Bringing out the Big Guns: Afghan Artillery and Brits Conduct First Live Firing Exercise
Afghan National Army (ANA) gunners have marked the end of five months of training alongside British troops, with the first multinational partnered live firing exercise to take place in Helmand.
Members of Colchester-based 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA), who form part of the ISAF Brigade Advisory Group in Helmand, have mentored Afghan gunners since arriving in the Gereshk area last year.
As they reached the culmination of five months’ training this week, the Afghans’ new skills were put into practice with a ‘live firing confirmatory exercise’, of the type commonly carried out by trainee gunners in the UK.
The exercise was made possible by co-operation between Afghan, UK, Danish and American forces. Manning their Russian made D30 guns, the Afghans fired alongside British gunners equipped with the 105mm Light gun and the Danish 120mm mortars. Thirty rounds of each nature were fired onto a single target area, while observers from America, Afghanistan and the UK looked on out of sight, miles away.
For the Afghan gunners of the 4th Kandak, 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps ANA, who have been stationed on an austere hill overlooking the town of Gereshk in southern Helmand, this was a chance to prove that their British training has brought them up to the challenge of serving as professional specialists in the Afghan National Army.
For the British mentors of F Troop, 7 Para RHA, the chance to work alongside Afghans and assist them in the development of a domestic artillery capability has provided a unique operational tour experience. Learning to live with the cultural differences, overcome a significant language barrier and teach on a piece of equipment that is not overly familiar to them are just some of the challenges that the British mentors have overcome.
Major Mike Lynskey Royal Artillery, Officer Commanding the Close Support Kandak Team in the Brigade Advisory Group, said:
“This has been a fantastic training day which represents the culmination of five months hard work for the British mentors, but more so the Afghan gunners. This represents the first step towards a truly independent Afghan National Army artillery capability.”
Sergeant Paul Challoner, a mentoring Gun Number 1, said:
“You could see the improvements in the Afghan gunners after just one day’s live firing. The increased level in confidence they had after handling live ammunition and firing live for the first time is credit to all the hard work they have put in over the past five months.”
Sergeant Ishmael, a Firing Sergeant in the 4th Kandak, said:
“This has been a great day because we have been working hard alongside our British friends and colleagues from 7 Para RHA and today we were able to put that into practice. I look forward to the day when we as Afghans can do this all on our own.”