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Soldiers from B Company, 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (3 MERCIAN), have finished their six-month deployment to Afghanistan, becoming the first members of Task Force Helmand to return home from Operation HERRICK 14.
Since February 2011, the 150 soldiers from B Company have been operating as part of the Armoured Infantry Company equipped with the Warrior armoured fighting vehicle.
B Company’s role was to partner with the Afghan National Civil Order Police and Afghan National Army to provide security through vehicle checkpoints and patrols along Highway 1 - the main artery through Helmand and Maiwand.
In the last six months, this route has seen a 100 per cent rise in traffic thanks to the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces who have succeeded in making it safer for locals to travel.
Major Steve Burton, B Company’s Officer Commanding, says it’s been a challenging but rewarding tour:
We have been working alongside the Afghan National Police and Army to improve security to an important route that the local population has avoided in the past. The Afghans have been good to work with and have a real desire to defeat the insurgents and bring security to their communities.
The company has had a number of major successes, most notably the capture of a senior insurgent bomb-maker, which really boosted the spirits of my men.
Through the operations we conducted we’ve been able to send clear messages to the insurgent and reassure the local population. Working alongside the Afghan National Police and Army has allowed them to interact with the local community and that has built their confidence in those whose job it is to provide their security in the future.
Lieutenant Colonel Giles Woodhouse, Commanding Officer of 3 MERCIAN, met with B Company at Camp Bastion as they left, to thank them for their efforts and wish them a good trip home:
B Company has made a fantastic contribution to the campaign over the last six months,” he said. “It has not been an easy tour for them, split three ways across Task Force Helmand, working in lots of different roles with a number of challenges.
They have had some notable successes, and have been very highly regarded by the Americans they have worked with as well as 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando Brigade, the current Task Force Helmand.
Battalion Headquarters and Dragon (Support Weapons) Company are currently deployed as the Brigade Advisory Group, advising the Afghan National Army, and are due to return from Afghanistan at the end of next month. They will be followed by A and C Companies in the middle of October 2011.
Lieutenant Colonel Woodhouse says even for those with time left in Afghanistan, B Company’s departure is an important day:
It marks the beginning of the end of 3 MERCIAN’s deployment. A and C Companies, who have another six weeks to go, continue to do a fantastic job and will remain committed and focused until the very end.
After returning to their base in Fallingbostel in Germany, where the soldiers will be reunited with family and friends, B Company will begin a well-deserved period of leave.