cloaked themselves in cloud of smoke to install a bridge in Nad-e
Ali leaving frustrated Taliban powerless to stop them finishing
Engineers had to dive into a ditch they had just dug as they laid
the bridge foundation when they came under fire from Taliban insurgents.
They were pinned down for an hour while Afghan National Army
soldiers and British infantrymen engaged the enemy in a fierce
firefight in the recent operation.
The next day they returned under the cover of darkness finish
work on the bridge but as it got light the insurgents starting
firing on them again so they created a smoke screen with grenade
to give them cover.
When the smoke cleared the insurgents were confronted with the
fully installed brand new bridge.
The men from 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) attached to 28
Engineer Regiment Group risked their lives to build the bridge
which will carry vehicles weighing up to 100 tonnes to replace the
existing crossing which could only carry foot traffic and motorcycles.
Their Troop Commander, Lt. Kristian Haagensen (26) from Newcastle
described the scene,
“My job was to build a bridge over a canal so that we can get our
vehicles into the area occupied by the insurgents on the other
side of the canal.
“We were hard at work on the first day shoring up the verges when
we suddenly came under small arms and RPG attack from the
Insurgents. We dived into the very same ditch we had been shoring
up. My lads were pinned down for an hour in the ditch while the
driver of the digger was pinned down in his cab. Thankfully they
are solid machines so he was well protected in there.
Three of the soldiers involved with the build told how close a
call they had.
Sapper Craig Mellon (24) from Cardenden, Fife said, “The
Insurgents opened fire from a compound only 250 metres away as we
were digging on the verge. We all managed to get down in the ditch
next to the canal. The Afghan National Army lads and our infantry
guys opened up on the enemy straight away.
“We were stuck in the ditch for an hour, but then once the threat
had passed we got on with the job. I supposed I did feel a bit
nervous working afterwards but this is the job we have trained to
do. It is not until I was back in the tent that I thought just how
close it was.”
Sapper Daniel Nansoz (20) from St Albans said, “I was in the cab
of the digger when the insurgents opened fire. I am well protected
in there by the armour so I just moved the digger to a wall as per
my orders and kept my head down till it was over.
“The enemy does a good job of keeping themselves very well hidden
but we have some equally good shooters in our Battle Group. They
saw off the blokes firing at us and thankfully none of our guys
got hurt - that’s the main thing.”
Sergeant Brian Tucker (31) from Mansfield Town said, “As
Engineers we know that we have to get the job done. Once we had
driven the insurgents back, everyone picked up where they left
off. It’s always difficult after a contact but you still have to
get the lads back up to finish the job.”
Attacks such as these are levied at British and ISAF troops
because insurgents feel threatened by the progress that is being
made. In many cases these gunmen are not from the area and
therefore have no issue about attacking combined ISAF forces who
are ultimately improving the freedom of movement for the locals.
Lt Haagensen said, “This really is the front line. I was very
relieved that no-one was hurt and the lads were just pleased that
they had managed to complete their job. We went back to the base
and rehearsed our drills for putting in the bridge itself. We have
trained hard for this kind of task so we were fully prepared the instillation.
“The next day in the middle of the night we went in, assembled
the bridge and placed it in at first light. Again as it got light
the Insurgents contacted us with some small arms fire. The lads
got down in the ditch again and we actually used the digger scoop
to get them into a safe position. Smoke was called in to provide
us with cover. Once the smoke had cleared the build was complete –
a gleaming result!”
“We had already built in a small bridge across the canal which is
strong enough for the locals to drive across on their motorbikes.
Once we have pushed the Insurgents out of the area the local
people will be able to move freely about and the vehicle bridge
will make their lives a lot easier.”
Projects like this are the vital first steps towards developing
the local infrastructure and immediately after the military have
secured an area they get to work on construction that will quickly
make a difference to local people’s lives. Doing this is vital to
winning them round and persuading them that ISAF forces can offer
security and prosperity in contrast to the insurgents who do not
care about the local population
Notes to Editors
· Images and video of the operation are available on the Defence
News Imagery website: https://www.defencenewsimagery.mod.uk/fotoweb/Login.fwx.
· The soldiers cited may be available for live or pre-recorded
interviews; requests should be made to the address below.
· The soldiers are from Arno Troop, 10 Field Squadron (Air
Support) attached to 28 Engineer Regiment Group, part of the
Grenadier Guards Battle Group.
· UK Forces are deployed to Afghanistan in support of the UN
authorised, NATO led International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF) mission and as part of the US-led Operation Enduring
Freedom (OEF). UK operations in Afghanistan are being conducted
under the name Operation HERRICK.
· Task Force Helmand is the name given to UK-led forces in
Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan.
· Follow Task Force Helmand at Army
Frontline News; on the Helmand Blog (also
on YouTube at Helmand Blog
YouTube channel); and on Twitter.
· For more information, contact the Task Force Helmand Media
Operations staff on: email@example.com
Ministry of Defence