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Royal Navy on active service in Afghanistan

It's much quieter these days (at least for us back home) so this one passed me by last week:

Daily Telegraph 11 Nov 2013 said:
Royal Navy lock Marsh Cormack has been given a week's leave from his duties in Afghanistan so he can play in the showpiece match which raises money every year for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal

Marsh Cormack has been allowed a short break from active service in Afghanistan to play for the Combined Services against the Barbarians in the Remembrance Match at Plymouth on Tuesday night. The Royal Navy lock, an air engineering technician, has been granted a week’s leave to return to England to play in the fixture, a showpiece for services rugby, which will honour fallen comrades and raise money for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

“Marsh has taken a week’s leave to fly home and play in this match which shows his commitment to Combined Services rugby and how much this match means,” Doc Cox, the Combined Services director of rugby, said. “Quite a few of the squad have seen service in Afghanistan, we all know people who have not made it home so it is a very poignant fixture.”...
RN Apache support team in Afghanistan Nov 2013.jpg
Lt Dan Leaker RN, PO Mark Stanton, PO Steve Copper
and Lt Jonny Orchard RN in Afghanistan

(RN website photo)
RN website 25 Nov 2013 said:
Four sailors have completed a demanding tour of duty helping to support the Army’s Apache missions over Helmand. The quartet – three engineers and one pilot – joined 653 Squadron Army Air Corps which is in action daily in Afghan skies.

Standing proudly in front of one of the Apache gunships for which they’ve been responsible are four sailors who’ve completed a demanding tour of duty in Afghanistan. For the past five months the quartet have worked side by side with their soldier counterparts of 653 Squadron Army Air Corps, flying or supporting daily missions by the helicopters which provide crucial air cover for ground troops.

Just as the Army’s Apaches recently joined HMS Illustrious in the Gulf to give added punch to amphibious exercises, so a small cadre of Navy personnel has been vital to supporting the gunships’ missions over Afghanistan...
Yes, RN personnel (including RNRs) are still serving in Afghanistan:

Lt Cdr Lawrence Dunner RNR.jpg
Lt Cdr Lawrence Dunne RNR
(RN website photo)

RN website 28 Mar 2014 said:
A Royal Navy Reservist, who upgraded a vital computer system in Afghanistan, has been awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service.

Having been in operation for several years, the UK's computer information network in Afghanistan was becoming dated and starting to show signs of vulnerability. The Sharepoint system contained a number of mission critical functions such as chat rooms, situational awareness and battlespace de-confliction and it was therefore vital that it was updated and safely secured.

Ensuring this was the case became the role of Lieutenant Commander Lawrence Dunne, from HMS Forward, in Birmingham. A triple Afghanistan veteran, the 57-year-old returned to Afghanistan in 2013 in order to undertake the Sharepoint upgrade. His knowledge from three previous Herrick deployments meant Lt Cdr Dunne was immediately able to identify where the problems lay and implement solutions...

The Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS) recognises meritorious service during, or in support of, operations. The latest operation honours list is for service between April and September 2013.
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Another one for the record courtesy of Soleil:

Surg Cdr Jo Leason OBE RN.jpg
Surg Cdr Jo Leason OBE RN
Plymouth Herald 7 Apr 2014 said:
A NAVY surgeon who extended her tour in Afghanistan to make sure wounded soldiers were getting the right treatment has been awarded an OBE.

Royal Navy consultant radiologist Jo Leason extended her tour of duty to ensure that local surgical teams could successfully treat their own wounded soldiers. When the 39-year-old, arrived in the war-torn country, Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) doctors had only performed one simple surgical procedure at Camp Shorabak in the south west of the country. Now, thanks to the “inspired leadership and dogmatic resolve” of the medic from Yealmpton, they have performed several hundred operations, largely on battle injuries...

The former St Dunstan’s Abbey head girl, who has completed four tours of duty in Afghanistan, has been awarded the OBE, for those who make a significant impact in support of UK interests.
Shamelessly lifted from the April issue of Navy News:

Navy News Apr 2014 said:
Navy expertise is vital for air power

NAVAL personnel still have important roles to play in Afghanistan - including crucial support to a Royal Air Force group providing security across eight million square miles of land and sea. Maritime expertise is integrated with air power to underpin the operations of 83 Expeditionary Air Group across Afghanistan and the Middle East...

83 EAG works through five deployed Expeditionary Air Wings, two in Afghanistan. 903 EAW operates from Camp Bastion airfield - the fifth busiest British-operated airfield in the world, and pivotal to the drawdown of equipment and personnel from Afghanistan. Aircraft from Afghanistan frequently route over the Gulf, where Coalition naval vessels can control airspace and provide protection and space if necessary. Aircraft movements are monitored in the Combined Air Ops Centre, where 83 EAG commanders and their Coalition partners see the tracks of aircraft and vessels on cinema-sized screens.

One of the sailors making that integration work is RN Liaison Officer Lt Cdr Carlos Garreta, based in the HQ of 83 EAG.

Lt Cdr Carlos Garreta RN.jpg
Lt Cdr Carlos Garreta RN working in HQ of 83 EAG
(Navy News photo by Sgt Ross Tilly RAF)

"On a day-to-day basis I provide a source of maritime air defence expertise, and for me this is a golden opportunity to bring my air warfare skills to bear and see how the RAF works when deployed on operations," he said. "My secondary duty is to look for and plan training opportunities."
Lt Cdr Garetta said of his time alongside the RAF: "We have a long track record of working together. Individuals working in key places make the relationships work. If you come with an open mind, enthusiasm and a sense of humour the relationship is alive and kicking."

He believes relevant experience and regional knowledge is critical.

"I was trained as a Fighter Controller in 2004 at Yeovilton before joining HMS York when she supported the non combatant evacuation operation from Beirut in 2006," he said. "I saw further service in the Middle East on HMS Northumberland when escorting World Food Programme ships to Mogadishu."

Lt Cdr Garreta also spent time on the Herrick desk at Permanent Joint HQ and with the Libya campaign.

Naval integration can also be found in the high desert of Afghanistan at 904 EAW, in the eastern province of Kandahar. This Air Wing is host to the tactical air transport provided by C-130 and BAe 146 aircraft as well as a detachment of Tornado GR4 jets supporting ground operations with frequent imagery gathering sorties. II (AC) Squadron from Marham have just taken over from 617 'Dambusters' squadron, who carried out nearly 200 sorties during their three-month tour - and PO James Carlill was at the heart of the deployment.

PO James Carlill.jpg
PO James Carlill
(Navy News photo by Sgt Si Pugsley RAF)

PO Carlill was until recently second-in-command, managing day-to-day tasking in the Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing detachment, interpreting imagery collected by the RAF to provide intelligence for Afghan led ground forces. He said: "It has been very rewarding because the feedback has been very, very positive - we've been making a difference to operations on the ground by giving analysis to prepare for missions:"

PO Carlill has been able to bring a wealth of naval experience to the role. He said: "I have worked in intelligence at sea and with my experience in joint intelligence courses I can see how manyprinciples of intelligence and imagery analysis are common across maritime and air operations."

Another dimension of cooperation comes from Lt Cdr Kevin Thomas, who we featured in the March edition of Navy News. The officer was a meterologist in the RN from 1981 to 2009 before joining the RNR and is now based with 902 EAW. From an airfield in the Middle East he supports the flight plans for the RAF's Sentinel surveillance aircraft.

"When taking off and landing as close to civilian airports as we are here, the aircrew need good forecasts of cloud cover to plan routes with sufficient levels of visual contact with the airfield," said Lt CdrThomas. Deep local experience on the regional weather and sea states is particularly useful. "Wave height information is important for operations where small skiffs and fishing vessels are concerned," he said.

Lt Cdr Garreta concluded: "From a defence point of view, the time of operating as a single Service is well and truly over - if it ever existed."
Lest we forget:

Sea King baggers in Afghanistan Jun 2014.jpg
Col Jamie Roylance RM, Commander of the Joint Air Group,
thanking 857 personnel for their service

(RN website photo)​

RN website 4 Jun 2014 said:
More than 40 tonnes of drugs, 170 tonnes of home-made bombs and 150 insurgents have been seized thanks to the Royal Navy’s eyes in the skies of Afghanistan. In five years of unbroken commitment to the Allied cause on the ground, Sea Kings of the Airborne Surveillance and Control force – normally based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall – have played a key role in locating insurgents’ arms caches, tracking drugs shipments and following the movements of insurgents.

The helicopters – dubbed ‘cloudwalkers’ by Afghans – were originally designed to provide Royal Navy task groups with early warning of air attack. But their powerful radar has proved to be just as potent over land, with aircrew able to follow movements on the ground – directing Allied troops and security forces to make arrests and seizures...

Since arriving at Camp Bastion five years ago last month, the veteran helicopters have completed 2,000 sorties and 9,000 hours – the equivalent of 375 days – flying over Afghanistan. In doing so, they have helped with the capture of:

  • 150 insurgents
  • 40,000kg of drugs (40 tons)
  • 172,000kg of ammonium nitrate used in home-made bombs (169 tons)
  • 3,000kg of home-made explosives (3 tons)
  • 4,500kg of weapons (4½ tons)
  • 50 Rocket Propelled Grenades
  • 40 AK47 rifles
  • 20,000 rounds of ammunition
With the British presence in Helmand reducing, the Baggers’ role there is under review as the force looks to return to its maritime roots.


Lantern Swinger
Putting aside the press "local boy makes good" stories, Naval Communicators [Telegraphists/Radio Operators] have been involved in EVERY war/conflict/contretemps/standby since 1942 when COBU units were formed, morphing to Naval Gunfire Support units .............. always at the sharp end and rightfully deserving their "combined Operations" badge that others have also purloined. Probably not generally known is that a RN Sparker [Stan H] was in the vanguard of the attack that saw Col H win his postumous VC on Op Corporate. So yes, Jack Tar has always shown the way.
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Lowering of white ensign at Camp Bastion July 2014.jpg
Members of 854 NAS witnessing the lowering of a White Ensign at Camp Bastion. This marks
the final contribution of the last fully formed RN unit on operations in Afghanistan

(RN website photo by Cpl Daniel Wiepen)
RN website 25 July 2014 said:
...In Camp Bastion crew members from the Sea King helicopter 854 Naval Air Squadron witnessed the lowering of a White Ensign, marking the final contribution of the last fully formed Royal Naval unit on operations in Afghanistan. 854 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) played a vital role, flying the Sea King Mk 7 Airborne Surveillance and Control Squadron (SKASaCS) aircraft for more than 9,000 hours over 2,000 sorties to support troops on the ground as part of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing.

The Defence Secretary said:

“I am pleased to be able to pay tribute to the contribution made by 854 Naval Air Squadron, which has played an essential role in supporting troops on the ground in Afghanistan.”

The Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, said:

“The contribution of the SKASaC force over five years has been magnificent, taking the fight to a determined enemy in a vastly unfamiliar environment. Your vital work saved many lives and proved the value of the aircraft over land.”

As well as the Fleet Air Arm, thousands of members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines have previously served in Afghanistan in support of Operation Herrick. During Herrick 5 in 2006 and 2007 and Herrick 9 in 2008 and 2009, 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines Headquarters, 42 Commando and 45 Commando were deployed. At those times Royal Navy and Royal Marines made up around 40 per cent of UK troops.

Individuals from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines will continue to serve in Afghanistan until the conclusion of combat operations by the end of the year.

As at 12 November 2012, RN personnel (exempt RM personnel) had been issued 9,051 NATO OSMs/clasps for service in Afghanistan. Many FAA, medical personnel (such as AB Kate Nesbitt MC and AEM Michelle Ping), etc., were deployed on HERRICK four, five or more times so this number doesn't fully reflect their contribution. Some RN/RM data was lost during transfer from the single service Medal Office databases to the new MoD Medal Office in March 2005 so these figures are likely to be underestimates.
To complete the picture for other Naval Service personnel up to 12 November 2012, RM personnel had been issued 8,336 NATO OSMs/clasps for service in Afghanistan.
They're back:

Sea King bagger in C17.jpg
Sea King 'bagger' in RAF C-17 transport
(Navy News photo)
Navy News 8 Aug 2014 said:
The Royal Navy’s 13-year Afghan mission is over with the return of the last front-line unit from the sands of Camp Bastion. Safely back at base in Culdrose are the Baggers of 854 Naval Air Squadron – the Navy’s eyes in the skies – flown the 3,697 miles from Helmand to Cornwall by RAF transporters, kit, caboodle, personnel. In doing so, it’s brought the curtain down on more than five years of continuous Bagger operations – and a mission for the RN which opened in the autumn of 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities.

In those 13 years, every single branch of the Naval Service has been involved; Tomahawk missiles from RN submarines in the first hours of the war struck Taleban targets, Royal Marines led manhunts in the Afghan mountains, there’s been a sustained presence on Operation Herrick since 2006 – at times two in every five British ‘boots on the ground’ in Helmand was Senior Service – the Harriers of the Naval Strike Wing were the angels on the shoulders of Allied troops, naval medics saving lives in hospital and on patrol, Lynx and Sea Kings supporting ground forces, and a rolling presence of personnel from across the Senior Service performing a myriad of jobs in headquarters and outposts...

Although the baggers are home and the White Ensign no longer flies at Bastion, there are still RN personnel in theatre supporting the ground effort – as they have done throughout Operation Herrick...
The wheel has turned full circle for 854 & 857 NAS:

RN website 12 Nov 2014 said:
After five years of land-based operations in Afghanistan, the Royal Navy’s Sea King Force has fully returned to sea, flying their helicopters from Royal Navy ships in the Gulf.

Whilst operating from Camp Bastion since May 2009, the ‘Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control (SKASaC) Force’, nicknamed ‘The Baggers’, used hi-tech surveillance systems developed to protect Navy ships at sea, to detect and locate smuggling routes used by the Taliban. Flying Mk7 Sea King helicopters fitted with some of the most advanced radar and sensor systems available, the specialist aircrew operated airborne radar stations to provide a protective radar ‘shield’ around Coalition forces on the ground.

In five years of unbroken commitment, the Baggers helped to locate arms caches, tracked drugs shipments and followed the movements of insurgents. Now that the UK is drawing down from Afghanistan, the role of the Sea King Force in that theatre is complete..
RN website 22 Jan 2015 said:
One hundred and 55 repairs involving eight types of aircraft and 21,000 hours of work – that’s 1710’s achievements during their deployment to Afghanistan.

From 2006 to 2014 the unit deployed structural repair teams – with the peak of work seeing the five-man teams complete 15 repairs in one single month. Based at Kandahar airfield and then, from 2010, at Camp Bastion, the team dealt with aircraft both in ISAF bases and out in the field. Their eight-year, or 3,111-day deployment saw them work on Hermes 450 UAS, Merlin, Lynx, Sea King, Apache and RAF Chinooks (which as the workhorse of UK forces accounted for 70 per cent of 1710’s time)...

1710’s years in Afghanistan allowed the unit to develop its repair processes and specialist techniques. The knowledge they gained will stand 1710 in good stead for specialist structural repair support for future deployed aircraft.

More about 1710 Naval Air Squadron, including some quirky facts, here:

RN website 20 Jan 2015 said:
It is not unusual for a Royal Navy ship or unit to claim that it is unique. Some are strong claims – but few as strong as that of 1710 Naval Air Squadron. For 1710 NAS has no air traffic control. No runway. No airfield. No pilots.

No aircraft…

What it does have is expertise, allied to cutting-edge kit, which gives the Armed Forces an incredibly useful and – yes – unique resource to draw upon. There is not much these people cannot handle...
Glad to see the Naval Services, both the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, will be represented in such strength.

RN website 12 Mar 2015 said:
More than 100 Royal Navy and 146 Royal Marines will be taking part in a commemoration event in London on Friday (13th) to mark 13 years of UK military operations in Afghanistan. Among them will be medic Petty Officer David Nicholl, of Lichfield in Staffordshire.

PO(MA) Nicholl deployed to Afghanistan from September 2008-April 2009 and lived in Forward Operating Bases in Lashkar Gah and Garmsir with Royal Marines, 1 Rifles, Gurkha regiments and the Queen’s Dragoon Guards.

“In a six month deployment I experienced every type of emotion there is and it will stay with me forever,” he said. Hopefully the things we did out there will stay with the people of Afghanistan and continue to make a difference to their lives.”
Royal Navy website 11 Mar 2015 said:
...In excess of 5000 Royal Navy and Royal Marines, including reservists, served in Afghanistan, working alongside their Army and RAF colleagues to make it a safer and more stable country...

I suspect the total is far higher than 5,000. Up to 12 November 2012, issues of NATO OSMs/clasps for service in Afghanistan comprised at least:

9,051 to Royal Navy personnel
8,336 to Royal Marines personnel

17,387 to Naval Service personnel in total
N.B. This includes Reserves.
It's ten years since the start of this thread and five years since the last post.

Although It's gone quiet in much of the media, British forces (xmt Royal Navy/Royal Marines) are still in Afghanistan as part of Operation TORAL.
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