Royal Anglian officer "humbled" by award

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Royal Anglian officer "humbled" by award

Post by Guest on Sun 09 Mar 2008, 7:26 pm


Since Major Dominic Biddick returned from Afghanistan in late 2007 following a gruelling operational tour with The Royal Anglian Regiment, he's had a few months to reflect on his experiences fighting the Taliban.



Maj Biddick is one of a number of soldiers named in the latest Operational Honours and Awards list. Awarded a Military Cross, he was praised for "repeatedly proving his tactical ability and exceptional leadership skills and his huge contribution to the success of the British mission in Helmand."

He said finding out he had been nominated for a gallantry award was quite a surprise:

"Initially I felt a little bit shocked and humbled but the overriding sense is that it's a massive honour and an absolute privilege, as was the opportunity to command an infantry company in combat last year.

"To reflect on Helmand now brings back a complete array of memories, a lot of highs, and the standout moments probably hinge on the main battlegroup and brigade offensive operations we took part in - Op Silicon, Op Lastay Kulang, Op Ghartse. They were some of the longest days of my life but also some of the most meaningful.

"As a professional soldier and commander you want to be tested, you want to find your limits and I think on a few long days in Helmand we found our limits.

"As a Company Commander in Helmand last summer you had a massive amount of responsibility and yet freedom of action. We were working in such dispersed roles, particularly in Now Zad and Sangin, with a lot of trust bestowed on us by our commanding officers, so the hardest decisions really, were how far to push the operation, how much risk to take with the men, balancing the risk that was necessary to take the operation forward and defeat the Taliban against the protective instinct with regard to one's own men.

"So knowing where to draw that hypothetical line in the sand between how far you're prepared to push the operation and the need to not risk lives unnecessarily."

"As a professional soldier and commander you want to be tested, you want to find your limits and I think on a few long days in Helmand we found our limits."

Major Dom Biddick

Maj Biddick has a lot of respect for the Taliban, who he regards as a motivated and cunning enemy:

"The Taliban that we fought against represented a number of different groups, with different levels of professionalism and capability. But generally speaking they were tenacious, and they were competent in the ground of their choosing at a time of their choosing, a very wily adversary.

"We didn't necessarily fear them because we knew we'd overmatch them in a fire fight every time, but we certainly had a level of respect for their tactical dexterity."

The Anglians suffered a number of losses during their tour, with nine soldiers from the battalion killed in total. Two of those were under Maj Biddick's command. He still feels their loss today:

"I lost two soldiers, Private Chris Gray and Corporal Darren Bonner. I particularly remember going to tell the Company of Chris' death, because he was evacuated in the middle of a contact and I got a phone call from the Commanding Officer to tell me they couldn't save him down at the hospital at Bastion. When I rallied the men in the Now Zad combat outpost to tell them that we'd lost Chris that was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do.

"Similarly when we lost Cpl Darren Bonner. Unfortunately the vehicle that he and I were travelling in hit a mine only seven hours into a two-week operation. That was a bloody blow. After dealing with the fatality and the other casualties we still had to get on with the operation. That was another tough moment.

"So there were some difficult days, but I think the success that the Royal Anglians have had, particularly in the town of Sangin, on reflection means the sacrifices made have not been in vain. We've left a tangible legacy and we hope that the battlegroups following us in northern Helmand continue to take that forward."

The legacy Major Biddick refers to was achieved through sheer determination from all those deployed with 12 Mechanized Brigade last summer:

"I think 2007 was a defining year," he said. "After a summer of fierce fighting in 2006, in 2007 we had to be successful, we couldn't be on the back foot, we had to be aggressive and move the operation forward. I think that 12 Mechanized Brigade did that and showed what the British Army is capable of.

"We not only took physical locations and ground like Sangin and Kajaki, we set up the conditions for the future success of the operation by providing the conditions to enable our colleagues at the FCO and DFID to come in and start delivering their effects. It was the year which it went the way of the UK operations."

Since returning from Afghanistan soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment have taken part in a number of homecoming parades in several towns and cities across southern England:

"The homecomings felt absolutely amazing," said Maj Biddick. "We were spectacularly well received at Guildford, Norwich, Bury St Edmunds. We're still doing Company parades - we've just done Great Yarmouth and have King's Lynn to come. It is extremely humbling.

"Politics aside, the intensity of the operations in Afghanistan now has led to a lot more media coverage and public awareness, and it's brought the Army and the public a lot closer together. To see the rapport between the soldiers, the old boys who turn out and the public, all sharing a beer after the parades gives me a very warm feeling to be part of that. The Regiment are now closer because of that."

Provided By: MOD - http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/HistoryAndHonour/RoyalAnglianOfficerhumbledByAward.htm

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