Head of Armed Forces visits troops in Helmand
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, has paid a surprise visit to British forces serving in Afghanistan.
During a short trip to Helmand, Gen Richards met with the Commander of Task Force Helmand (TFH), Brigadier Ed Davis OBE, at TFH Headquarters in Lashkar Gah. He then travelled to Nad-e Ali North to spend time with Royal Marines from 42 Commando before visiting soldiers from 1st Battalion The Rifles at their base in Nahr-e Saraj South.
This is the first time Gen Richards has visited members of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines who are serving as part of Operation HERRICK 14, alongside members of the Afghan National Army’s 3/215 Brigade and the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP).
After arriving into Camp Bastion, the UK’s largest base in Helmand Province, Gen Richards embarked on a whistle stop tour of the area of operations. Over breakfast in Lashkar Gah, he discussed the upcoming transition of the district with Brig Davis.
Gen Richards then flew by helicopter to Forward Operating Base Shahzad, which is home to 42 Commando. There, he met with Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Murchison, the Commanding Officer who updated the CDS on what the Royal Marines have been doing since arriving in theatre almost two months ago.
“I am impressed by the progress that is being made by British forces alongside the Afghans and our coalition partners throughout Central Helmand. Even since I was last here at the end of last year, I can see evidence that the situation on the ground is improving. The Afghan security forces are much more capable; thanks to the high standard of mentoring they are receiving and more importantly, they are now better respected in their local communities. There is still work to do but I am confident we are heading in the right direction and making tangible progress towards transferring security.”
The CDS took part in a patrol to the local AUP station where he met members of 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles who are the Police Advisory Team, mentoring the patrolmen of the AUP. Gen Richards then paid a visit to the bazaar where he met locals and bought fruit from a trader.
Afterwards, Gen Richards spent time with members of C Battery, Royal Horse Artillery who are working alongside 42 Commando in Shahzad.
“As honorary Colonel of the Regiment, it is a privilege to see the work the Battery is doing here on the ground playing a vital role supporting operations. The equipment and technology that our forces have at their disposal now is game changing and helping to create an accurate intelligence picture which is essential to understanding and defeating the insurgency.”
The final leg of the tour involved a visit to Patrol Base Two to meet members of 1 RIFLES who are partnering 6 Kandak of the Afghan National Army. After being briefed on the situation in the Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj South area by Lieutenant Colonel James de Labillere, Commanding Officer 1 RIFLES, Gen Richards met with Riflemen and members of A Company 2RGR who are attached to the Battlegroup.
The party then returned to Camp Bastion, where CDS met with staff from Joint Force support. He visited members of the Royal Logistics Corps who are responsible for sorting and distributing the huge mountains of mail that arrive into theatre on a daily basis and thanked them for the important role they play in providing morale to those serving.
Gen Richards spent time at the hospital visiting injured servicemen and women and the doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to treat those who are wounded or fall ill.
Before leaving Camp Bastion, CDS attended a vigil service for Marine Nigel Dean Mead, 42 Commando, who was killed in an IED blast on Monday. Following the service, he spent time with the Padres who provide comfort and support to those who lose friends and colleagues.
Commenting on his visit, Gen Richards said:
“As CDS, it makes me extremely proud to come here and see marines, navy personnel, soldiers and airmen working so well together to provide security for the people of Afghanistan. Despite what is happening in other parts of the world, Afghanistan remains the number one priority for Defence and it is important that those on the ground in Helmand know that they have our full support.”
During his visit to Afghanistan, Gen Richards also spent time in Kabul, meeting with senior members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as well as President Karzai and the Afghan Defence Minister, Abdul Wardak, to discuss the security situation in the country.