7FP WG Update

Our last ‘onetoone’ submission saw the Wing HQ heading into the New Year maintaining a high tempo of operations at Kandahar Airbase (KAF) to ensure the continued security of the airbase and the local area. Kandahar is a complex Air Force Protection (Air FP) battle space for the Wing to command and manage – 650 square kms of Ground Defence Area (GDA) with a population of over 100,000 people, one of the busiest single runways on the planet and home to tens of thousands of military and civilian personnel from more than 42 nations.

As a small example, the airfield consumes over a million litres of fuel every day with a vast majority of the life support for KAF – food, water, fuel and other consumables, being trucked in by road and all of which has to be checked – enough to keep us busy!

New Years Day was just another ordinary day at KAF – except for members of the Wg HQ picking up an escort & guarding task to take COMKAF and some of his senior staff to a New Year’s dinner as guests of the local Afghan Air Force Commander, General Sherzai.  Flt Lt Charlie Lynn (the Patrol Commander) & SAC Josh Holleran, supported by US & Slovak Wg personnel, spent much of the night patrolling a compound and ensuring that the dinner went off without any major interruptions from Insurgents.  Back to normal business and it wasn’t long before the locals had their own unique style of welcoming in the New Year in Kandahar!

Out in the local area, our Influence Cell headed up a number of Shuras (meetings) with the local Maliks, (Heads of Villages/Tribes), to continue their vital work and Cpl Phil Kenny spent an interesting couple of days in Kandahar City at a conference to help develop the ‘Radio-in-a-Box’ (RIAB) programme within Afghanistan. Radio ‘Doosty’, the KAF RIAB broadcasting station (radio station for the locals employing local Nationals as DJs) under command of the Wing HQ was held up as a model of success and it continues to play a vital role in our Influence activities around the airbase.

The month of January saw a number of noticeable visits to the Wing, all hosted by OC 7 Wg, Gp Capt Patrick Shea-Simonds, and included: Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox; CJO, AM Peach; Air Officer Commanding Number 1 Group, AVM Bagwell; Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe designate, Lt Gen Shirref and the Commandant General of the RAF Regiment, Air Cdre La Forte. The last of these visits coincided with a Memorial Service to commemorate those RAF Regiment personnel who had fallen in service whilst at Kandahar and a dedication of the memorial stone by the 904 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) Padre prior to its return back to the UK and reconstruction back at the Depot of the RAF Regiment.  Following this, members of the HQ started to return back to the UK for well earned Rest & Recuperation.

Heading into February, a new but expected challenge was faced by the HQ – that of flooding. Until now the tour had seen a dry and arid landscape and such was the lack of rain, that the issue of drought was becoming an increasing concern for the local population. Suffice to say the local populous need not have worried as the heavens opened and large areas of KAF began to flood at a remarkably rapid pace!  Prior contingency planning conducted across the Commander Kandahar (COMKAF) HQ ensured that the airfield remained operational, KAF Force Protection (FP) infrastructure remained more-or-less intact and the airfield secure. However, significant damage was caused to roads hampering FP operations and the resupply of the base, as well as restricting the ability to manoeuvre in the wider GDA – we are still recovering from the consequences!  With the weather conditions remaining poor, opportunities for air coverage were diminished, although we remain well supported by the numerous air assets in theatre.  Nevertheless our Air Liaison Officer, Flt Lt Paul Ratnage remained busy, as instead of numerous fast jets, he got to play with the 155mm 777 Howitzers of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery instead – a small but rather loud and potent consolation indeed!

Meanwhile the Boss also got a rare insight into the Air FP of other nations as he accompanied COMKAF (Brig Gen Kendall) to Mazar-E-Sherif airfield (in Regional Command North) for 48 hours to meet and patrol with the FP commander from the Luftwaffe – returning to brief us on a different style of Air FP operations in very similar tactical conditions.  The Boss wasn’t the only one enjoying his travels around theatre – the Wg Int O, Flt Lt Chris Morrill also got to the enjoy the sights of Kabul as he attended a number of important meetings regarding future ISAF J2 Infrastructure and reporting requirements – we save all the fun jobs for him!  February was another busy month for even more visits as the Wg HQ hosted the Chief of the Air Staff, ACM Dalton and the Air Member for Personnel, AM Pulford, both of whom attended a Remembrance Service at the Squadron memorial.  We were also visited by the RAF Regiment’s Force Commander, Gp Capt Hall and our Chief of Staff, Sqn Ldr David Capel, enjoyed an informative evening with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Astor and the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Gen Houghton.

In March, a medal parade at 904 EAW saw the Wg HQ and 15 Squadron receive their ISAF medals from COMKAF and CO 904 EAW, Gp Capt Connell, and marked an appropriate farewell to 15 Sqn who departed theatre on 12 March back to RAF Honington.  The welfare parcels from RAF Coningsby were all very well received by the Wing HQ and most importantly topped up the Boss’s vital supply of chocolate – thank you to all those who contributed to them!  We now have just 8 weeks left of our operational tour and are looking forward to returning to RAF Coningsby in early May and enjoying a first cold beer at home in our respective Station Mess bars – it will have been a long time!