Coldstream Guards make friends in Kabul

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Coldstream Guards make friends in Kabul

Post by Guest on Tue 18 Mar 2008, 5:29 pm

As soldiers from Number One Company, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards near the end of their tour of duty in Kabul they have been carrying out a few last tasks aimed at helping local people benefit from some much needed medical care. Report by Neil Weddell.

Since the Coldstream Guards soldiers arrived in Kabul in October 2007, part of the wider International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, they have seen the situation in and around Kabul improve, much to the benefit and relief of local people.

As Company Commander Major Wayne Hennessy Barrett explained their success has all been about building strong relationships within the community:

"We're here to stabilise the UK sector in Kabul, supporting our Afghan and NATO allies as well as British national interests. We are denying the insurgents the ability to operate as they would wish, through intelligence-led security and reconstruction operations and close local friendships."

The Guards' mission in Kabul is one of stabilisation, traditionally one of the most dangerous, by denying insurgents the freedom to operate. They are also the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) for all UK assets in the city, and the operations company of choice for the multi-national, Italian-led Regional Command Capital.

But the threat of suicide and roadside bombs is ever-present and the soldiers are constantly on their guard, keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity or unusual patterns of life. Their skills have been honed by experience gained on operational tours in Northern Ireland and, more recently, in Al Amarah, southern Iraq.

"Keeping one step ahead of the Taliban is a challenge, but we are winning," Major Hennessy Barrett continued. "Although there is at least one serious incident a week in the city, we have prevented any from occurring in our area of responsibility. We have achieved this through sensitive but assertive security and humanitarian operations."

Qabel Bey School on the main Kabul International Airport road is one of the locations the Guards visit to run one of their final medical clinics. Following a recce of the school, conducted during the preceding weeks, the signal for the all clear is given and, in the newly constructed school grounds (funded by ISAF), the soldiers prepared to set up the clinic.

The fourth one to date, this clinic is an opportunity for all locals to have a free health check as well as medicines and ointments to alleviate sickness and injuries where possible. To date Number 1 Company have brought relief and medical treatment to over 5,000 Afghans.

The clinic got underway with some 200 men, women and children attempting to gain entrance straight away. As time passed the numbers began to swell and, whilst putting a strain on the situation, it demonstrated the popularity these clinics have amongst the local people.

Sergeant Robert Beckett, 30, from Hull, said:

"The people of Kabul all seem to be pleased to see the Guardsmen, many greeting them in English. To date we have run a number of these MEDCAPs and each time the numbers grow significantly. So far we have counted over 600 people and we aren't even half way through the day yet."

"The people here are pleased to see us in their villages and around the town. I really feel that we are making them feel safer by our presence here.We are working more closely with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police and hopefully in time the continuing threat of bomb attacks will eventually disappear in Kabul for good."

Captain Pete Dale, Company CIMIC Officer for Number 1 Company, added:

"The medical process is basic, with minor ailments being treated immediately and more chronic complaints being referred to the local hospital for subsequent follow up. All this is done utilising Afghan doctors and nurses, ensuring dependence and trust are built up by putting an 'Afghan face' on all our dealings.

"The Coldstream Guards are guests in this country and we must engender the Afghan people with the knowledge to do things for themselves. The pharmacy issues any medication and the patients are free to go.

"It is fair to say that some are reluctant to leave and try and rejoin existing queues if given the opportunity. This is something we are aware of, and do our best to ensure no one person gets all the attention."

Source: MOD -


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