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Royal Engineers earn time with newborn babies after busy Helmand tour

The Royal Engineers from 63 Works Group, part of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group, were part of a 58-strong team including civil,…

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The Royal Engineers from 63 Works Group, part of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group, were part of a 58-strong team including civil, electrical and mechanical engineers that deployed to Afghanistan in May 2011 and returned home at the end of November.

A portion of the Works Group operated from the Lashkar Gah region of Helmand province working for the Provincial Reconstruction Team. Amongst them was first-time dad and military foreman Staff Sergeant Jim Stevens.

The Lashkar Gah team delivered over 100 projects during their tour, the most significant being the Helmand Road Plan which saw the design and construction of 1,050km of asphalt roads across the province.

The construction was carried out by local Afghan companies which created meaningful employment for Afghan people and helped towards the development and stability of Helmand.

Staff Sergeant Stevens was responsible for the delivery of 500 metres of road in the Helmand Road Plan. He deployed two weeks later than his colleagues so that he could be present at the birth of his first child, Isabelle:

I really expected to miss the birth,” he said. “So when my Commanding Officer said I could deploy a few weeks later so I could witness the birth I was extremely grateful. It also gave me a few extra days with my wife Jennifer.

Other major undertakings for the team were the design and construction of police stations, schools and medical facilities.

The majority of the Works Group were based at Camp Bastion and carried out a number of tasks which included infrastructure support to helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, land units and forward operating bases.

First-time dad Sapper Keith Marshall provided survey support to the Air and Land Cells based at Camp Bastion. He was home on rest and recuperation when his wife Aisling gave birth to their daughter, Katie. He said:

It was brilliant to get home to be there for the birth and spend the first few days with Aisling and Katie. I was so excited to get home at the end of the tour and see them both.

The Air Cell was involved in tasks such as project managing the installation of radar systems and instrument landing systems for the main runway at Camp Bastion.

The Land Cell was responsible for infrastructure within the main operating bases such as Camp Bastion. One of the key projects was the co-ordination of the construction of a large kitchen within Camp Bastion capable of providing three meals a day for approximately 4,000 personnel.

Another section of the team, known as the Tactical Infrastructure Cell, was responsible for the development of the forward operating bases. Their main purpose was to provide technical expertise on upgrading the condition of the bases. Typical upgrades have included installation of permanent power supplies, flushing toilets, hot showers, medical aid posts and dining facilities.

Officer Commanding 63 Works Group, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Browse, said:

This has been a tremendous opportunity for my works group to add real value in Afghanistan and drive the campaign forward.

I have been impressed by the quality and quantity of infrastructure we have delivered and enthusiastic about the positive investment in the Afghan economy we have made.

Published 5 January 2012