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The Brigade, which is one of the Army’s seven deployable brigades, comprising of armoured, mechanized and light role troops, making it capable of a wide variety of missions anywhere in the world, takes over from 4th Mechanized Brigade as Task Force Helmand 18 in April.
The bleak and snowy media day formed part of a 5-day training exercise, the culmination of 2 years of planning and preparation developing and sustaining core and specialist skills.
Brigadier Rupert Jones MBE, the Brigade’s commanding officer, explained that the tour would build on the successes achieved by previous deployments.
He said that the objective of the next six months was to further bolster the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as they progress towards taking on full responsibility for security, thereby creating the right conditions for effective governance:
The Afghans are already taking the lead in this, they have not only surprised us, but themselves as well in how far they have progressed in a relatively short time.
A crucial objective of Herrick 18 will be about building the ANSF’s self-confidence. Brigadier Jones said:
This summer will be a very important moment in the campaign because it will be the first fighting season, where typically insurgent levels tend to increase, with the Afghans in the driving seat and it is vital to the progression of the campaign that they come through that summer having made real progress.
I am very confident that they will succeed.
Mirroring the developing role played by British troops in Helmand province, the demonstrations were much more low key than in previous years. The Brigadier said:
Speak to the soldiers and they will tell you that media facilities prior to deployment in the past used to feature more bangs and demonstrations of manouevres and equipment capability.
But our role is now much more in the background as the ANSF take the lead, so we now concentrate on advising and encouraging.
The Brigade Advisory Group and the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group demonstrated how they help the Afghans to deliver their own training in both army and policing skills. Brigadier Jones said:
In 80 per cent of instances the Afghans are leading operations themselves with us very much in the background.
That is really important progress, that is transition and that is how we hand over to the Afghans.
But for those who insist on seeing a bit of kit, there was also a chance to get up close and personal to some hardware, including Warthog, some impressive weaponry and the newly introduced diminutive Black Hornet nano-UAV – a tiny remote-controlled helicopter which carries a camera to allow troops to see over compound walls.
And of course, best of all, there was a chance to chat and share a much needed brew and a bacon butty with some of the soldiers who will soon be exchanging a freezing Salisbury Plain for the heat of Helmand province.