5RAR Association Website
5RAR Afghanistan

 

Mentoring Task Force 2, Battle Group Tiger

Australian Infantryman's Combat Badge
131 Force Protection Platoon
Map of Afghanistan
© PTE Matthew Richards
Force Protection Platoon, I31

Greetings to all 5RAR members and associates, For the soldiers of I31, the hard months of training in Darwin and the many nights spent in Mount Bundey training area now seem very distant for where we are at this current point in time. Following the long hours spent watching endless streams of power point presentations and briefs now sees us doing our job “for real”. For most of us, Afghanistan was just a selection of photographs, videos and stories and we couldn’t wait to finally experience it for ourselves, the time for us to embark for the deployment seemed very far away. Then it soon dawned on us that we only had weeks to go and final leave was granted; late September and mid-October our call sign flew into the middle-east with the first stop being in the UAE (United Arab Emirates). After some medical training and zeroing shoots we emplaned for the flight into Afghanistan. The moment was here. This is where our training and theory learnt would be finally put into practise. For all, the first sight of Afghanistan was when the Hercules ramp came down and we disembarked and looked around. Barren mountains, choppers flying, noise and of course, the dust. Just like in the photos but still a foreign sight to see. 131 force protection soldiers carrying out abattle field resupplyMy call sign, I31, has been tasked with force protection with combat team Charlie in the district of Deh Rawud in the south-western corner of Uruzgan province. It borders Helmand and Kandahar provinces. We were settled in our forward operating base with an American combat team known as Apache Company of the 1/2 Stryker Regiment. For most having never worked with Americans before, we soon came to bond and many questions were raised regarding weapons and equipment and life in Australia/USA. Within days of arriving we swung into work and proceeded to catch up with Charlie section that had arrived 3 weeks prior to the main body of the platoon. The general consensus was that area was going to be “exciting”. The area in which Charlie Section had been operating was the same area in which 6 RAR had large contact not 6 weeks prior. For us just arrived, looking across to Derapet in the Tangi valley was a bit surreal and a reminder that we truly were in “tiger country”. Would we see a contact like that one in our time in Afghanistan? We would soon find out. Whilst one section would be providing security at Patrol Base (PB) Anar Juy, the other two sections would find themselves doing vehicle convoy escorts and foot patrols closer to  131-B soldiers on patrol in the Tangi ValleyFOB Hadrian with moves out to PB Razaq. Once again it was a chance to catch with mates in the mentoring call signs. In late November, Charlie section had a minor contact in the Tangi valley and we knew it was definitely game on for it seemed that the Taliban were trying to get an idea of who the new kids on the neighbourhood were. After a mentoring call sign was engaged in heavy contact in early December, a few days later, I31 was told we would be going in with the mentors from Tangi valley to engage Taliban. It would be a massive day and in fact a lot larger than that experienced by 6RAR in late August 2010. Whilst providing overwatch our call sign came under mass small arms fire for an extended period of time. From this came our move into the valley and surrounding villages and we were engaged in contact for six and a half hours against a large number of insurgents who were well versed. Despite what the enemy could muster against us, I31 and the Mentors managed to see out the day with no casualties to any Australians or Afghan national army soldiers. The Taliban were not so lucky. Since this day the platoon has seen a number of large sized contacts and has fared well in all encounters. This is due to the extensive training and determination of all soldiers within our Combat Team. After this period, patrol bases were built in separate areas and the weather turned for the worse. Preparing for lows of -16 degrees Celsius is not a temperature easily acclimatised to whilst in the Northern Territory. During winter, the rain turned the ground to thick mud and vehicle movement was painfully hindered no matter where we went. But recently the sun has re-appeared and many are finally taking off layers of clothing hopefully for the remainder of the trip! Soldiers from 131 providing security from a village in the TangiValley
Whilst the Combat Team considered itself lucky during combat we have seen so far, the dangers of the enemy are never far away. The Taliban make use of IED’s or improvised explosive devices, and will place them to target our vehicles and dismounted patrols. Our engineers are extremely good and have found many and denied Taliban usage of equipment with cache finds hurting their ability to rearm and deploy IED’s and weapon systems. Sadly for Combat Team Charlie, on the 2 February we lost Engineer CPL Richard Atkinson, to an IED. Known as “Akkers, he was an extremely well liked member. Another engineer was wounded in the incident and received top medical treatment in Tarin Kowt hospital and has since returned to the Combat Team. Akkers will be sadly missed and it is the strength of a Combat Team to focus on the job at hand after incidents like the tragic one experienced. Combat Team Charlie has shown that we will not slow down nor lose sight of the tasks we have been assigned, and the goals we have set. Our Platoon is now over the halfway point of our deployment and what can be considered an already busy last few months. Our remaining time is set to get even busier with what’s considered “fighting season” just kicking off with the start of the warmer weather. We are well rehearsed now in our requirements needed of an infantry soldier operating in Afghanistan. We are well aware of the dangers that we face. All the members of Combat team Charlie would also like to thank the association for the support and parcels that we have received whilst in country. It’s not just support from family that will get us over the line but from home in general and the generation before us from 5RAR.

LCPL Neil Cyril Bautista and PTE Matthew Richards (in Santa suit) celebrating Xmas day in an unconventional way.