Fourth Mechanized Brigade – known as ‘The Black Rats’ – has taken over as Task Force Helmand in Afghanistan, officially marking the start of Operation Herrick 17. The Brigade is reinforced with 40 Commando Royal Marines, as it was for its last tour of Afghanistan in the summer of 2010.
In a simple ceremony in front of British, Danish, Estonian and American personnel at the Lashkar Gah Headquarters of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier Douglas Chalmers, Commander of 12 Mechanized Brigade, formally handed over to Brigadier Bob Bruce, Commander of 4th Mechanized Brigade.
The next six months will see the incoming Brigade working in support of the Afghan Army and all elements of the Afghan National Police – building upon the achievements made by 12 Mechanized Brigade to enable the Afghan forces to take control for security in their own areas.
Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) chiefs joined both Brigadiers at an evening event ahead of the ceremony. The Brigadiers also met their Afghan Army and Police counterparts at the Central Helmand Security Shura on Saturday to reflect on the success of the Summer Campaign and agree upon a coordinated effort for the forthcoming winter.
The Afghan security forces have developed significantly over the past year demonstrating a growing capability and confidence to plan and conduct operations. The strong relationship between the British and Afghan opposite numbers has developed over recent years, exemplified by the Commander of the Afghan Army’s 3/215 Brigade Brigadier General Sherin Shah travelling to Warminster in June to join The Black Rats during the training for their latest tour of Afghanistan.
Brigadier Douglas Chalmers, Commander of Task Force Helmand for Herrick 16 said: “Building on the work of our predecessors, 20 Armoured Brigade, we came here with the purpose of further developing the Afghan military forces so that they can take responsibility for protecting their people.
"As we kept the insurgents displaced, our advisors built the confidence and ability of the Afghans who are now leading security in the towns and villages – home to most of the population.
“It has been a hard fight and the sacrifices have been high but we’ve seen significant changes. As we see bustling markets where there were none several years ago I am confident that this momentum will continue.”
Brigadier Bob Bruce, Commander of Task Force Helmand for Herrick 17 said: “Our focus throughout this deployment will be on assisting our Afghan allies to deliver security to their people. We are superbly well trained and equipped to do this.
“Real success has been achieved. As the Afghan security forces continue to grow in capability and confidence we will reduce our profile. I am planning to send 500 troops home by the end of this year.”
Six and a half thousand personnel from the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force make up Task Force Helmand. 4th Mechanized Brigade will be the lead formation in Task Force Helmand until March 2013.