Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Part 2 - Op Panther's Claw: Lt Col Stephen Cartwright, CO Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
The final air assault and armoured thrust - 20-27 July 2009
It seemed apt that, having been involved at the very start of the British strike in Babaji, we should be allowed to take part its finale. Once again, we were given enough Chinooks to lift the aviation element of the Battlegroup in a single wave. As with our first battlegroup operation, the key lay in surprising the insurgents.
“The Battlegroup for this operation consisted of Alpha (Grenadier) Company, 3 SCOTS, C Company, 2 R WELSH mounted in Warrior fighting vehicles (their role mentioned above) and Assaye Squadron, Light Dragoons, in armoured recce vehicles; 500 personnel and 60 vehicles.
A Company swooped on the target area by Chinook, Charlie Company led an armoured punch in through the Green Zone (the first of its kind) from the east using Warrior armoured fighting vehicles. They were joined by Assaye Squadron. Our logistics tail followed up in Mastiff troop carriers and armoured trucks.
It became immediately clear that the Brigade plan had been a huge success. The isolation of the area and the success of the Light Dragoon Battlegroup’s battle in the North East had taken its toll against the insurgent. Both the aviation assault and armoured manoeuvre avoided the expected IED screen and the remaining insurgents realised that they were completely overmatched by the combat power and melted into the ‘Green Zone’.
The local population was initially cautious but slowly they realised that ISAF intended to stay in the area for good and became very helpful. In turn, we provided our doctor to start conducting medical clinics. The Light Dragoons even organised a football afternoon which attracted 30 youngsters.
Further to the west in our operational area, A Company was dominating the insurgents’ old ground. Shuras were arranged quickly and the relationships are developing well. The insurgents mounted a lame attack on the night of 24th July but they were quickly overwhelmed by the A Company. C Company did a fantastic job of clearing a supply route north, linking us up to the Luy Mandah Wadi that the Battlegroup seized at the start of the operation. They found several IEDs laid waiting for them, which their attached bomb disposal officers destroyed in situ.
Tragically, our luck ran out on 25th July when my Fire Support Group, who had re-inserted into the area in Jackal vehicles, hit an IED. One soldier was killed and several others wounded. Another IED also caused injuries. The Fire Support Group had been searching for potential polling station locations for the Presidential elections, underlining stark contrast between the aims of the Battlegroup and the insurgents’ aims in the area.
Throughout the next 48 hours it became clear that there were insurgent IED teams operating in the area and several inadvertently killed themselves whilst laying devices. A Company continued to dominate the ground, understand the locals’ concerns and kill insurgents, wherever they could find them. The Battlegroup extracted by vehicle and Chinook early on 27th July.
It has been an immense operation; emotionally and physically exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. As the Regional Battlegroup (South), I am delighted that 3 SCOTS have contributed so much to 19 (Light) Brigade’s Panther’s Claw. I am certain that everyone in the Battlegroup will look back in a few years to an extraordinary operation when we did our jobs in the most demanding environment.
The main factor of the success has been team work from the lowest infantry section to the whole Brigade.
I am very proud of my jocks, gunners, sappers, redcaps and signallers. Their contribution to the UK’s summer offensive has been outstanding. The Battlegroup’s attention now turns to other operations in Southern Afghanistan but we will never forget those that they gave their lives during this one.