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Royal Engineer honoured for work developing Afghan forces

Lieutenant Colonel Martin Sturgeon developed a programme to coordinate the dozens of international agencies responsible for recruiting and training…

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Lieutenant Colonel Martin Sturgeon developed a programme to coordinate the dozens of international agencies responsible for recruiting and training members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), as well as managing more than 200 infrastructure projects including the building of new police stations.

He created the programme, which has won plaudits from the head of the British Army and senior American generals, after recognising that there was no existing system for joint working in place.

The project - known as the ANSF Transformation Programme - was introduced in October 2010, and brought all the elements involved in developing and supporting ANSF under one central command.

Lt Col Sturgeon’s work was recognised by the Association of Project Managers, who named the project ‘Programme of The Year’ at their annual awards dinner last week.

The Afghan government and NATO share the objective that Afghans will assume lead security responsibility across the country by the end of 2014, and development of the ANSF is key to achieving this.

Seven locations - covering a fifth of the Afghan population and including Lashkar Gah urban centre - began the first phase of security transition in July, meaning that the ANSF took on responsibility for security in these areas.

This is the start of a process which will be completed across the country by the end of 2014. The Head of the British Army, General Sir Peter Wall, said:

The innovation and initiative demonstrated by Lieutenant Colonel Sturgeon is a fine example of the British Army at its very best, and I am delighted that he has been recognised for his efforts.

Building up the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces is key to the country’s future and the establishment of long-term security in the region.

We are making excellent progress on growing the Afghan National Security Forces and are currently ahead of schedule for meeting the target of 171,000 Afghan Army and 134,000 Afghan Police by the end of October 2011.

Lieutenant General William Caldwell, the American commander of the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, said:

It is through the incredible initiative and creativity of leaders like Lieutenant Colonel Sturgeon that the Afghan National Security Force has grown in both quantity and quality over the past two years.

His efforts to build unity of effort in the recruiting, building and development of the Afghan Army and Police is a tremendous example of the unique skills, experiences and capabilities our international trainers bring to the mission.

This cooperative effort and comprehensive approach serves as a hallmark for other organisations throughout Afghanistan to emulate as we continue to enable the Afghans to build the enduring institutions and self sustaining systems they will require both today and tomorrow.

Jon Day, Second Permanent Under Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, said:

I am delighted that the excellent work of the Afghan National Security Forces Transformation Program has been recognised with the award of APM Programme of the Year.

This was a highly effective application of transformational change during a vital period for UK support to Afghanistan and demonstrates MOD’s ability to manage difficult programmes to the highest standards.

Lt Col Sturgeon grew up in Norwich and was commissioned into the Royal Engineers, who are based in Kent, in 1990.

He was deployed to Regional Command (South West) - the higher command overseeing the British-led Task Force Helmand - in Afghanistan in 2010, and is now based with the MOD’s Excellence in Project Management Team in Bristol. He said:

I would like to thank the Association of Project Managers for this award. As a Royal Engineer, I am trained to find solutions to problems, and I am pleased that I could put my training into action for such a worthwhile cause. The Afghan National Security Forces are going from strength to strength.

They represent the future of a country that I have become passionate about and I feel proud that in some small way, I may have helped.

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Published 31 October 2011