Special Projects: Afghanistan
Part of the international presence in Afghanistan was to identify and initiate local projects.
Sgt Jude Butler talks about the special training she received to do this and some of the local projects she worked on.
Sergeant Jude Butler
My name is Jude and I have been in the RAF for almost 21 years. In the UK I’m employed at RAF High Wycombe as a Network Manager. Back in September last year, fancying a change from the bunker, I accepted the opportunity to be detached to MSSG (Military Stabilisation Support Group) and train to join one of the five 6 man teams that would deploy on Op Herrick 12 with the purpose of stabilising areas by undertaking and identifying local projects.
The training started in the October with a nice 2 weeks at RTMC Chilwell. We joined the Army reservists who were enlisting for a tour in order to ascertain if we could pass a trained solider level range package, combat fitness test, personal fitness test, map reading and Army standard (MATTS)....think CCS for a week...joys.
After that I joined MSSG at Ludgershall Barracks near Tidworth for the start of a 4 month MSST (Military Stabilisation Support Team) course. This course was designed to give me basic language and cultural skills, money management (as we pay claims, dealing with Foreign Commonwealth Office employees, GIRoA, NGOs (Non Government Organizations) protocols and Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). Thrown in with that we had further fitness tests, infantry weight CFTs and infantry range packages including close quarter combat levels 1-9 with SA80 and Sig and a week of live firing at STANTA. A big difference from the RAF once every couple of years on a 25 metre range like I’m used to. It basically meant over a months worth of shooting, for which at this point I feel I should thank WO2 Goldsmith and WO2 Quillam, our range instructors, for showing great patience and understanding with me and not physically using me for target practice on one of my many re-shoots.
After passing the MSST course, and it was a pass or fail, I deployed in March for a 6 month tour. I am currently based out of FOB Price in Gereshk (GSK), but we do move around Nahr-E Seraj (NES) (N) as required. GSK is in the Danish Battle Groups (DABG) Area of Operations (AO) so we work closely with their Civil and Military Cooperation (CIMIC) teams. We conduct regular patrols within GSK and its districts, talk to locals and identify projects that can improve the area. This can be anything from wells, bridges and water towers right up to re-furbs of schools, new council buildings and washrooms in the women’s centres.....never did I think installing a new toilet block would give me job satisfaction. We also go on Operations with various units where it would be deemed beneficial for them to have an MSST member. These normally involve Shuras and meeting key local leaders. This is also where the 4-month’s training and all the range works kicks in as kinetic situations arise on occasion.
In the last 2 weeks I have done a 24 hr patrol, been involved in grenade and small arms fire incidents, held 4 Shuras, done 5 patrols in various districts within GSK, visited GSK district hospital, repaired one water well and water tower, installed one water well, installed a washroom, had numerous meetings, filled out business cases for anything from ceiling fans to a children’s park I’d like to develop and that’s before dealing with claims from locals for anything they believe ISAF has damaged.....I have expanded my knowledge of Afghan vocab for situations like this.
Everyday is different with the MSST and I never know what to expect. Tiring at times - yes, job satisfaction – yes, frustrating – yes, worthwhile – I hope so. I have met some interesting local nationals whom I admire for trying to make a difference and change attitudes regardless of their own personnel safety. Others I admire just for having the nerve to try and blag it....it all helps to my tour going quicker and improves my understanding of Afghan life.
UK involvement in Afghanistan goes back over 100 years.