Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Gurkha Rifles, pro­vide secu­ri­ty for the engi­neers work­ing on Route Tri­dent
Source: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Route Tri­dent links the Hel­mand cap­i­tal of Lashkar Gah to the eco­nom­ic hub of Gereshk. Its upgrade, which should help improve the lives of the local peo­ple, began when the 1st Bat­tal­ion Cold­stream Guards had respon­si­bil­i­ty for the Nahr-e Saraj (South) area.

B Com­pa­ny, 1st Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Gurkha Rifles, took over respon­si­bil­i­ty for the area at the end of April 2010 and, with it, the baton to pro­vide pro­tec­tion for the Roy­al Engi­neers as the road is dri­ven south, bring­ing free­dom of move­ment and trade to the local pop­u­la­tion of the vil­lage of Wal­izi.

It was while pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion for the build­ing of the road that a sol­dier attached to 1st Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Gurkha Rifles was sad­ly killed yes­ter­day.

4 Armoured Engi­neer Squadron is upgrad­ing the old Baba­ji road which has seen the Sap­pers clear impro­vised explo­sive devices, build cul­verts to allow irri­ga­tion to con­tin­ue, and even alter the planned route to meet requests from the local com­mu­ni­ties through which the road pass­es.

The dilap­i­dat­ed state of the old road means the jour­ney for traf­fic cur­rent­ly takes hours, so the aim is to have a firm and safe tar­mac sur­face which will dras­ti­cal­ly reduce jour­ney times.

B Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
Work is under­way to improve Route Tri­dent which will allow greater free­dom of move­ment for the local Afghan pop­u­la­tion
Source: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The road is being solid­ly con­struct­ed using car­pet-like mem­branes, tough plas­tic neo cells and high qual­i­ty aggre­gates and stone, which should hold togeth­er well despite heavy vehi­cles and harsh weath­er con­di­tions.

Local peo­ple them­selves are being employed to car­ry out some of the work which brings wel­come cash into the area’s econ­o­my.

Local taxi dri­vers have sup­port­ed the devel­op­ment as they see their jour­neys becom­ing eas­i­er, and one res­i­dent summed up local feel­ings when he told a patrol how he approved of the road — ‘it’s good for us,’ he said. He is present­ly unem­ployed but sees an oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a shop and sell goods to peo­ple pass­ing through.

Sec­ond Lieu­tenant Gareth Parkin­son, whose Sap­pers have the task of build­ing Route Tri­dent, described road-build­ing as ‘a dream come true for a young engi­neer offi­cer’, and explained that the route was orig­i­nal­ly planned to bypass Wal­izi vil­lage.

B Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
A sol­dier from B Com­pa­ny, 1st Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Gurkha Rifles, pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty for the engi­neers work­ing on Route Tri­dent
Source: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Dur­ing con­sul­ta­tion the vil­lagers indi­cat­ed that they would pre­fer it to go straight through the vil­lage itself so there would be no dam­age to the fields where they grow their crops, and there might be a boost in the com­mer­cial oppor­tu­ni­ties that would become avail­able to them as they looked for­ward to increased traf­fic.

Major Char­lie Crowe, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing B Com­pa­ny, 1st Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Gurkha Rifles, said that as the road comes through his area his Gurkhas pro­vide secu­ri­ty for the con­struc­tion teams:

“The road’s very impor­tant; it’s the main effort for the Bat­tle Group and the brigade.

“It’s pret­ty sim­ple but it brings with it enor­mous ben­e­fits to each of the vil­lages it pass­es through. The vil­lagers will then have an artery through which they can sell their pro­duce, come and go, or use the facil­i­ties and hos­pi­tals in Gereshk or Lashkar Gah.

“It’s some­thing vis­i­ble — a real sign of progress which the vil­lagers can see out­side their door.”

B Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
Roy­al Engi­neers are using high qual­i­ty aggre­gates and stone in the con­struc­tion of Route Tri­dent
Source: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Sap­per Ben Brum­mitt, who is work­ing on the road, said:

“It’s a crit­i­cal route to fur­ther oper­a­tions in South Hel­mand. We’ve pushed a long way and have about sev­en kilo­me­tres to go until we link up with the oth­er Bat­tle Group, which is push­ing up from Lashkar Gah.

“While work goes on, nor­mal farm­ing activ­i­ties must con­tin­ue, and as we push through vil­lages it’s imper­a­tive that farm­ers keep their fields sup­plied with water. So we’re build­ing many cul­verts to allow the sup­ply to crops to con­tin­ue.

“The locals have react­ed quite well to us, in par­tic­u­lar the kids — they trust us and we’re hap­py if they’re hap­py.”

The Com­man­der of Task Force Hel­mand, Brigadier Richard Fel­ton, vis­it­ed the Gurkhas and inspect­ed progress. He said:

B Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
B Com­pa­ny, 1st Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Gurkha Rifles, took over respon­si­bil­i­ty for Baba­ji at the end of April 2010
Source: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

“Fol­low­ing the suc­cess­es of Oper­a­tion MOSHTARAK, Route Tri­dent is a per­fect exam­ple of how we’re extend­ing gov­er­nance by improv­ing free­dom of move­ment.

“Phase 1 has shown us just how suc­cess­ful that is to the locals of Baba­ji and Mal­gir and we hope to car­ry that on with Route Tri­dent 2.

“I hope before the end of my tour to be able to dri­ve from Lashkar Gah to Gereshk, which was Provin­cial Gov­er­nor Mangal’s third high­est pri­or­i­ty for any activ­i­ty in Hel­mand province.”

1st Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Gurkha Rifles last deployed to Afghanistan on Oper­a­tion HERRICK 7 in 2008 and since then has con­duct­ed exten­sive train­ing in the UK and a multi­na­tion­al exer­cise in Brunei in prepa­ra­tion for this lat­est oper­a­tional tour.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK