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News Article

IN PICTURES: Convoy keeps troops supplied in southern Afghanistan

3 May 07

Soldiers from 60 Close Support Squadron have completed a gruelling 240 kilometre round trip to re-supply forward troops serving with Task Force Helmand, in southern Afghanistan.

Top cover: A heavily-armed WMIK Landrover brings up the rear of the convoy as it makes its way to the new Forward Operating Base [Picture: Cpl Jon Bevan RLC] . Opens in a new window.

Top cover: A heavily-armed WMIK Landrover brings up the rear of the convoy as it makes its way to the new Forward Operating Base
[Picture: Cpl Jon Bevan RLC]

These unsung heroes, who have the difficult task of transporting the vital kit and food needed to keep the British Forces ready for action, began their planned three-day operation with an early 0430 roll call at the squadron's base in Camp Bastion.

The soldiers prepared their vehicles for what was to be a combined road and cross country trip. Also joining the convoy were soldiers from the Afghan National Army, 5th Kandak, supplying their troops in the Sangin Valley with food and ammunition.

Convoy Commander Captain Andy Rouse explained what such convoys entail:

"Although the planned drive to the forward base is expected to take eight hours, there are always surprises along the route. The support troops have been well trained in order to deal with every eventuality, but each convoy we go on lays down a new a challenge."

The convoy drove for the first hour without incident on one of the few roads which run through the province. All the heavy goods vehicles in the convoy had top cover protection using General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG). Their flanks were protected with scaled down Land Rovers, also with GPMG.

The situation soon changed when vehicles switched to off-road conditions. The vast open desert provided hazardous driving conditions with the soft sand and dusty conditions. There were also mines to negotiate in certain areas, left behind by Russian forces in the late 1980s. It is not uncommon for vehicles to be struck by them.

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Captain Rouse continued:

"Although there is the threat of attack from insurgent forces along any part of our route, one of our main concerns are hitting land mines, map reading is so key during any convoy operation."

Convoy Commander Captain Andy Rouse [Picture: Cpl Jon Bevan RLC] . Opens in a new window.

Convoy Commander Captain Andy Rouse
[Picture: Cpl Jon Bevan RLC]

Throughout the day, driving conditions were slow and extremely hot inside the cabins, with temperatures reaching over 35 degrees celsius. To protect them from attack, all those in the convoy were kitted out with helmets and combat body armour. It makes for an uncomfortable journey but essential to survival if attacked.

Drops vehicle driver Private David Poole, aged 23, from Belfast, is a Territorial Army soldier with 152 Ulster Transport Regiment. Private Poole, who volunteered to serve in Afghanistan, said:

"I used to work as a shop assistant in Belfast before coming out here and decided to finish that to do something different. I enjoy the challenges of driving out here and the views are spectacular when out in the open desert."

Despite the harsh driving condition the 40 vehicle convoy arrived at its destination just two hours late. At the forward base near Sangin, the squadron troops then unloaded all their supplies and checked over the vehicles for faults. Once completed the tired troops start to settle down for the evening ahead of what will be a long journey back to Bastion.