Afghanistan/UKUK and Afghan engineers conduct first partnered project

Engi­neers from the Close Sup­port Kan­dak, 3rd Brigade, Afghan Nation­al Army (ANA), and 21 Engi­neer Reg­i­ment are under­tak­ing a pro­gramme of infra­struc­ture works at Patrol Base Rahim, in Nahr-e Saraj, as part­nered engi­neer­ing teams.

An Afghan soldier driving a Bobcat during the first ever partnered engineering project in Helmand, Afghanistan
An Afghan sol­dier dri­ving a Bob­cat dur­ing the first ever part­nered engi­neer­ing project in Hel­mand, Afghanistan
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
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A soldier from the Royal Engineers shares a joke with an Afghan soldier
A sol­dier from the Roy­al Engi­neers shares a joke with an Afghan sol­dier
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
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An Afghan soldier filling a HESCO barrier
An Afghan sol­dier fill­ing a HESCO bar­ri­er
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
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Afghan and British Army engineers arrive at Rahim, in Nahr-e Saraj, for a programme of infrastructure works
Afghan and British Army engi­neers arrive at Rahim, in Nahr-e Saraj, for a pro­gramme of infra­struc­ture works
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

An Afghan soldier at the controls of a bulldozer
An Afghan sol­dier at the con­trols of a bull­doz­er
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Pre­vi­ous­ly, Afghan engi­neers were guid­ed through their projects by sol­diers of the Brigade Advi­so­ry Group, but are now work­ing under their own com­man­ders to com­plete a num­ber of spe­cial­ist engi­neer­ing projects, includ­ing erect­ing new accom­mo­da­tion and patrol base defences.

Patrol Base Rahim is being expand­ed and upgrad­ed to accom­mo­date approx­i­mate­ly 300 sol­diers from the Afghan Nation­al Army and 1st Bat­tal­ion The Mer­cian Reg­i­ment.

Lieu­tenant Mohammed Khalid, the Afghan engi­neers’ Pla­toon Com­man­der, has worked along­side British troops for four years.

He said:

“When we were in Shorabak [ANA camp], the British sol­diers were giv­ing us train­ing. But now that we are here we are imple­ment­ing that train­ing.

“Wher­ev­er peo­ple are liv­ing, accom­mo­da­tion is impor­tant for them, and it is the same for sol­diers. We came here to make accom­mo­da­tion for British and ANA troops. That is why it is so impor­tant.

“We have learnt as much as we can from our men­tors. If we get the type of machin­ery and instru­ments that the British troops have, then hope­ful­ly we will be able to do all of this type of work for our­selves.”

The eleven Afghan troops are part­nered with six­teen sol­diers from 21 Engi­neer Reg­i­ment, led by Lieu­tenant Fran Bul­lock, who said:

“This is the first time ANA and UK engi­neers have part­nered on a task like this.

“Before, it was more of a men­tored role through the Brigade Advi­so­ry Group. They were look­ing at what skills were nec­es­sary and try­ing to improve those skills back in camp.

“Now, how­ev­er, we are going out on the ground with them, work­ing along­side them on an active site, and putting all of that train­ing into prac­tice. This is an impor­tant step for them because it means their work has to be up to a cer­tain stan­dard.

“Togeth­er with the Afghans we are con­struct­ing the ANA accom­mo­da­tion, the show­er­ing units and the force pro­tec­tion ele­ments. We will also build a ded­i­cat­ed secure heli­copter land­ing site and an entry con­trol point, all for when the new troops arrive.”

She con­tin­ued:

“They have an excel­lent plant operator/mechanic who dri­ves the bull­doz­er. He is very pro­fi­cient and able to do pret­ty much every­thing we have want­ed him to do. They have also been work­ing on basic car­pen­try and join­ery and there are so many oth­er roles that we will devel­op in time.

“Once this project is com­plete, we will feed back to the Brigade Advi­so­ry Group to iden­ti­fy areas for fur­ther train­ing to equip them with the skills to be entire­ly self-suf­fi­cient and bring them up to an even high­er stan­dard of com­bat engi­neer trades.”

An expan­sion of the base will allow more troops to con­trol the sur­round­ing area, cre­at­ing the con­di­tions for sta­bil­i­sa­tion and recon­struc­tion. A grow­ing Afghan Nation­al Army pres­ence is an impor­tant ele­ment in secur­ing the sup­port of the local pop­u­la­tion for the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) mis­sion.

Sergeant Archie Gem­mell from 21 Engi­neer Reg­i­ment works as Brigade Advi­so­ry Group men­tor and trained the Afghan engi­neers for their cur­rent role:

“The Afghans are in the ear­ly phase of their skills devel­op­ment,” he said. “The engi­neer Brigade Advi­so­ry Group before us did a fan­tas­tic job in bring­ing them up to their cur­rent lev­el. We are here now, part­ner­ing them in order to bring them on that lit­tle bit fur­ther, and to iden­ti­fy areas of future train­ing.

“It can be chal­leng­ing some­times, but it is extreme­ly reward­ing. There are a few char­ac­ters in there, just as there are with any UK sol­diers. There can be real highs and lows, as you would expect from a unit in a new role, but we all get on real­ly well and they appre­ci­ate the advice we can give them.”

Many of the Afghans have received tech­ni­cal train­ing, allow­ing them to use plant and machin­ery.

Sergeant Mabeed, a bull­doz­er oper­a­tor, said:

“I real­ly want­ed to be a plant oper­a­tor, and now I am a plant oper­a­tor and I am real­ly enjoy­ing my work. Every­thing I have learnt on this exca­va­tor has been from British troops over four years in Hel­mand.”

The com­man­der of the Afghan engi­neers, Major Bahadar Khan, has wel­comed his unit’s first active role. He said:

“The work of an engi­neer is so impor­tant because when­ev­er our sol­diers deploy some­where they need accom­mo­da­tion, show­ers, toi­lets, and this sort of thing. If engi­neers are not here, who is going to build these things?

“At the moment they are get­ting train­ing, but after the train­ing, god will­ing, our sol­diers will be able to run this sort of project them­selves.”

This part­nered engi­neer­ing project is the first of many and it won’t be too long before the Afghan Nation­al Army are able to under­take projects of this size with­out any assis­tance from ISAF and UK forces.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, Unit­ed King­dom