Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lt Tom Parry, 8 Platoon, 2 RIFLES, FOB Inkerman, Helmand

I could not write about the past week without mentioning the tragic death of Rifleman Adrian Sheldon. Shelly was a much loved member of the Fire Support Platoon here at FOB Inkerman and his loss has been extremely hard to come to terms with. Our thoughts and prayers are with Shelly’s family at this time.

A memorial service celebrating the life of Rifleman Sheldon was held on Friday evening. As well as prayers, the Fijian community sang with the Fire Support Group (FSG), and the Buglers gave Shelly a good send off. Rfn Michael Letts, Ricardo Arnold and Tommy Smith Sounded the Advance capturing the offensive spirit of B Company.

8 Platoon, or the FSG as they are known are cracking on with their three main roles within the FOB. Day and night the boys don their Osprey body armour and helmets to man the sangar overlooking the green zone. They have become subject matter experts on the daily pattern of life of the locals living and working in the lush wheat and poppy fields next to the FOB. The guys also secure the Helicopter Landing Site on the few occasions when the Chinooks drop in to resupply us. It is always great receiving all your post and parcels, and it is amazing to see how morale rockets over some biscuits and magazines.

The primary role of the FSG are patrols into both the green zone and into the desert. Patrols vary in length and size. The guys perform extremely well despite their heavy loads in the heat of the day. We often leave the FOB under cover of darkness to make the most of the cooler temperature, as well as to move unnoticed through the waist high irrigation ditches and amongst the hard baked mud compounds which litter the green zone.

Vehicle patrols give us the chance to explore the open desert. We pass through deep wadis and huge flat expanses, stopping occasionally to chat to village elders. Most are friendly, but the children just want the pens we keep on us, as well as the wind up radios.

We have spent the odd night out under the stars before popping up to set up a defensive position on a hilltop or piece of high ground. It is always fun to spend time away from the FOB exploring a new area or somewhere off the limited mapping we possess.

When back in the camp we meet every night as a Platoon to discuss the day’s events throughout Helmand and we vote on who gets to carry ‘Rusty’ inside the FOB for the next 24 hrs. Rusty is an old Heavy Machine Gun left over from the Royal Marines. A kangaroo court normally ensues, with lots of laughing and outrageous accusations before the culprit is chosen and is introduced to the old .50 cal.

The three sections within the FSG have all created their own chill out areas by their accommodation. It has got a bit competitive as each try to outdo the latest adaptation. The only thing missing now is a rock pool water feature!

The guys have adapted extremely well to their new living conditions and have proved very resourceful. Washing is no longer laboured over in buckets, they have ‘liberated’ some concrete mixers from somewhere in which goes their post patrol kit, some suds and a couple of rocks. Job done! Spirits are high again and the men of the FSG will ‘bash on regardless’.

2Lt Tom Parry
OC 8 Pl

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