Communicating 4 Mech's upcoming Afghanistan tour
An Army HR administrator and an Army Photographic Competition-winning reservist will help to report on the activities of 4th Mechanized Brigade (4 Mech Bde) in Helmand province when it deploys in October. Report by Shell Daruwala.
The two soldiers are part of a dedicated team of Service and civilian communicators who will be working hard to ensure that the work carried out by the men and women of 4 Mech Bde, and any progress made as a result of their support during HERRICK 17, does not go unnoticed.
Lieutenant Rosie Brooks, Unit Press Officer, 21 Engineer Regiment
Lieutenant Rosie Brooks is an Army recruitment success story. The 26-year-old Sociology and Media Studies graduate says she had no intention of joining up when she walked into her local Army Careers Office in search of help with her studies:
I decided to do my university dissertation on the civil-military covenant because I’d always been interested in the wars like Afghanistan and Iraq,” she said.
I just randomly walked into the Army Careers Office one day and asked to speak to a soldier when I was doing my dissertation - they looked at me a bit strangely, sent me away with a load of careers bumph, and I remember looking at it thinking, ‘I don’t know why they’ve sent me away with this because I don’t want to join the Army’. But the more I read into it, I got quite interested and it snowballed from there really.
I didn’t realise that you could go in as an officer or as a soldier, and I didn’t realise how many different parts of the Army there were,” she continued.
I was quite interested in the HR [Human Resources] side of life and admin, so when I learned about it I thought, ‘that’s a job that I think I could do’.
And I was quite active as well - I’ve always enjoyed running, so for me the whole keeping fit aspect was hugely appealing as well as doing a job that I think is really worthwhile. And being able to be a manager of quite a large team straight out of university and out of training is incredible.
Having been in the Army just two-and-a-half years, Lt Brooks is in charge of a team that deals with the HR and administration needs of 21 (pronounced ‘two one’) Engineer Regiment, based in Ripon, North Yorkshire.
When she deploys on Op HERRICK 17 with 4 Mech Bde in October, Lt Brooks will be the Unit Press Officer responsible for ensuring that the good work of 21 Engineer Regiment doesn’t go unnoticed by writing press releases for national, international and local media, facilitating visits by various journalists, and maintaining the unit’s social media output.
Although working in HR, Lt Brooks already has experience of working in the media:
I did Sociology and Media Studies at university and so it linked quite neatly, and I worked in a press office as a graduate intern in online communications before I joined the Army,” she explained.
I did a couple of random work experience days as well in a few of my local newspapers. I really enjoyed working with the media before I joined the Army, so actually it’s a nice linking-in.
Part of her deployed role will likely see Lt Brooks dealing with the Afghan media:
I imagine we will have some aspects of dealing with the Afghan media, which I’m really looking forward to,” she said. “I think it will be quite interesting to see how they operate compared to how the UK media work.
Not willing to wait for the tour to commence, Lt Brooks has already been keeping busy getting into her new role:
I’ve already started doing some hometown stories for the guys, some announcements, pre-[tour] press releases - every time they do something interesting, get it in, write a story and get some good photos, as many as I can,” she said.
We’ve got a Facebook page as well which I’ve set up. We’ll have a page on Armynet, and we’re just about to update the MOD page as well.
Lt Brooks said the training she has received has prepared her for the upcoming deployment:
I only commissioned from Sandhurst last August, and the training there was really intense as well, so actually from finishing intense training to carrying on at a high tempo it just felt natural,” she said.
There hasn’t been anything that’s been too much of a shock to my system and I’ve really enjoyed it - just cracking on, getting my head down and thinking, ‘yep, there’s an end product here and I’m going to be able to go out and do the job that I’ve trained to do’.
Corporal Mike Hubbard, Army Photographer
Cpl Hubbard is an Army reservist with eight years’ experience in the Service, originally joining as a regular before being discharged with a back injury. Since joining the Reserves he has deployed twice as an infantryman to both Iraq, on Op TELIC 7 in 2005, and Afghanistan, on Op HERRICK 10 in 2009.
Cpl Hubbard works for telecommunications company BT as an accounts manager in civilian life. His whole life was changed after he took his camera out with him to Afghanistan on his last tour:
My hobby is photography, so when I was on HERRICK 10 I took my own personal camera out,” he said.
We were at the patrol base for about four months, so while I was there I just took loads of photos. And then a selection of those photos were entered into the Army Photography Competition and I won the Amateur Photographer of the Year Award.
While at the awards ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick, then Commanding Officer of the Media Operations Group (Volunteers), approached Cpl Hubbard and asked if he would like to transfer over to his Group as a photographer:
I didn’t know you could do photography as a [reservist] role - I thought it was literally just regulars - so I jumped at the chance,” said Cpl Hubbard.
I’d done seven years infantry by that point, so it was time for a change.
Also it was taking a hobby, something I love, a passion, and doing it with the Army as well, so it was joining two things I love together, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t really pass up. I’m deploying now, 18 months after joining the Group, on HERRICK 17 with the Combat Camera Team.
Since winning the Amateur Photographer of the Year Award, the 33-year-old from Shrewsbury has set up a flourishing photography business, covering weddings and portraits.
Cpl Hubbard said that HERRICK 17 will be a complete change from his previous operational deployments as an infantryman:
We’re working as a three-man team, doing a job that’s not like going out with an infantry unit and staying at a patrol base for four months. The job we’re doing is very dynamic,” he said.
We’ll be based at [Camp] Bastion, and then bouncing out to wherever we’re needed to cover a particular story. It’s going to be quite hectic at some points I’d imagine - and challenging - but also a really enjoyable experience.
Preparing him for his media role, Cpl Hubbard’s pre-deployment training has been quite different from that he experienced as an infantryman:
All the other times I’ve done it it’s been your standard infantry pre-tour training, whereas this time round it’s been a lot more technical stuff,” he said.
It’s been working at Army HQ with the news teams down there, going out reporting on jobs in the UK, covering things like the Tri-Service Sailing Regatta.
I videoed Boris Johnson and Mark Cavendish visiting Tobacco Dock - I actually put a YouTube video up for that which there’s a link to on the website; so I’ve been doing a lot more media-based training.
We’ve obviously done all the pre-deployment training - all the MATTs [Military Annual Training Tests] and OPTAG [operation-specific training run by the Army’s Operational Training and Advisory Group], and that sort of thing; all the soldiering’s been covered and now we’re currently on the FTX [Field Training Exercise],” he added.
Over the course of a week, the FTX provides fairly realistic scenarios and situations based on actual situations a unit might face when deployed. 4 Mech Bde carried out two such exercises for its member units on Salisbury Plain at the end of August; the Brigade’s final chance to train together before its deployment. Cpl Hubbard and his Combat Camera Team colleagues stayed on for both exercises:
We’re going to be seeing a lot more of Helmand than you would with a normal unit,” he said.
We’re going to be going out, visiting different units and reporting on different things and different people, so by coming on the FTX, and staying on both FTXs gives us a chance to start building relationships with the units that are out here now.
The Media Operations Group known as MOG(V) is a specialist Army Reserves unit recruited from across the UK. Its members regularly form part of the deployed British Army on operations in all theatres and they deliver specialist media training on military exercises from a Joint (Army/Royal Navy/RAF) HQ down to a battle group.
Within MOG(V), the Combat Camera Teams are the key to gathering footage, both stills and video, of British Army operations in Afghanistan. They accompany Army units and, as trained soldiers, can go into areas which may be too dangerous for civilian journalists to work in.