Around the World in 80 Days with the Warthog Group
A far cry from Phileas Fogg and London’s Reform Club, and without a hot air balloon in sight, the Operation Herrick 14 Warthog Group, better known as D Squadron, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, has now been in Afghanistan for 80 days covering 41,000 km (or 25,625 miles), the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe or the journey overland from Camp Bastion to Edinburgh five and a half times.
Each individual vehicle has covered an average distance of 850 miles or the distance, by road, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Warthog entered operational service with Badger Squadron 2RTR in December 2010 and D Squadron SCOTS DG will be the first squadron to complete a full tour of Afghanistan on the new vehicle.
Corporal David Toughill, Warthog Vehicle Commander from Carluke said:
“Phileas Fogg did it in 80 days using loads of different modes of transport, we’ve done it in one! There have been a few hairy moments but so far a good tour. The vehicles are very agile and can carry a lot which means we can stay in the desert for weeks.”
The Warthog Group are constantly in demand and every day is different for them – this is because their vehicles are multi-terrain and can operate in both the dense vegetation of the Green Zone to the arid plains of the Afghan desert.
Corporal Steven McCuaig , Warthog Vehicle Commander from Bishopbriggs is married to Fiona and has a son Hugo who is 5 yrs old:
“Every day is different, which can be great as it keeps you on your toes but also frustrating as you never know when the plans are going to change. Working with the Afghan National Army (ANA) has been really interesting. We work closely with them offering support and advice and conducting partnered operations”.
D Squadron is made up of 119 officers, soldiers and interpreters from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal Artillery, Royal Signals, Royal Yeomanry, Royal Navy and the Task Force Helmand Labour Support Unit.
Warthog Group was likened, by Commander 16 Air Assault Brigade, to the Long Range Desert Group operating for prolonged periods in the middle of some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth.
Captain Rob Durling, Forward Air Controller serving with 29 Commando Royal Artillery attached to the Warthog Group is from Upper Norwood:
“As the Warthog Group we are used for far reaching patrols into the desert and are different to other units because we can live off our vehicles for weeks. We’ve had really good interaction with the local people and relationships are good.
It’s small steps here, but the ongoing development projects and improving security situation are all reasons to be positive”.
From seeking out insurgents in their secret hide-outs to providing security for protected communities the WARTHOG Group continues to build and extend security in support of the Afghan National Security Forces. Much of their time is spent mentoring and advising the Afghan Army to build up their own capabilities.
Corporal Brett Wade, Recovery Mechanic with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He is engaged to Lisa and is from Wakefield working in Helmand attached to the Warthog Group:
“I was working out of Camp Bastion before I got attached to the Warthog Group. It’s far more interesting out here because I get to work alongside Afghans.
I’ve picked up a few words now, so can communicate on a basic level. I’ve had a really enjoyable tour, the Warthog is a new vehicle to me but I’ve got round it quickly. It’s enjoyable to command and drive and we certainly see a lot of the country”.
Major Jonnie Williamson (38), SCOTS DG, from Aberdeenshire is married to Sarah and is the Officer Commanding the Warthog Group:
“We use Warthog exactly as we would Challenger 2 tank or Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) or CVR(T). Firepower, mobility, and protection allow us to close with the enemy in areas where he previously moved with impunity.
We’re also able to spend weeks at a time out and about living out of our vehicles and reassuring local people and deterring insurgents.”
The Warthog vehicle is manufactured by Singapore Technology Kinetics and used by the Singaporean Armed Forces as BRONCO. It boasts unrivalled protection against small arms, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
D Squadron first saw the WARTHOG vehicle in Bovington when they conducted driver, operator and maintainer courses prior to live firing exercises in Castlemartin and the final pre-deployment training on Salisbury Plain early in 2011.
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Scotland’s senior regiment and her only regular cavalry, are based in Fallingbostel in northern Germany, and form part of 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats.
They have been attached to 3 Commando Brigade since early 2011 and D Squadron will return to Germany in mid-November where, following a period of post-tour leave, they will return to training on their familiar CHALLENGER 2 main battle tanks.
After a period of training and overseas exercises they will begin preparations for a return to Afghanistan in 2013.