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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