12 October, 2006

3 Para back from Helmand.

3 Para Battle Group is finishing its 6 month tour of duty in Afghanistan and it is with some justification the Daily Telegraph headlines its coverage as, "Troops come home with tales of heroism". As the paper summarises,

For the past four months the 3,500 troops of the Helmand Task Force, based around 3 Bn the Parachute Regiment, have been fighting with an intensity not seen since the Korean War. They lost 16 dead and 43 wounded.
For the first time in decades, artillery fired their guns over open sights,[1] military policemen were turned into streetwise infantry fighters and Chinook pilots watched as rockets and bullets came within inches of downing their aircraft.
Some soldiers talked of frontline fighting akin to the First World War, others nonchalantly accepted "becoming accustomed" to incoming fire.
[1] As far as I understand it, "open sights" is aiming at what you can see, a technique more associated with the Napoleonic Wars and WWI than modern combat.
The DT reveals more details of the troop shortages in Afghanistan. Men from both the Royal Artillery and the Royal Military Police had to be deployed as emergency infantrymen to cope with immediately serious situations. Indeed, one Gunnery unit of 30 men fired 10,000 rifle rounds in a two-week operation.

The article also contains a moving account of the bravery of Corporal Bryan James Budd in the action, in Helmand during August, which led to his death

In view of the recent controversy over the RAF's performance in Afghanistan it is worth emphasising the view of the officer who told the Telegraph that the, "RAF have also given us some of bravest flying I have ever seen or heard of."

Yet, despite the individual heroism of its soldiers, of which the country can be justly proud, the question still needs to be asked: why did the government send British soldiers into combat in insufficient numbers and without the necessary equipment? It is to be hoped that 42 Commando Royal Marines, who are going back to Afghanistan to take over from 3 Para in Helmand will not face similar problems.

No comments: