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Afghanistan 2014

On Wednesday 5 November 2014 eleven members of The Band of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) part of the Corps of Army Music for an eight day tour of Afghanistan.

The Band formed a ten piece brass ensemble with support from the Honourable Artillery Company Band (Army Reserve) and a percussionist. 

Having experienced a tactical landing in a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III at Kandahar Airport, the party were briefed about "Actions On" for various scenarios, including Indirect Fire (IDF) and Ground Attack.  For many members of the band, this experience drove home the fact they were now in a war zone wearing full body armour.

The first full day in theatre was spent rehearsing for the main engagement of the tour, a remembrance service at Kandahar attended by a VVIP whose identity was being kept secret.  The only space available to the band was by the NAAFI this turned the rehearsal into an impromptu concert for staff and passing serving personnel. 

On Remembrance Sunday the VVIP was confirmed as His Royal Highness (HRH) Prince Harry as well as VIPs representing a large number of countries involved with the coalition operating in Afghanistan.  This was a historic parade, being the final remembrance parade to take place in Kandahar before it closed later in the month.

After the service HRH Prince Harry asked for the band members to be invited into the reception.  When meeting them he complemented the ensemble on its excellent playing, he paid particular attention to Lance Corporal Lawrence Narhkom who had performed Last Post and Reveille. 

Straight after the reception the group were on the move again,this time by Hercules to Kabul. After another tactical landing they were met by a section of riflemen from 2nd Battalion The Rifles.  Having received a brief the convoy set off for Camp Souter. 

In the early hours of Tuesday 11th three members of the band dressed as locals were transported from Camp Souter to New Kabul Compounds Camp.  This was for Musicians John Berry and Nick Davy to play Last Post and Reveille for a United States led Remembrance Service.  This was a particularly interesting experience to witness U.S. traditions such as laying a place at a dinner table for the soldier not returning.  While this was taking place, the rest of the band performed in the Dining Facility (DFAC) for 2 Rifles lunch. 

That evening the band was on the move again this time to HQ ISAF.  The concert venue was in a botanic gardens,which was the first greenery the band had seen since arriving in Afghanistan.

The band then moved onto Qargha the location of the British led Afghanistan National Army Officers' Academy.  Arriving in the early hours of Wednesday the band was met by Warrant Officer Class One (Bandmaster) Shane O'Neil who was six weeks into a ten month tour working as a mentor at the academy. 

After a couple of hours sleep the band started playing in the DFAC.  Corporal Jon Langford invited Warrant officer Shane O Neil to take his place on horn for a couple of numbers.  Post performance all of the band's luggage was driven to the Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) by quad bikes. While waiting for the Chinook the band were able to take in the beautiful scenery surrounding Qargha the only thing to spoil the views was the barbed wire fences.

Having landed back in Kabul Airport, the band started the long journey home.  Again the band flew to Kandahar Airport and on Thursday boarded the C-17 that would take them all the way to RAF Brize Norton.

The eight day tour was one of the most humbling and job satisfying experiences of the band member's careers.  Although small, their contributions to the various events were greatly appreciated by all ranks of different nationalities. 

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