Gurkha soldiers have returned home early as British forces continue to reduce troop numbers in Helmand and hand over to local security forces.
The British troops from B Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (1RGR), have occupied Patrol Base 4 (PB4) in Helmand’s Nad-e Ali district for the past four months – the same place they were based on their previous tour in 2010.
They return to their barracks in Shorncliffe, Kent, weeks before their original end of tour date after handing over to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
Major Shane Burton (33), the Officer Commanding B Company, 1 RGR, in PB4, said: “Over the three tours I’ve done of Afghanistan there has been a significant change in the capabilities in the ANSF. That is the single most important point allowing us to move to transition.
“Their numbers have increased significantly and so has their attitude towards conducting operations. They are now a much more professional force – both the Army and the Police. They want to get out there and push the presence of GIRoA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) forward and establish that security for their own people.”
18 bases closed or transferred
1 RGR leave Helmand having seen considerable differences since their previous tour at the same base in 2010 when it was hard fought over by insurgents.
Corporal SojIt Gauchan (27), from B Company 1 RGR, has completed three previous tours of Afghanistan. He said: “Back in 2007 the ANSF were small in numbers and their effectiveness was not good. As we moved on, the mentoring became larger and the tactics and skills they learnt from the UK forces meant they have progressed into professional soldiers.
“The task was to hand over the area to the Afghan National Security Forces and it went pretty well; so our mission was achieved and that cuts our six months tour down to four months. My wife is waiting for me at home, so it’s exciting to go back and see her - so it is good.”
The local Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) Commander, First Lieutenant Mohamed, added: “When ISAF forces leave here we will be able to ensure security for all our people. Also we have the right equipment and we are equipped correctly. We are now able to destroy and defeat our enemies from this area.”
Lieutenant Ed Latham (27), a Platoon Commander from 1 RGR, continued: “You get to a point where you realise that the job is done here. You start to feel that we are encroaching on the ANSF as they really have taken responsibility.”
During the base closure process, facilities were removed and the base reduced to more basic levels. The compound will eventually be returned to the local farmer. So far, during Operation Herrick 17 (since 10 October 2012), 18 bases have been closed or transferred to the ANSF.
Soldiers of B Company, 1 RGR, return to St John Moore Barracks, Kent, where they will continue training in preparation for their move to Brunei later this year.