Gurkhas train for Helmand

A group of Gurkha sol­diers have trans­formed them­selves from logis­ti­cians into infantry­men in readi­ness for a deploy­ment to Afghanistan.

Sol­diers from 10 The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logis­tic Reg­i­ment tak­ing part in a train­ing exer­cise on Sal­is­bury Plain [Pic­ture: Steve Dock, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Sol­diers from 1 Trans­port Squadron, 10 The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logis­tic Reg­i­ment (10 QOGLR), have show­cased their ver­sa­til­i­ty by trans­form­ing them­selves from logis­ti­cians into high­ly-skilled infantry­men in readi­ness for a vital role assist­ing the Afghan Nation­al Police (ANP) in Hel­mand province.

Attached to the 1st Bat­tal­ion Welsh Guards and based in Lashkar Gah, the unit’s mis­sion rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant depar­ture from the vehi­cle patrol duties they car­ried out on Op HERRICK 11.

While troops fine-tuned their new skills on Sal­is­bury Plain, Lieu­tenant Dex Brans­by explained the fresh chal­lenge ahead for mem­bers of his team:

“We will be teach­ing and advis­ing locals on police mat­ters in order to get ready for the tran­si­tion to Afghan con­trol,” the ser­vice­man said.

“Nor­mal­ly we would be doing com­bat logis­tic patrols, work­ing from Camp Bas­tion as we did on our last tour, but it’s good for us to be get­ting out and doing this new type of work.”

To trans­form trans­porta­tion experts into deploy­able infantry­men, the squadron has been put through exten­sive train­ing. In their lat­est ser­i­al, the sol­diers worked with unfa­mil­iar vehi­cles and on foot patrol tech­niques.

Using Val­lons (met­al detec­tors), they car­ried out 360-degree sweeps of vul­ner­a­ble points and extract­ed casu­al­ties at high speed dur­ing mock explo­sions. Com­ment­ing on the abil­i­ty of those under his lead­er­ship to adapt to their duties, Lieu­tenant Colonel Tim Black­more, Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of 10 QOGLR, said:

“Giv­en their pri­ma­ry role as logis­ti­cians, this has been a demand­ing train­ing peri­od for the squadron as they pre­pare for an infantry-focused deploy­ment.

“Gurkhas are renowned for their ver­sa­til­i­ty and pro­fes­sion­al­ism; as such I have every con­fi­dence that they will prove ide­al men­tors.”

The unit will form three police advi­so­ry teams, which will focus on build­ing a rap­port with the ANP and per­suad­ing its com­man­ders to lead patrols.

With the Gurkhas’ abil­i­ty to speak Urdu, con­ver­sa­tion between British troops and Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces will be eas­i­er than com­mu­ni­cat­ing via inter­preters, improv­ing an already strong rela­tion­ship.

Pri­vate Nar Gurung, who will be work­ing in one of the groups, said:

“I feel great about doing this because it’s a chal­lenge and I am look­ing for­ward to inter­act­ing with Afghan peo­ple, which was some­thing we didn’t have a chance to do on our last tour.

“If we can teach the ANP our skills to enable them to work on their own, and if we come home safe­ly, then we will have achieved our mis­sion.”

Lance Cor­po­ral Vola­man Lim­bu added:

“Last time I was a point man dri­ving a Jack­al so this tour will be entire­ly dif­fer­ent. I am pleased to be work­ing with Gurkha blokes and I know we will be effec­tive.

“It will be good for the brigade to show that we can do any job at any giv­en time.”

The impres­sive man­ner in which these men have adjust­ed to their new task comes in the wake of reduc­tions to Army man­ning under the redun­dan­cy pro­gramme fol­low­ing on from the Strate­gic Defence and Secu­ri­ty Review .

But Major Edward Osborne, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing 1 Trans­port Squadron, explained that sav­ings mea­sures had not affect­ed troops’ focus on the mis­sion in hand:

“They are well aware that sol­diers have lost their jobs but at no time has that dis­tract­ed them from what they are doing, which is utter­ly admirable,” he said.

“Their ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism is unpar­al­leled and it’s hard to praise them enough with­out sound­ing sick­ly, but they are fan­tas­tic sol­diers.”

Along­side QOGLR per­son­nel, each train­ing team will include two mem­bers of the Roy­al Mil­i­tary Police to pro­vide spe­cif­ic knowl­edge of crime-fight­ing.

Lance Cor­po­ral Phil Macphail from the Roy­al Mil­i­tary Police explained:

“Britain’s con­tin­gency plan for leav­ing Afghanistan hinges on the country’s nation­al secu­ri­ty forces tak­ing con­trol, so we need to trans­fer our skills to them.

“In our unit we are police offi­cers in our sec­ond role so we under­stand about foren­sic aware­ness and patrols and can help with that side of things too.”

A major dri­ve for police advi­so­ry teams on Op HERRICK 16 is to coach as many of the Afghans at the Lashkar Gah Train­ing Cen­tre as pos­si­ble in order to build a robust and suc­cess­ful force:

“We will be focus­ing on get­ting the ANP to look as pro­fes­sion­al as pos­si­ble and ensur­ing their arms, foren­sic aware­ness skills and action at crime scene drills are in place,” added Lance Cor­po­ral Macphail.

With British com­bat troops set to leave Hel­mand province in two years’ time it is vital for the region’s future that its own secu­ri­ty forces can defend against the Tal­iban and oth­er offend­ers.

Until then, British ser­vice­men and women will play a cru­cial role in the grad­ual tran­si­tion from inter­na­tion­al assis­tance to home con­trol:

“Know­ing that we are com­ing out in 2014 gives a fixed tar­get,” explained Major Osborne. “The Afghans under­stand that we’re not an infi­nite resource and there­fore part of our role is to assist them in becom­ing self-suf­fi­cient.”

Oper­a­tion HERRICK 16 will mark the last oper­a­tional deploy­ment of 1 Trans­port Squadron, which will cease to exist fol­low­ing the recon­fig­u­ra­tion of 10 QOGLR under the Army’s ongo­ing struc­tur­al changes:

“This unit has trans­formed itself for a new role and its per­son­nel are now on a par with their infantry coun­ter­parts,” added Major Osborne. “This under­lines the com­plete diver­si­ty of the Gurkhas.”

Ready to prove their ver­sa­til­i­ty at the sharp end, the squadron is deter­mined its final assign­ment will leave a last­ing lega­cy in Hel­mand.

This arti­cle by Joe Clap­son is tak­en from the March 2012 edi­tion of SOLDIER — Mag­a­zine of the British Army.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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