RAF reservists help defend Kandahar Airfield

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Two RAF reservists have been helping co-ordinate a battle group sized operation to defend the giant coalition air base at Kandahar in Afghanistan

Flight Lieutenant Rob Pitt and Sergeant “Taff” Wright from 2620 Squadron based at RAF Marham, work in the Joint Defence Operations Centre, a multi-national organisation tasked with defending the Kandahar base from attack and co-ordinating the response to emergencies.

Flt Lt Pitt is a Battle Captain and assists in running up to five operational areas.

His previous military experience has led to him being used as a trouble shooter, taking on a broad spectrum of operational duties. He’s served in the Falklands, as an army medical support officer, an army medical platoon commander, completed a tour in Iraq with the RAF Regiment and is now coming to the end of a six month tour in Afghanistan. He said:

We cope with everything from a poisonous snake in a watchtower to an indirect fire attack. The tour of duty has been very, very busy, very, very demanding, but very fulfilling. It wasn’t what I expected. It’s been constantly changing - largely because of the operational tempo.

Sgt Wright is a seasoned veteran having had a regular career in the Parachute Regiment before joining 2620 Squadron.

He is in charge of the Incident Control Post and provides the first response to any incident.

It’s a high pressure job requiring information to be passed over three communications systems whilst simultaneously plotting the events on a map and tasking the emergency response teams - medics, fire and police, coping with anything from a suspect package to a road traffic accident:

It’s all about command and control,” he said. “Our job is to inject common sense into situations where people might lose their heads.

Sgt Wright’s job with 2620 Squadron involves training reservist gunners to prepare them for operational tours in places like Afghanistan:

I really enjoy the job” he said. “How can I train a reservist to come out to Afghanistan when I haven’t been there myself? That’s why I volunteered. It gives you more credibility.

Sgt Wright has served in Northern Ireland and Iraq:

Afghanistan is a very different kettle of fish,” he said. “What strikes me is the age of some of the lads and their professionalism.

An RAF Regiment mortar team defending Kandahar Airfield (stock image)
An RAF Regiment mortar team defending Kandahar Airfield (stock image) [Picture: Senior Aircraftman Neil Chapman, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

Both men have been tested during their tour, particularly when they found themselves on duty during an indirect fire attack on the base which caused a number of casualties, some of them serious.

They were helping to treat the casualties at the impact point of an insurgent rocket when they both suddenly realised that if the insurgents had their range, they could be next. It didn’t stop them doing their job.

That incident provided the high point of the tour for Flt Lt Pitt:

It was how we came together during that attack. 48 to 52 hours without sleep. Co-ordinating that response was momentous. We plan for these events. We have standard operating procedures but to see everyone doing the things we were trained to do - it was the stuff of films”.

For Taff Wright, the high point of his tour was going out on patrols on the ground:

25 years after my first patrol… still doing it, still enjoying it,” he said.