Fuelling UK forecourts after Afghanistan operation

From delivering supplies at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan to driving tankers in the UK, Private Sophie Lamond, of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, has deployed on two back-to-back operations: deployments that she says, “couldn’t be more different”.

As the humanitarian crisis unfolded within days of the Taliban’s takeover in August, 22-year-old Sophie, of Llanbedrog in North Wales, responded to the call, with more than 1,000 military personnel, to help evacuate British nationals and eligible Afghans.

When Royal Logistic Corps Driver Sophie first learned she was going to Afghanistan at 48 hours’ notice to move, she said: “I didn’t know how to feel to be honest. It was a shock to the system.”

It was Sophie’s first visit to Afghanistan, and Kabul airport, where she was delivering rations. Her logistics role was key to ensuring the troops could support those most in need. “It feels good to help those people escape the Taliban so they can start a new life somewhere else,” said Sophie.

Despite some British troops working near members of the Taliban, Sophie wasn’t working close to them. “I was working inside the compound delivering food and water,” she said. After just over two weeks on the mission, also known as Operation Pitting, Sophie was happy to be going home.

By the end of the operation more than 15,000 people were airlifted to safety on more than 100 flights in the largest British evacuation since the Second World War. The operation marked the end of the UK's 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan.

Front line to forecourt

Fast-forward to today and Sophie is back in the UK, delivering fuel to forecourts in South East England on Operation Escalin. She is one of 200 personnel supporting the Government’s plan to help ease pressure on petrol stations and address the shortage of HGV drivers.

Sophie, who has been in the Army for three years, is currently working night shifts out of a haulage depot in Thurrock, Essex. She’s never driven tankers before and had two weeks’ training before her deployment began.

Speaking of her current role, she said: “It feels good to help out at home.” It is expected that this operation will last at least four weeks.

When Sophie is not deployed at short notice on operations, her role as a member of 63 Squadron would be to do a first parade on the trucks to make sure everything is fine. She said: “I would be checking the tyres and the lights and everything on the truck. If there’s any details going out, we normally drive a truck down to the camp and pick something up or drop something off.”

The former Ysgol Glan y Mor school pupil lives with her parents in North Wales. She said her family wasn’t sure about her joining the Army at first but were happy to support no matter what. “They’ve always been there when I needed them most. They’re happy that I’m enjoying myself in the Army,” she said.