5 SCOTS On Op HERRICK 13
Through the Eyes of Lt Col Adam Griffths MBE, Commanding Officer 5 SCOTS
Op HERRICK 13 is over now for 5 SCOTS and it is time to reflect on what has passed. It has been an extremely successful tour for 5 SCOTS personnel and the fortitude, tenacity and sheer capacity of our young soldiers to deliver everything that is asked of them has been overwhelmingly impressive.
Employed primarily in the Police Development Advisory Training Team (PDATT) role, the Battalion was been split across the whole of the Task Force Helmand Area of Operations. Generating three ground holding rifle companies for three separate Combined Forces, a training company for the Regional Training Centre (South West), formerly the Helmand Police Training Centre, as well as, at short notice, forming an increased Police mentoring and advisory capability. This was deployed across the length and breadth of the British area of operations and kept the Battalion at the forefront of almost every aspect of the campaign throughout the deployment.
It has been extremely rewarding for the Battalion to have been at the head of the task of developing the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP), an institution which has grown enormously in confidence, capability and capacity. There is no doubt that Afghanistan remains a very challenging and austere environment to operate in, however, the Jocks have taken this in their stride.
As well as the PDATT role, 5 SCOTS also provided three ground holding company groups of around 100 men. The Rifle Companies worked hard to establish themselves in their Patrol Bases as well as within their adopted Combined Forces. In most cases, the locations were austere and relatively remote. The stories of these Companies’ experiences are too lengthy to cover in any detail here, suffice to say there are many examples of exemplary courage and sheer determination as they fought hard throughout the Afghan winter to protect the local population, provide security and to deepen the capability of their local Afghan National Army and Police.
The tour has not been without loss and as a Battalion we have lost one soldier killed in action and twelve wounded in action. There have been an incredible amount of near misses and all ranks will tell you how much improved and effective the personal protective equipment is for the modern soldier. The death of Private ‘Big Joe’ Vatabua on New Year’s Day was a tragic loss of a talented and delightful young man. It was the measure of the man that his death affected so many and all our thoughts continue to be with his wife and his family.
I have been amazed and incredibly grateful for all the support that we received throughout the deployment. The Rear Party in Canterbury worked at an incredible pace during the period of the operation and have not only ensured that the home base has remained secure, but have maintained an operational focus throughout. From ensuring that those returning on Rest and Recuperation have been picked up to preparing for the return of the Battalion. Similarly, the support from our traditional recruiting areas in Scotland and our adopted home of Canterbury has been quite humbling and I hope that we have paid back some of that respect back by our marches through the communities in Canterbury and in Scotland on our homecoming parades.
At the end of another hard tour in Helmand, all elements of 5 SCOTS can reflect on what has now passed. It is perhaps only in retrospect that it becomes apparent how much has been achieved during the tour by all the disparate elements of the Battalion and by our ISAF, USMC, civilian and Afghan partners. For 5 SCOTS personnel on their second or third tour in Afghanistan, as well as for those on their first, it is clear that demonstrable progress has been made. 5 SCOTS have once again added a few more lines to the narrative of this campaign.
Since the Battalion returned home to Canterbury in May we have conducted several Homecoming Parades both in our adopted home in Kent and in our traditional recruiting areas of Argyllshire, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire in Scotland. We have exercise the Freedom of the City of Canterbury awarded to the Battalion following Op HERRICK 8 in 2008 and have received a new honour in the Freedom of Renfrewshire. My hope is that these public events go some way to demonstrating our thanks to the communities which have supported us so generously and kindly throughout the most recent tour. We now look forward to returning to contingency and retraining the Battalion once more as an Air Assault Infantry Battalion ready to deploy as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. Most pressingly we will provide a company to the 3 PARA Airborne Taskforce later this year.