Being out here has opened my eyes to many things, not least in the way that the Army works…but also how it actually fights. Sometimes it is with putting a man with a rifle in a field or a village, sometimes it is supplying him with expensive kit and technology, sometimes it is just with an amazing bit of technology on it’s own. Being with an Infantry Company as it fights, has given me an amazing insight – and one that not many people outside the Army will ever see.
Yesterday was a good example. I walked into the Ops room at exactly the wrong time. ‘Ah Alex, can you just sit on the desk for me whilst I get a bit of lunch?’ asked the 2ic – the second in command of the Company. I would basically be just taking messages and making very low level decisions whilst he took a short break. It was the wrong time because I ended up being in there for six and a half hours, but it was also the right time to see a bit more of that battle.
Slowly things began to tick off. The technology we have out here (that I obviously can’t talk about) gave us information that there were bad guys about who were planning to do bad things to one of our patrols. Essentially there was a man in an hedge-line who’d been seen to be doing something ‘dodgy’ – and for dodgy I mean walking up and down without any real reason AND continually looking across to the Check Point to see when they would come out next.
Such a person is called a ‘Dicker’ and is key to the enemy’s way of fighting us. They look for us to leave a CP and then will phone or radio to their Insurgent mates to let them know we are coming and their mates will then put out their IEDs in likely places that we might go. They can’t take us on face to face as they know we will give them a good fight, so they have to resort to trying their luck with IEDs. Sometimes they are lucky. Yesterday they weren’t.
As I said, given our technology we knew exactly what they were planning and within a few minutes the insurgent group the dicker had been there for was ‘busted’ by an Apache helicopter. A couple of insurgents managed to run off – and some of the people of the ground said later they would be high on the list for the prospective Afghan sprinting team for the Olympics next year. It’s amazing how fast someone in flip-flops can run with an Apache attack helicopter flying above them!
Not only was an attack on our guys thwarted, but the even better outcome was that as they ran for it, the insurgents chucked ‘something’ under a sun shelter by a track on their way to escape – not that they did escape, they were later picked up by a call-sign from a nearby AO. The something turned out to be a second IED that they hadn’t had time to plant. A double win!
The thing was I was able to watch how this battle was pressed. How information and data flowed between locations. How decision were made. I could see the patience that they had in the Ops Room and how they interpreted the information coming in from outside and decided upon it quickly and accurately.
But what I did see was that when we can we the fight to the enemy, we fight them hard. Not just with boots on the ground. Not just with technology, but with many things put together. Equipment, technology, information and manpower fought a battle yesterday. And because we have the best of all four of those – particularly the manpower who use it, it was a battle we won.