Recently, the ‘Tankies’, as the 2 RTR soldiers are known, were ‘crashed out’ to assist with an explosion in the market area of Lashkar Gah - their fast armoured vehicles make them ideal for these rapid response tasks.
Sergeant Mike Roberts explained what happened:
We were out in the morning doing a routine vehicle checkpoint, searching vehicles and checking the safety of the locals. We didn’t hear the explosion but when HQ called us we happened to be very close.
We closed in on the location of the incident and as we arrived we saw that the Afghan police were on the scene already.
Lieutenant Mark Rodriguez-Bernet commanded the 2 RTR reaction force. He added:
The first thing we did was to liaise with the ANP who had put in a cordon and were dealing with the situation effectively.
They asked if we could help out with securing the area, so we added our Mastiff vehicles to the cordon as a deterrent to any trouble and put some men on the ground to see what was going on and give guidance as required.
The Afghans had responded to the incident swiftly and had already summoned and despatched an ambulance to take a number of injured Afghans to the nearby hospital.
The police are learning fast and the 2 RTR soldiers discussed with them the importance of maintaining the scene for evidence collection in order to ascertain the cause of the explosion.
While the police dealt with the aftermath, the Tankies placed themselves in a cordon around the area to prevent any attack on the police while they ensured the situation was safe for the people to go about their business once more.
The Tankies also took the opportunity to talk to the locals and find out how they were reacting to the blast. The local citizens were stunned by the event as they did not know what had caused it. The incident remains under investigation and may have been an accident involving gas canisters.
Lance Corporal David Murphy spoke to some of the bystanders. He said:
The people were shocked, but they were pleased to see their police looking after the situation and that we were just giving advice.
It is a distinct change from what I saw on my last tour. From two years ago, when we were last here, they’ve totally changed and come more up to scratch - more like the UK police. As we saw with this explosion they’ve got more professional; they dealt with it themselves - we were just overwatching what they were doing.
In general, 2 RTR support the Afghan police by patrolling outside the city in their Mastiff armoured vehicles. These areas are more prone to trouble and the arrival of the heavily armed Tankies can provide a decisive boost to the police’s own force.
Sergeant Roberts explained:
One of our missions out here is to guide the police. The quality of each detachment is variable, but, in all the places we’ve been, they are making the best with what they’ve got and steadily improving.
The police are able to handle an increasing number of situations alone, but we’re here to provide the back-up. The police are always pleased to see us - the Tankies are a swift and well-equipped response force able to rapidly reinforce the police in any emergency.
In a typical patrol the Tank Regiment soldiers move out to the remote police stations to make sure that the policemen have the kit they need and to check on their general well-being. Often these stations are in very isolated places.
Sergeant Roberts said:
The last one we went out to was in the middle of nowhere and had some issues with food supply and water, but still they had managed to keep their weapons in a good condition. It’s impressive to see what they are achieving and rewarding to know they are doing it with our help.