Salonika Company - Afghan Blog

Discussion in 'Army Reserve' started by TheSpecialOne, Jan 3, 2008.

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  1. An excellent blog from the Newham Recorder:

    (no opsec worries about names as this is a previously published blog approved by the MoD)


    19 December 2007

    With winter fast approaching in Helmand we are already starting to see a distinct change in temperature. Although it is still hot around mid day, the mornings and evenings are getting reasonably chilly. Softie jackets are now being worn to see off the chills. In the officers' tent, one of the older officers has even resorted to using a hot water bottle. In doing so, he has come in for much ribbing from the younger subalterns, however, in his words, “Why rough it?” We're now waiting for the slippers and Horlicks to arrive!

    Although the winter in Helmand is not as cold as other parts of the country, we are preparing for sub-zero conditions and a fair amount of rain. Camp Bastion is renowned for turning into a mud bath.

    The last couple of weeks have been busy. The deployment of the company has changed quite dramatically with two platoons being deployed elsewhere. Four Platoon was the first to go, much to the annoyance of the other platoons, and this was followed about a week later by the deployment of Three Platoon.

    Four Platoon has been deployed to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Eastern Helmand. The platoon's role there is similar to what they were doing in Bastion, however, they are working more closely with the Danish Battle Group who operate out of the FOB. One major benefit of working with the Danes, which has enraged the other platoons, is that the Danes serve up lobster in their canteen. Lt Hyrcak wasted no time in relaying that snippet of information. Let's just hope they don't get too fat eating all those pastries!

    Three Platoon was packed off to the Brigade Headquarters in Lashkar Gar where they are being gainfully employed providing force protection. This includes patrolling the streets of 'Lash' where the soldiers are getting the opportunity to interact with the locals. Sgt Mitchell's West Country charms obviously haven't had the desired effect though as an Afghan kid managed to catch him in the eye with a rock.

    Not that we want to blow our own trumpet, or rather our bugle, but the riflemen of Three Platoon have taken over and expanded the task which was previously done by two platoons from 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment. Good on them.

    On November 11, the Buglers from Salonika Company performed magnificently at Remembrance Services across Helmand. In Lashkar Gar, Rfn Birks performed excellently and was even featured on Sky News. In Camp Bastion, Cpl Hutchinson and Rfn Norman made us equally proud.

    Back in Camp Bastion, our tasks have become fairly routine. The soldiers are rotated regularly, which hopefully ensures that that they remain focussed on the job in hand. With Three Platoon gone, fewer vehicles have been breaking, much to the delight of the MTWO, WO2 O'Malley.

    Some impressive range work has been overseen by WO2 O'Loughlin with the lads working hard to perfect their compound clearance drills. The OC also continues to remind us of his first round hit with a UGL round. Given his pistol shooting record though, we can only put this down to sheer fluke!

    The gyms are being well used by most of us in our spare time and quite a few soldiers seem to be investing in protein supplements to help them with their personal battles on 'Op Massive'. Rfn Ceesay continues to lead the way.
     
  2. TSO,
    I enjoyed that t'was a bit short though. More to come?
     
  3. He can bench press >180 kgs...

    He is BIG ( naturally I can whup him at arm wrestling and make him cry like a girl. )
     
  4. BB, have you been peeking in the showers again? :oops:
     
  5. glad to hear that they have got other task's, anything is better than sitting in BSN.

    it was nice to see a few old faces as well, when they came and took over from Somme Coy

    i look forward to reading more as and when it comes.
     
  6. In The Thick Of It for the Bhopalsingh story
    A RIFLEMAN spent just one week with his newborn son before jetting off to serve in one of the toughest frontline jobs in the military.
    Menon Bhopalsingh, 40, has been working with an intelligence cell providing up to date information on the Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan.
    The dad-of-two, whose youngest son Arun is now three months old, has been conducting offensive operations in the north of the Helmand Province.
    The London Territorial Army soldier, who works as a Noise Enforcement Officer in Lambeth, has also provided protection to medical teams deployed by helicopter to rescue injured soldiers.

    RIFLEMAN Menon Bhopalsingh, 40

    “I have seen some quite horrendous sights,” he said.
    “The infantry is one of the toughest jobs in the army, but the most rewarding.
    “I am excited to be helping the Afghans in the fight against the Taliban.”
    “Bhops”, as his mates call him, left Edmonton, north London, in October for a six month tour fighting the Taliban.
    This is Menon's second operational tour, having previously served in Iraq.
    During his time in the TA, he has trained in Germany, France, Macedonia and Cyprus.
    Lt Jon Dolphin, unit press officer for Salonika Company made up of soldiers from London and the Home Counties, including Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham, said: “In Afghanistan, the soldiers from his unit do not have days off.
    “When they’re not on duty, they either train or sleep. When deployed on the ground even sleep becomes a luxury for the infantry soldier.”
    Menon sent his love to his partner Katerina, his parents and his children, Tia, three, and Arun, three months.

    http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/content/redbridge/recorder/TheSoldiersBlog/Thesoldiersblog.aspx
     

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  7. a good quote from BBC Oxford

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/oxford/content/articles/2007/11/16/fee1_feature.shtml

    The company, which includes soldiers of the 7th Battalion The Rifles, are based in Reading and is made up of TA soldiers from Oxford, Swindon, Milton Keynes and London. Two thirds of the company are from the Territorial Army. Out here in southern Afghanistan they are a good example of the concept of 'one army' where the TA serves alongside their regular counterparts.
     
  8. Bhopes is a good lad whose Heidelberg-style scar was caused by scrapping.
     
  9. Bravery on the frontline

    http://www.oxfordmail.net/news/comment/display.var.2033192.0.bravery_on_the_frontline.php


    The conflict in Afghanistan is one of the biggest British military campaigns since the Second World War.

    But despite the progress being made, the war rarely hits the headlines, with the achievements of our troops upstaged in the national media by the pointless antics of celebrities and sports stars.

    But out there, in some of the harshest conditions on earth, men and women from Oxfordshire are fighting to bring peace and stability to this troubled land.

    Among them are members of 7 Rifles.

    These brave folk risk death and injury every day.

    Most have hair-raising stories to tell - tales of close shaves with Taliban mortars, rockets and roadside devices, of suicide bombers and hidden Russian landmines.

    But what is most impressive is that they are people like us - engineers, lorry drivers, office workers, nurses, and electricians - who are balancing their efforts in the TA with careers and family life at home.

    Spirits are high. All are convinced of the importance of the job they are doing, and most are thoroughly enjoying it.

    Most admit to being homesick. They miss the freedom to go to the shops, to cook a meal and eat it from a proper plate with a metal knife and fork, or to pop to the pub.

    And, most of all, they miss their family, friends and workmates.

    But despite the hardships, they all say they have been struck by the level of public support - in the shape of letters, cards and parcels.

    People may or may not agree with Britain's role in Afghanistan but, it seems, we are all getting behind our boys and girls on the ground.

    Things are not getting easier. The Taliban are a formidable enemy. But, while our men and women are out there, we owe it to them to continue to stand by them.
     
  10. Ive known Menon for years!and his brother Joshi.
    His Scar was caused by being attacked at a telephone box, poor guy.
    (not Scrapping as one guy said)and no fault of his.
    I like Menon he has come a long way although i don't agree with some things,its the mountain inside all of us thats the hardest to climb.
    not mountains in Iraq or Afghanistan.
     
  11. Crap.

    Bhopes (full name pron Buh-HOOP-al-singh) got his facial scar saving 14 dozen disabled orphans from rampaging elephants. The Bull elephant leading the charge managed to catch him under the lip with his tusk just as Bhopes "put the heed" on him.

    He would have been given the GC for his actions, but touched up HM* whilst he was being awarded it, and sadly, the whole incident was covered up. Until now obviously.

    God's honest troof, guv

    *She loved it
     
  12. Hahaha you nut!
     
  13. http://www.oxfordmail.net/news/comment/display.var.2033192.0.bravery_on_the_frontline.php

    Bravery on the frontline
    The conflict in Afghanistan is one of the biggest British military campaigns since the Second World War.

    But despite the progress being made, the war rarely hits the headlines, with the achievements of our troops upstaged in the national media by the pointless antics of celebrities and sports stars.

    But out there, in some of the harshest conditions on earth, men and women from Oxfordshire are fighting to bring peace and stability to this troubled land.

    Among them are members of Oxfordshire's territorial infantry battalion, 7 Rifles.

    These brave folk risk death and injury every day.

    Most have hair-raising stories to tell - tales of close shaves with Taliban mortars, rockets and roadside devices, of suicide bombers and hidden Russian landmines.

    But what is most impressive is that they are people like us - engineers, lorry drivers, office workers, nurses, and electricians - who are balancing their efforts in the TA with careers and family life at home.

    Spirits are high. All are convinced of the importance of the job they are doing, and most are thoroughly enjoying it.

    Most admit to being homesick. They miss the freedom to go to the shops, to cook a meal and eat it from a proper plate with a metal knife and fork, or to pop to the pub.

    And, most of all, they miss their family, friends and workmates.

    But despite the hardships, they all say they have been struck by the level of public support - in the shape of letters, cards and parcels.

    People may or may not agree with Britain's role in Afghanistan but, it seems, we are all getting behind our boys and girls on the ground.

    Things are not getting easier. The Taliban are a formidable enemy. But, while our men and women are out there, we owe it to them to continue to stand by them.
     
  14. http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/content/redbridge/recorder/TheSoldiersBlog/Thesoldiersblog.aspx

    In mid December, an extremely successful Afghan National Army (ANA) led mission swept through the city of Musa Qal’h and the surrounding area liberating it from Taliban control. The battle was a major success for the ANA and the Taliban were able to offer very little resistance. Along with other units, Salonika Company from The Rifles has now been brought into the area to provide a secure and stable environment in which the local people can start to rebuild their lives free from oppression under the Taliban. As well as providing a secure environment, we have started a number of development projects including the provision of a health centre, a 'cash for work' scheme, the construction of a bridge to improve access to the district centre and the provision of a school.

    The Taliban, who originally established themselves in the region using fear and intimidation, continue to plague the local people. They send death threats to Mosques, plant landmines and roadside bombs that are indiscriminate in whom they target and they conduct cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians who they suspect of working with ISAF. During my time there, a local man who had been earning $10 a day in a scheme to help clean up and re-build the town centre was beheaded by the Taliban.

    Thankfully, and with admiration for the resolve of the Afghan people, this hideous attempt to stop development in the city failed and the work to improve Musa Qal’h continues.

    What tasks does Salonika Company undertake in and around Musa Qal'h?

    As well as manning Observation Posts (Ops), one of the main tasks that we undertake involves patrolling in and around the Musa Qal'h countryside, towns and villages in our vehicles and on foot. We look for signs of enemy activity, set up vehicle check points and talk with the locals in order to reassure them and help them to understand how the Afghan government and ISAF are working together to try and improve the situation. We also act as convoy protection during re-supply operations.

    Being able to talk and interact with the local villages has given me a real appreciation of Afghan life. In several instances, we were the first ISAF troops ever to visit them and we were very careful to make the right impression from the start. All of our soldiers have received a basic training in the Afghan culture and we make every effort to respect the way of life, their cultures and traditions.


    We have built some good relationships. We visit the villages to reassure them, ask for their input on various issues and pass on any key information or messages from the local government in Musa Qal'h. Particularly in the rural areas, you quickly realise that the local people just want to get on with their lives and provide for their families. They are happy that we are there to provide the security to enable this to happen, but they are in constant fear of intimidation by the Taliban.


    It's encouraging to know that we are allowing the locals the freedom to make their own decisions. The instances of intimidation that we come across just spur us on to help eradicate the Taliban who have done nothing to help the people and seem intent on preventing the country and people from developing and improving their quality of life.


    The Threat

    Probably the biggest threat we face around Musa Qal'h is that of mines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). We have so much fire power that it would be a very brave or incredibly stupid Taliban who would take us on directly.

    We've become very good at spotting mines and IEDs and have some excellent kit that has been proven to protect us whilst out on the ground. The locals are also helping us by warning us about IEDs they’ve seen being planted.


    The threat from legacy mines left over from the Russian occupation is still very real. Every day on patrol, I would pass legacy mines. Unfortunately, an American callsign strayed into a known minefield only 1km from our location in FOB Edinburgh.

    My patrol had a lucky escape with a device that was placed on a route into one of the villages that we patrol. Unfortunately, the village tractor found the device which not only badly injured the driver, but also destroyed a key village asset.


    The Weather



    January was very cold, on some days hitting minus 10 degrees celsius without the wind chill factor. Most of us have had frost nipped ears and the morning ritual of emerging from your sleeping bag, or, 'olive green time machine' as the lads have started called them, doesn't get any easier. We have also had rain – lots of rain which has resulted in the FOB turning into a quagmire. Completing the weather spectrum, we have had snow! Despite the adverse conditions, the war goes on and we continue to fulfil our role. All of the Riflemen have conducted themselves extremely professionally.


    Christmas in FOB Edinburgh

    The sun was still shining when we arrived at FOB Edinburgh. The conditions were described to us as austere and for the first 10 days we were sleeping under the stars.

    Although we were in the back of beyond in a make shift shelter, we made the best of the situation. Some of the lads had brought Santa hats with them and most of us had received a present or two that we had somehow found space for in our kit.

    Unfortunately, on Christmas Day, there just wasn't time for a day off and so we spent most of the day filling sandbags that would provide the over head cover for our accommodation that was being rapidly constructed by the Royal Engineers.


    The padre from 40 Commando put on a good service around about mid-day in his usual up-beat, verging on comedy, style. As amusing as the service was, it was topped by the arrival at 1600ish of three chefs and a mobile kitchen. This was a complete surprise to us all and they served up a fantastic Christmas dinner complete with crackers and party hats.


    It was probably the weirdest place I could ever have imagined to be tucking into roast turkey and Christmas pud. But, without a doubt, it was one of the most welcomed meals ever. Being away from home and family at Christmas is difficult and I think all of us were secretly wishing we were back in the UK. The meal was a real lift and I think everyone went to bed that night with a full belly and a smile on their face.


    Rations

    Five weeks living on rations does things to you and it goes without saying that evenings in the ops room were quite windy. The operational rations contain such delights as chunky chilli chicken, lamb curry and chicken arrabiata, however, you also have to endure the various combinations of beans/sausage/bacon for breakfast every day. All the above is boiled in a foil bag.

    We were able to procure some American rations for a time which were a welcome break, but even they became monotonous after a while. There's only so much variation that you can introduce with the addition of chilli sauce or mustard.

    Occasionally, we would buy some local bread, chickens and goats from the locals. These made a rare treat particularly when cooked in a hot stone oven in the ground under the expert guidance of our own Fijian, Cpl Rab.

    R&R

    After four-and-a-bit months away on operations, I'm looking forward to getting back home on R&R. I'm looking forward to a pint of ale, seeing the family, tucking in to a crème brulee and getting out for a run with my Dalmation.

    We’re doing a dangerous job out here. It's a situation that is not going to be resolved quickly and will require soldiers like myself to continue to work with the Afghan people towards a better future for a long time to come.

    Having talked at length with some of the local people, drunk their tea and shared a few jokes it makes you realise that at the heart of it, the people here are just fellow human beings who just want to be allowed to get on with their lives.

    Without delving into politics, the history of the country, the trade in opium, global terrorism and the teachings of Islam, at the local level, the situation seems pretty straightforward to me. We are trying to help the people to self govern and improve their standard of living through schooling, healthcare and improved infrastructure. Fighting against us, the majority of the Afghan people and the government of Afghanistan, trying to disrupt our joint efforts, is a bunch of people who seem to want to keep the country in the dark ages and rule through fear and intimidation. Sadly the situation is complicated by the factors mentioned above. Cultivation of poppies can not be eradicated without an economically viable alternative and if you’re interested in how Afghanistan ties in with global terrorism have a read of an assessment by a fella called Killcullen entitled, 'The Long War.' Makes interesting reading…
     

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