Sappers from the Royal Engineers deployed on the complex operation under the cover of darkness, with protection provided by the Afghan Uniform Police.
Soldiers from 35 Engineer Regiment planned and conducted the nine-hour operation, which involved ten divers, to measure how much water was flowing along the river to help Afghan authorities plan future irrigation projects.
The first phase was to look at the profile of the river bed, and was headed up by Captain Anthony Gleave, who explained:
The overall aim of the dive was to provide the ability to know how much water is flowing down the Helmand River. This will help towards planning for future irrigation works.
The operation’s second phase was to install a water-flow monitor on the river bed, along with protective piping. The team were given very specific direction which meant they had a tough challenge ahead of them.
Phase two was led by Staff Sergeant John Sparham, who said:
We had quite a few specifics which had to be met in order for the water-flow monitor to be able to do its job. It had to be half-a-metre off the river bed, be at least two metres below the surface of the water, and it had to face upstream. All of these factors were tough to meet given the fast-flowing, extremely cold water.
One member of the team of four conducting the second half of the operation was Sapper Joseph Lovell. He said:
This is my first time in Afghanistan and my first time on an operational dive. To be honest it is unexpected because dive tasks do not come up very often. Lots of divers come to Afghanistan and do not get to dive.
The water was flowing very fast and was freezing. It was dark, late at night, and we knew we had to work as fast as possible. Luckily my training kicked in and I knew what I had to do.
35 Engineer Regiment, based in Paderborn, Germany, has deployed as part of 20 Armoured Brigade on Operation HERRICK 15, and will return to Paderborn in April.