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Jersey reservists swap island life for Helmand

August 17, 2010

Two Territorial Army volunteers from Jersey Field Squadron have swapped civilian life on the channel island for the heat and dust of Helmand province, and are now working with the regular Army unit 21 Engineer Regiment.

As Royal Engineers, the soldiers are involved in a variety of tasks, such as building and improving forward operating bases and patrol bases, which includes constructing watchtowers, known as ‘sangars’, for security.

They support the infantry out on patrols by engineering ways to move safely through compounds, whether it is through walls or over them, and also by building bridges to create new routes.

All of these tasks ultimately support the main aim which is to provide stability and security for the local nationals.

21 Engineer Regiment are also working alongside the Provincial Reconstruction Team and Military Stabilisation Support Team to provide longer term assets for the country. This has involved building main roads, creating and repairing culverts and building bridges in order to allow the Afghan nationals to move around their country more quickly and safely.

One of the Jersey-based soldiers is Sapper James Shales, based with 1 Armoured Engineer Squadron.

Sapper James Shales on operations in Afghanistan with 1 Armoured Engineer Squadron
Photo: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

In 2 Troop, Sapper Shales has been based in Nad ‘Ali, a district in southern Helmand which was the main focal point for Operations PANTHER’S CLAW and MOSHTARAK. Nad ‘Ali has been one of the success stories in terms of engagement with the local nationals through the District Governor.

Meanwhile, Captain Leanne Christmas, who is based out of Camp Bastion in Helmand province, is working as the Regimental Media Operations Officer and a Joint Forces Media Officer, which means that she goes where needed to in order to cover a story with her trusty camera.

Captain Leanne Christmas meeting Afghan children during an operation designed to improve engagement with the local population
Photo: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

Primarily covering the engineers, Captain Christmas also looks after external press and VIPs. In civvy street, Captain Christmas is a chartered accountant for Barclays.

Despite enjoying their experiences on deployment both Sapper Shales and Captain Christmas are looking forward to returning to their civilian lives in Jersey:

“I am really looking forward to a pint, and going out with my friends too,” said Sapper Shales.

While for Captain Christmas it is the natural environment of her homeland that she misses most:

“I am really looking forward to getting home now for a rest and to walk barefoot on the grass and beaches again,” she said, adding: “I long for rain!”

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