A Military Operations news article
3 Feb 10 The Sappers of 28 Engineer Regiment have been involved in every significant operation undertaken by Task Force Helmand over the last four months. Here their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Bazeley, gives a report on their time in Afghanistan:
"Welcome to what I can only describe as a festival of military engineering. In the four months we have been providing engineer support to the Battle Groups of Task Force Helmand [TFH] I have been hugely impressed by the range and variety of Royal Engineer activity that we have delivered.
"The traditional Sapper role divides into the provision of force support engineering and close support engineering. Here we deliver both of these but under the broader guise of COIN [counter-insurgency] support engineering.
"We have worked hard to ensure that the engineer support has been dynamic, proactive and effective. This has seen Royal Engineer personnel involved in every significant operation undertaken by TFH over the last four months.
"A considerable amount of our work has involved the development and improvement of the ever increasing forward operating bases, patrol bases and checkpoints around the Area of Operations [AO].
"So far we have added 21 new locations and the footprint will continue to grow. And we will continue to develop it.
"It is through providing this level of support to the ground-holding Battle Groups that we enable them to achieve their effect amongst the local population. This recognises that to positively influence the population and give them confidence that we, with out Afghan security force colleagues, are here to stay, we must live amongst them.
"It is incredibly simple really. Push the Insurgents away, place ourselves in a position from which we can influence and secure the local population and provide an environment within which the green shoots of development can flourish. Our construction efforts allow for the delivery of security-enabled development. Simple really.
"But it is not just in the base construction efforts that provide a very tangible measure of the engineer activity. We have contributed to numerous patrols and clearance operations.
"I can't tell exactly how many walls or bridges we have blown up but I do know that over 450 bar mines will never again see the inside of a Quartermaster's Ammo Store! We have also been engaging in that favourite of Royal Engineer sports, bridge-building.
"The largest has been the construction of the 34-metre Friendship Bridge to the west of Nad e-Ali district centre. The effect of this bridge has been to completely change the local social dynamic, as previously isolated populations have been able to get to market, school, medical care, or simply to experience the freedom to move without fear of insurgent checkpoints or taxes.
"A truly liberating piece of counter-insurgency support engineering.
[Picture: Andrew Linnett, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]
"We have also constructed medium-girder bridges and non-equipment bridges (the Sapper equivalent of building a bridge using only the contents of your shed). One of these we actually constructed in Bastion and then flew into site underslung under a Chinook. The military engineering equivalent of a Chinese takeaway, delivered to your door.
"However, our most significant piece of COIN support engineering is only just getting into its stride. The construction of Route Trident, running for 9.2km through the Babaji AO, is a impressive task.
"Ably supported by force protection elements from the Coldstream Guards this route will link the military patrol bases and local communities running through the centre of the area.
"It is a fantastic combined effort of military, contractor and local nationals on a 'cash-for-work' scheme. It provides a strong and durable route through the area which is already encouraging local markets and social movement around the area.
"Whilst the road has obvious benefits for us, it is just as useful and important for the locals too. Good engineering, delivering local employment, secure routes, and commercial and social opportunities. Simple really.
[Picture: SSgt Mark Jones, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]
"But the scale and range of engineer activity remains huge. We have been reinforced by an additional Royal Engineer Squadron who have come into theatre with a specific remit to advance our efforts on winterising base locations and the Infrastructure Development Plan.
"Along with this additional manpower we are also bringing in new capabilities. The Automotive Bridge Launching Equipment (ABLE) system is arriving in theatre as I write, which will give us the capability to rapidly establish crossings up to 32m in under an hour. And on the horizon is the arrival of the Trojan armoured engineer vehicle which will come with a number of route-opening and repair capabilities.
"So it's been an incredibly busy few months. The scale of work has been enormous and the range of tasks we have tackled breathtaking. I am constantly impressed with the work being undertaken by the Royal Engineer soldiers. Their capacity to turn their hand to some challenging construction tasks but be more than credible in their soldiering skills is testimony to their talents.
"In keeping with our corps motto we really have been ubique (everywhere for the non-latin speakers!), but I would add that we have been involved in omnia (everything!)."
© Crown Copyright/MOD 2010