Firmin Sword of Peace Awarded to MSSG
The Firmin Sword of Peace, one of the highest military honours, has been awarded to the Tri-Service Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG) in recognition of their humanitarian efforts on Operation Herrick in Afghanistan during 2009.
The MSSG, a tri-service unit based at Gibraltar Barracks, Camberley which comprises of deployable Regular Officers, Warrant Officers and Senior Non Commissioned Officers from the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force as well as Reserve personnel drawn from the Territorial Army and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, were presented with the Sword of Peace at a ceremony on the 23rd November by Lieutenant General Barney White-Spunner, Commander Field Army.
The sword is awarded to the unit of each service judged to have made the most valuable contribution to humanitarian activities by establishing good and friendly relations with the inhabitants of any community at home or overseas. Six representatives from the tri-service team which included two RAF personnel, Flight Lieutenant Andrew John and Flight Lieutenant Shona Bragg who served in Military Stabilisation Support Teams (MSSTs) during Op Herrick 10, received the sword following a reading of the citation:
“Recent operations have highlighted the true value of MSSG’s contribution within the overall campaign as planners, facilitators, advisors, co-ordinators, and influencers. For those deployed on Op Herrick 10, the true extent of the success and value of MSSG personnel is emphasised by its achievements in supporting the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, one of the main Battle Groups involved in Op Panther’s Claw.”
The MSSG provides military support to The Stabilisation Unit. They train and deploy teams of 40 personnel on every Op Herrick rotation to accompany front line Battle Groups, where they will co-ordinate between military and civilian organisations, gather and analyse civil information, provide assistance to planning operations, identify and aid in the delivery of consent winning activities, reconstruction and development projects. All of which are influential in building positive and enduring community relations and facilitating the delivery of tangible benefits to the daily lives of Afghan nationals.
‘Flight Lieutenant Andrew John led the Military stabilisation Support Team in the Musa Qaleh District, where his team were actively involved in the repair of the electricity distribution network, said:
“From meetings with locals at the start of Herrick 10 it was clear that a reliable electricity supply would enhance their lives and provide them with a tangible benefit from the security being provided by International Security Assistance Force, in conjunction with the Afghan National Security Force. The supply from the Kajaki dam was already there but the local electrical infrastructure was, literally, shot to pieces. In collaboration with village Elders and local tradesmen the network was repaired, giving the Afghans a reliable power supply. Numerous other projects fell out from the electrical works, all contributing to the quality of life the Afghans had.”
Officer Commanding an MSST in Garmsir, Southern Helmand, Flight Lieutenant Shona Bragg was deployed first in support of the Light Dragoons Battle Group where she assisted with the handover to the US Marine Corps before moving to Gareshk to rejoin the battle group as they worked to stabilise the Babaji area of the province. During this time she and her team established a number of schemes:
“Whilst going out on patrols in the Babaji Area of Helmand, the question asked to the Mullahs was what did they need for the community? The Mullahs always replied ‘clothes for the children’. Knowing that the celebration of Eides was fast approaching I emailed some friends back home to see if they could gather as much charity children’s clothing together and post it out to me. The vast amount of babies’ clothes that came out to the Deployed Operating Base at Gareshk was phenomenal. I then divided it all into boxes between the areas that we had visited and the patrols delivered them to the Mullahs for handing out to the families during their religious festival in preparation for the harsh winter. It was good to see how such a small sector of the UK community had given their hand in helping those children in the far reaches of Helmand.”
Other MSSG achievements in Afghanistan during 2009 ranged from activities that contributed towards the Helmand Female Engagement plan, community regeneration work in Nad-e Ali and Sangin, to the growth of community projects in the areas of Spin Masjid and Chah-e-Anjir. The assistance and support provided by the MSSTs aided the progression of community relations with the Afghan people and increased the pace of community regeneration within the regions where they were based.
Providing support to the citation, Major Giles Harris, Officer Commanding, The Prince of Wales Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards said,
“I am confident to say that any success our Company had in securing Chah-e-Anjir and extending the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan influence was in the most part down to our ability to establish key links with the locals, sustain these links and prove our desire to work for the populace, not against them. This positive perception, and the actual progress that came after it, was delivered by the MSST personnel alone. It was clear to me that they were the battle winners”.