2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (2 LANCS) officially took control of a new battle group area of operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on the morning of Thursday 5 August 2010.
A small ceremony took place on the day to mark the symbolic occasion, with the battalion flag being raised in the quadrangle.
The area, previously known as 31 West, encompasses the northern part of the Nad ‘Ali district, including the Chah-e Anjir Triangle, desert regions, key population centres, and deep, dried-out rivers and water features, known as wadis.
The area of operations, which forms an effective bridge between Nad ‘Ali and the previously contested Babaji district, remains a focus for the insurgency.
2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment is currently the Theatre Reserve Battalion (TRB), based in Cyprus.
Since early August the headquarters has advanced to occupy Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shahzad, which has already seen extensive and tangible development, and continues to expand rapidly from a company to a battalion location.
The battalion headquarters of 2 LANCS provides the command and control nexus for what is now known as Combined Force Nad ‘Ali (North) or CF NDA(N), along with Blenheim Company 2 LANCS, Burma Company 1 LANCS, elements of the Afghan National Army, and a company of Estonian troops - a true multinational, combined force.
Additionally, a host of uniquely qualified specialists - including stabilisation and cultural advisors - have augmented the headquarters, providing a potent boost to the command group.
The concentration of effort is to stabilise the region, focusing on security, development and reconstruction in preparation for a handover to 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA) later in the year.
The Commanding Officer of 2 LANCS, Lieutenant Colonel Robbie Boyd, said:
It is a fantastic opportunity to work alongside our sister battalion, 1 LANCS, who handed the area over to us. And, regimentally, it is the first time that 1, 2 and 4 LANCS [the Territorial element] have been deployed together in the same operational theatre.
This is a perfect demonstration of what the TRB can do, and represents our fifth overall deployment since we took on the role in August 2009.
CF NDA(N) is without doubt a robust and demanding area, certainly in the upper league of insurgent activity, but we expect this to reduce.
Fortunately, our headquarters were deployed earlier in the year to work as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team following on from Operation MOSHTARAK, and in many respects this is a continuation of that operation, and in effect we are putting our stabilisation plan into action.
We are concentrating on northern Nad ‘Ali intellectually and militarily and are looking to enable more effective security operations, with ISAF and ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] elements working together.
The addition of the Estonian Company provides an added multinational element to the Combined Force.
Lieutenant Colonel Boyd added:
It is interesting as well because we share the same symbology - we are the ‘Lions of England’ and they also use the lion as part of their insignia; we have that shared iconography and continue to work very well together.
The location of FOB Shahzad as the Combined Force Headquarters is also significant. The place itself was previously used by American contractors who built the extensive irrigation system in Nad ‘Ali which developed the agricultural wealth of the district:
It is the birthplace of the canal system in this part of Afghanistan,” Lieutenant Colonel Boyd said. “It is a historic location. It was thanks to the work that went on here that the region began to prosper, and we look to significantly improve things here prior to handing over to 3 PARA later in the year.