Captain Birrell Training Officer

During the United Kingdom’s 13-year campaign in Afghanistan, the Welsh Guards deployed twice. For the first time in 2009 on Operation HERRICK 10 and then again in 2012 on Operation HERRICK 16. Both operational tours saw the Welsh Guards take on the hard summer conditions of Helmand Province, adapt to a variety of difficult key roles and take part in some of the fiercest fighting of the entire campaign.

Operation HERRICK 10 saw the Welsh Guards in the thick of it and hitting the headlines as they took part in a number of key operations such as Op Panchai Palang and Op Panther’s Claw. Sadly, a significant number of Welsh Guardsmen suffered life-changing injuries and some never made it home at all. The Welsh Guards became the first unit since the Korean War to loose a Platoon Commander, Company Commander and Commanding Officer in the same deployment.

Operation HERRICK

Operation HERRICK 16: A Guardsman observing his arcs whilst on patrol in the Dasht close to Lashkar Gah.

On Operation HERRICK 16 the Battalion’s companies were spread across the Helmand AO with the Jamboys ground holding, Number 2 Company with Support Company split down into Police Advisory Teams and Number 3 Company rerolling as the Brigade Operations Company. Again the Welsh Guards suffered a number of casualties, Number 2 Company suffering two separate green-on-blue incidents that resulted in fatalities.

In January of 2015 I returned to Afghanistan as the Aide de Camp to Major General Bathurst, the Senior British Military Representative and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, deputy advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul. I was able to link up with my platoon sergeant from my operational tour in 2012, Colour Sergeant Heath, who was working as an advisor in the Afghan National Officer Academy on the outskirts of Kabul.

Colour Sergeant Heath and Captain Birrell before their 56 laps of Camp Quarga, Kabul.

On 29 May 2015, we embarked on the Afghan leg of the WG100. In 29°C heat, at a height of 1820m (the same height as most alpine ski resorts), a heavy Afghan smog and with little training done due to the security restrictions in Kabul. We were both able to complete our marathon (56 laps of Camp Quarga) in 5 hours and 1 minute.

Colour Sergeant Heath and Captain Birrell Looking strong after a few laps into our marathon.