13.11.2011, Age twenty-one
So here we were again patrolling in and out of the open ground and heading towards Loy Mandeh, aka ‘The Unknown East’ to have another poke at the hornet’s nest, however, this time we were going in alone.
following another nerve-testing day, I decided to write this letter home to my parents explaining the life threatening scenarios that we were challenged with.
The first compound of Loy Mandeh across the wadi.
Dear Mum and Dad
Today, we went back to Loy Mandeh, But this time we went in on our own.
The plan was to go into bandit country alone, on our jack jones with air support on standby. We were to purposely get into contact in order to draw the Taliban out so that the Apache helicopter could clearly identify hostile targets and destroy them.
This was an op that we would regularly carry out. We would go out as a vulnerable force to attract the Taliban and by getting into a fight with them, we would draw them out which in turn would enable the Apache helicopter pilots to clearly identify the enemy in order to engage with and destroy them.
Therefore, achieving our aim of flushing the Taliban out of the area, which would allow the local nationals to return to a free and peaceful life.
A long story short.
We came into contact with the Taliban once and there was no Apache support. Consequently, we advanced north another two hundred meters which resulted in us coming under effective enemy fire once again and still there was no comforting Apache to be seen.
In a contact in Loy Mandeh – photo by Jason P. Howe
At this stage, Callum, Max and I were taking cover in an irrigation ditch whilst we anticipated further orders. It was then that our boss informed us that HQ (Headquarters) wanted us to continue and advance forward.
I don’t know why I was surprised to hear it because I knew it was what we needed to do, but I was hoping like hell that we wouldn’t have to advance to contact anymore.
Dad, I took a glance ahead to where we had been engaged from and between us and the enemy was nothing but the open ground. We all knew that as soon as we would get out of the ditch, the Taliban would be locked on us and as soon as we would be on that open ground they would shoot at us.
Getting out that ditch was the scariest thing I have ever had to do in my life.
We had to do this on many more occasions and I can tell you that it doesn’t get any easier.
The three of us got out of the ditch and started patrolling forward aggressively, with the anticipation of being shot at. We were only able to gain thirty meters of ground before the Taliban opened up on us as suspected. Matt and Callum hit the deck and returned fire whilst I took aim and launched a UGL round (Underslung Grenade Launcher) over the front wall of the compound where we were being engaged from.
We all watched as my UGL round flew over the front wall and into the compound where it hit the back wall. We heard some screaming and the firing stopped, so take from it what you will.
I don’t believe I killed anyone but I certainly shook them up enough for them to stop firing at us.
The Apache helicopter finally made its run in but identified woman and children in the surrounding area at the last-minute which led to the pilot pulling out of the attack.
Again, wasted efforts for another s**t task. We did our part but we just didn’t have the support.
Here is some footage from Matt’s helmet cam of us fighting in Loy Mandeh – edited by Soldier to Civi
At the time, I was furious at our head shed (higher ranks) because I felt like we had just put the men’s lives at risk for a lost cause. We had conducted this type of operation many of times before and we never had the Apache helicopter support when we most needed it.
I was pissed off back then, but be that as it may, I have had over five years to reflect on certain situations and scenarios that we were faced with and now the bigger picture has become clear to me.
I have to remind myself that my multiple on the ground was in fact not the only multiple on the ground across the whole of Helmand Province. There was also the rest of my company spread throughout Nad-e Ali, who may have also required an Apache helicopter for support and with the Army’s limited resources, it was just not feasible to have an Apache over every multiple at every needed time.
The way I look at it now is that if the Apache helicopter was flying over us and giving my multiple support, then consequently there would be another multiple fighting against the Taliban who may have also needed that support. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast and as a soldier, we just had to suck it up and fight through.
That is what gives us the reputation that has frustratingly been lost. In the past there have been complaints about the lack of support, lack of equipment and the equipment’s quality has been brought into question. This all boils down to the M.O.D funding and costs. For some reason, there have also been reports concerning the Russians abilities to wipe out our Army in one afternoon, in which the media have been weighing up our armament.
My personal weapon systems
I would like to take this time to remind you all of one forgotten factor which has sadly been lost behind the smoke screen of mainstream media. Although the UK may have a considerably small fighting force and a lack of funding which has also resulted in the lack of equipment, I can reassure you that we actually have one of the best fighting forces in the world and that is purely down to the men and woman who are the backbone of our Army, Navy and Air Force.
If you want evidence of the British Army’s ability to soldier on and to fight through, then you only need to read a few books about the Second World War or to even read a couple of books that have been written on more current soldiering that has recently taken place in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. The fight has always been a tough fight and the British Armed Forces have proudly earned its reputation which we seem to be losing sight of.
Therefore, I only have one request from you, the general public.
Please don’t lose faith in our Armed forces, they need our support now more than ever.
Thank you for reading this week’s blog. I’d usually stay away from political subjects because I’d like to maintain the purity of
‘Soldier to Civi’ for the veterans, however, I felt like I needed to boost support for our current serving men and woman during these difficult and unpredictable times.
I hope to see here next week for another one of my blogs.