Australian gunners on final mission in Afghanistan

With only three weeks remaining before the Australian Army concludes its unique attachment of artillerymen to British operations in Helmand Province, the ‘gunners’ have continued their efforts by providing fire missions in support of coalition and Afghan National Security Forces.
Fifteen gunners from the Brisbane-based unit, the 1st Field Regiment are attached to the British 7th Parachute, Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA) and are currently operating from a new patrol base at Lashkar Gah Durai, in northern Helmand Province.

Commanding Officer of 7 Para RHA, Lieutenant Colonel Gary Wilkinson, said that integration had been seamless and the Australian troops had been remarkably flexible and shown absolute adaptability to any mission.

“Personally, it has been an absolute pleasure to have the Australians here. I have worked with the Australians on a previous HERRICK operation and now for this final deployment. It has been an effective example of multi-national integration on demanding operations,” LTCOL Wilkinson said.

The Australian gunners of 105 ‘Tiger’ Troop have lived and worked alongside their gunner colleagues of 7 Para RHA in remote Patrol Bases in Helmand for the past five months.

While the security situation in Helmand Province has become increasingly stable, during an early stage in their deployment, at a Forward Operating Base in Helmand Province, the Australian and British position was attacked by insurgents with rocket propelled grenade launchers and small arms.

The men were forced to defend their position by using the 105 mm light gun in a direct fire role, a rarely used technique for artillery.

The Australian Detachment Commander, Captain Mick Cook, said the deployment had been challenging but the growth of peace and stability had proved the worth of the commitment.

“The warm and friendly reaction of the Afghan civilians to us is a key indicator that our work here is making a difference and worthwhile,” Captain Cook said.

The Australian gunners will make their way home to Australia next month after what has been a long but rewarding final mission on Operation HERRICK.

The first Royal Australian Artillery contingent deployed to southern Afghanistan in March 2008, having conducted training in the United Kingdom for six months prior to joining Operation HERRICK.

The first contingent, from the Darwin-based 8/12 Medium Regiment, were the first Artillerymen to deploy in that role since the Vietnam War.

Three Australian Artillery Regiments have each provided two deployments to southern Afghanistan.

The British 105mm L118 light guns provide indirect fire support to troops on the ground many kilometres away.

Troops can call for offensive support to provide additional fire power when in contact with the enemy and often request illumination rounds to be fired to provide vision at night and to deter the enemy.

Press release
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,
Canberra, Australia

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