1st Battalion the Welsh Guards are to return for their first tour of duty in Afghanistan since 2012.
They will be providing security and protection for NATO personnel based around the capital, Kabul, and mission preparations have involved training in Foxhound protected patrol vehicle simulators.
This means that troops have travelled to a British Army simulation centre in Germany.
Lt Colonel Dai Bevan commands the battalion, and it’s his soldiers who will be protecting and supporting a NATO mission to develop the Afghan Armed Forces.
They’re in Germany for a simulated experience of everything that they might face on a Kabul patrol.
He said of the exercise:
“The things that a day in Kabul could throw at you are hugely varied from the relative benign to the really violent and you know really difficult to deal with.”
When the Welsh Guards last came to Afghanistan in 2012 they were battling insurgents in Helmand.
Company Sergeant Major Rob Heath remembers that operation, but says Kabul will be different:
“Day to day moving round VIPs, high ranking officers and other individuals around Kabul city – also going out on Quick Reaction Force tasks so if the Afghans are in a spot of bother and we can assist in any way we will then deploy and help them.”
The Combined Arms Tactical Trainer in Sennelager recreates every conceivable threat- from gunmen to suicide bombers in explosive-packed cars. Guardsman Chris Jones spoke about his experience:
“As we soldiers we all want to take part in a live operational tour.
“It’s not a war fighting operation now as it stands but from the briefs and scenarios they’ve given us it’s still a very dangerous place and the threat’s very real.”
The most likely hazard facing patrols in Kabul is not violence but the city’s chaotic traffic. In the simulators, Guardsman Dharmendra Patel is already getting used to it:
“You would think just a normal drive would take like five minutes but it can get quite complicated with traffic and how busy out there it is on the roads.
“You got a lot of vehicles and they don’t tend to stop, so to avoid accidents you do have to give way a lot more.”
“There’s quite a lot happening in Kabul next year particularly with the Afghan elections next summer so we’ll be doing all that we can to ensure that those elections run smoothly”
The Welsh Guards will soon start training for Kabul for real, when their tour of duty there begins, and it’s expected to last several months.