Nearly 300 soldiers from the First Battalion Coldstream Guards are making their final preparations for a six month tour in Afghanistan.
The unit, known throughout the world for ceremonial excellence on state occasions, is first and foremost a modern infantry unit, and will be providing security in the Afghan capital as Operation HERRICK in Helmand draws to a close.
The Windsor based 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards deploy to the Afghan capital Kabul in a matter of days. The soldiers have trained extensively for this mission, which will be the Battalion’s third tour of the Afghan campaign. As the Kabul Support Unit, the Coldstream Guards will be responsible for protecting mentors to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy and Defence University, as well as supporting the administration and protection of International Security Assistance Force and UK Government organisations operating in Kabul.
Their final preparatory exercise, Exercise Pashtun Panther, in Norfolk, is a high intensity non-stop test of all they have learned to date. It is designed to expose soldiers to everything they could encounter on the ground in Afghanistan. Training is as realistic as possible.
A mock Afghan village complete with marketplace, stalls, a bicycle repair shop, meeting areas and mock compounds is populated with 120 Afghans who interact with soldiers in a carefully choreographed scenario, which is designed to push the soldiers to their limits.
While soldiers on the exercise are trained to expect attacks from insurgents, and to detect improvised explosive devices that might be planted in their way, as the operation in Afghanistan comes to an end the training has expanded to ensure advising, training, supporting and ultimately handing over responsibility of security to the Afghan forces take priority.
Afghan security forces now have lead responsibility for security across Afghanistan, so for the Coldstream Guards this week’s training will see a lot of interaction with the Afghan Army and Police, as well as local Afghans, and an increased emphasis on education and confidence building.
Although the UK’s combat role will finish by the end of 2014, the UK Government has made a commitment to helping the Afghan people. At the request of the Afghan government the UK’s primary military task will be to mentor the new Afghan National Army Officer Academy where the country’s future military leaders will be put through their paces and instilled with the skills to help maintain stability in the region.
Lieutenant James Monckton, 25, said: “We’ve trained hard for a year for this operation and it will be a huge privilege to count ourselves amongst some of the last British combat troops on the ground. The Afghan people have worked hard to rebuild their shattered nation and they deserve the best we can give them to set them on their way to a safe and stable independent future.”
Honour the sacrifices
This will be the second tour of Afghanistan for Sergeant Josh Richardson, 31, who has also seen action in Iraq and service in Northern Ireland. He said: “Having seen Afghanistan at its most troubled, it will give me a huge amount of satisfaction to oversee the final stages. A number of my friends were killed and wounded fighting to make it the country it is today, and I’m determined to do my best to honour the sacrifices they made.”
Guardsman Zak Martinson, 21, added: ”Having started my career in the Army Reserve, I decided to go full-time as a Regular Solider in 2012, when the eyes of the world were on me in my bearskin and red tunic as we trooped our Colour on Horse Guards’ Parade in front of Her Majesty The Queen during her Diamond Jubilee year. This year, the world will be watching again as UK combat forces withdraw from Afghanistan. I hope we make our families as proud in the months to come as they were in that Olympic Summer.”
Original article written by and sourced from – army.mod.uk