GURKHAS from Kent have begun preparations for deployment to Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul. The eight month tour of duty, starting in April, will involve over 400 troops from their Folkestone base.
Amongst a series of realistic scenarios, mission-specific training will see the Gurkhas take to Kent’s roads to practice driving their Foxhound armoured vehicles. These state-of-the-art vehicles will provide the best in protection whilst moving around the city’s busy streets.
The soldiers, from Second Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, will deploy to Kabul later this year as part of the UK’s enduring support to the Afghan Government. The Gurkhas’ mission in Kabul is to protect NATO military and civilian advisers working in government ministries, as well as UK advisers based at the Afghan National Army Officers’ Academy.
The deployment will be led by Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Murray, the commanding officer, who explained the significance of the role: “Our task, protecting UK and NATO advisors to Afghan ministries, is essential to building a successful Afghan government.
Gurkha soldiers have committed a lot to Afghanistan over the past fifteen years. This mission is about ensuring that our legacy is a successful government, run by Afghans. Our training over the coming months will be challenging and thorough, but we are all looking forward to the job ahead.”
For many of the Gurkha soldiers, this will not be their first tour of duty in Afghanistan. However, Kabul is far removed from southerly Helmand province, where British troops have been typically sent. Kabul is one of the world’s fastest growing cities, and boasts a population of some 3.5 million people – larger than that of Greater Manchester.
Corporal Anil Chettri is returning to Afghanistan for the third time. This time he will be commanding a Foxhound vehicle and spoke of what the next months will hold for him: “I finished several weeks of courses, training me to drive and command the Foxhound vehicle before the New Year.
The exercises we are going into now will be realistic and push us to the limits. I will miss my wife and son while I am away, but I am looking forward to seeing the changes since I first went to Afghanistan in 2008.”
Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April this year and a number of aftershocks followed; being felt around the country the biggest of which hit a magnitude of 7.3 in May! Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened across many districts. Centuries old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley and more than 8,000 lives were lost. The Himalayan country desperately needed outside help to rebuild the country.
In a humanitarian and relief mission, 36 Engineer Regiment deployed troops to provide immediate help to the worst affected areas as Op LAYLAND in May. This operation then subsequently turned its emphasis to construction as Op MARMAT 1. These efforts have now been followed up by a more deliberate operation Op MARMAT 2.
94 Pax from 70 Gurkha Fd Sqn, QGE and attached units deployed to Nepal for the operation on 27 and 29 Oct 15 on a reconstruction project in support of the Gurkha Welfare Scheme (GWS). Four locations were identified (Jiri, Netrakali, Gorkha and Lamjung), where help was most needed. The limited time frame of the operation made prefabricated construction the most realistic option. The squadron underwent prefabricated construction training as part of an RSOI package based out of BGK before deploying onto the ground.
In order to provide support for the troops on the ground, SHQ Tac deployed to Nepalthok establishing a forward SHQ Tac to enable G4 Support. We have been visiting both sites (Jiri and Netrakali) frequently and we are immensely impressed with the progression on the tasks, but most importantly the enthusiasm, spirit and morale of the boys! They are well settled and integrated in their respective area of responsibilities and are fully focused on their tasks and missions.
Some early updates from the units just before Christmas detailed some positive initial progress:
Update from J Troop:
J Troop are currently based in Jiri, Eastern Nepal, a small town approximately 9 hours’ drive from Kathmandu. Jiri is where Sir Edmund Hillary started his famous quest to the summit of Everest from, and it is still a popular trekking ‘start’ point for those making their way to the Himalayas, which means it has a ready supply of corner shops, tea houses and other assorted shops. The village was badly damaged as a result of the two earthquakes in April and May 2015, so we are here to construct a 4-classroom school and a 6-bedroom accommodation block for the Area Welfare Centre that assists the Gurkha pensioner community. The first week has seen us get straight into the school construction task and begin to start work on the accommodation block. We are very fortunate to have set up our tented camped in the Area Welfare Centre’s grounds which means we have running water (although it is cold!), constant electricity and even a Wi-Fi connection for us to use. Our working day usually finishes at about 1730 when we are fed an excellent ‘messing’ cooked by our chef, Pte Arjun. A range of sporting and entertainment equipment has been provided to us by the Squadron which means the chances of us becoming bored are very slim.
GOPE village, Netrakali is a small settlement 120 km southeast of Kathmandu. The journey from Kathmandu begins with a 2-hour hour road move before branching right onto a steep dirt track that, despite only being 15 miles in length, takes a further 2.5 hours to travel! The site itself is made up of three distinct terraces on a steep hillside.
An advance party was sent out on the 29th of October to the village of GOPE tasked with conducting enabling works and setting up the G4 chain; ensuring resources were readily available once the MCF arrived. On Tuesday 3rd November the main body arrived at site to find the ground had already been levelled, compacted and the strip foundations had undergone the first phase of excavation. Once the required RLS facilities were established the workforce soon went to work on the school site situated on the lower of the three terraces.
The excavation proved extremely difficult due to the amount of rock found just below the surface of the soil.
Once dug, the first layer of the strip foundation was constructed using a technique known as stone soling; commonly used in Nepal. It involves tightly packing together large rocks to provide a firm base and is often used for road construction in Nepal. Concurrently the wooden formwork was being prepared and driven into the ground to ensure the strip foundations were the correct width. With the formwork levelled and stone soling complete a 150 mm layer of concrete was poured into the foundation. After a very successful week of work in an extremely austere environment the task remains on schedule to finish in early December.
Managing Editor of the BFBS Gurkha Service, Lisa Davis, said: “I’m thrilled that Yog’s hard work has been recognised.
“He is devoted to both his job and the Army – there isn’t a better ambassador for BFBS or a greater supporter of the audience he serves.”
Yog joined BFBS in 2005, while he was still serving with the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, and after retiring from his 22-year military career he has worked full time for BFBS.
Yog Raj Rai said: “I am extremely pleased to receive this award which is a huge honour for me.”
His citation highlights examples of the selflessness he has demonstrated in his current role: ‘ …just after the first earthquake in Nepal, he worked tirelessly making sure BFBS were providing continuous live programmes, connecting people with home and supplying essential up-to-date information for our audience…a week later Yog was flying to Nepal so he could tell the stories from the ground.”
Lt Colonel Jody Davies, the Commanding Officer for British Forces Brunei, presented Yog with his Commander’s Coin, which is inscribed with the words ‘In Recognition of Professional Excellence’.
“Yog’s commitment means he will never say no. Whether it’s an interview, a story, or a fact-finding mission, Yog will be there,” added Lisa. “His eagerness and determination to tell the story means he is always willing to go the extra mile.”
A group of retired Gurkhas joined Gurkha Company Catterick and members of the local community to raise money for the victims of the Cumbrian floods with a Christmas and New Year fundraiser.
Over 200 people attended the event, which raised more than £300 and was organised by the British Gurkhas and Nepalese Community (BGNC) and Gurkha Coy Catterick. It was held at Catterick Golf Club in Yorkshire on Saturday 19th December 2015.
Ram Malla, Chairperson of BGNC, said: “The Gurkhas have been in the Crown Service (British Forces) for the last 200 years since 1815 and have been enormously supported by the people of this country on many occasions. We thought it would be good to give back and following the recent storm damage, we wanted to help Cumbria flood victims.”
It’s over a month since Storm Desmond flooded the county, leaving many towns and villages completely devastated.
The Cumbria Flood Recovery Appeal has so far raised a total of £4.35m since its launch on Saturday 5th December 2015.
See this page for various ways to donate to the Appeal.
A fresh intake of Gurkha recruits arrived in Catterick Garrison yesterday (Wednesday, December 6) after travelling from Nepal following a gruelling selection process.
Major Ed Withey, Gurkha Company Catterick Officer Commanding (OC) said: “A total of 240 recruits will arrive in the garrison today and tomorrow (Thursday) and will be welcomed with a special ceremony which involves blessings from the Brigade Buddhist and Hindu temples. The recruits have come a long way through a rigorous selection process in Nepal.”
“We get between 7,000 and 8,000 applications each year and those that make the cut have three significant milestones to get through.
“At each stage they have to demonstrate skills in English and maths, and they must have the equivalent of three Cs and three Ds at GCSE, as well as having a good level of fitness.
“The physical and mental tests get more difficult until we are left with a final 500 who have to carry a basket weighing 25kg up the side of a Himalayan mountain.”
Once the recruits, aged between 17 and 21, make it to Catterick Garrison they have a series of cultural trips to help them settle in to life in Britain, including lessons on how to work a cash machine and navigate busy town centres. They will now undergo 37 weeks of rigorous training which also includes few weeks of English language training in Language Development Wing (LDW). Their first objective will be to Pass off the Square which will take place in the 7th week.
Maj Withey added: “During the year we take them to Whitby as they will have never seen the sea before, and to London to visit the Houses of Parliament.”
Recruits have the chance to move into various battalions of the Brigade of Gurkhas, including infantry, engineers, signals, logistics, the band and clerical support.