Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Gibraltar Soldiers in Iraq

A Warrior arrives safely at Shaibah Logistics Base - click on image for a hi res version.Royal Gibraltar Regiment soldiers do not only serve in Gibraltar.

WO1 Stuart Bensadon is currently the Garrison Sergeant Major at Shaibah Logistics Base and has been the key mover in arranging the attachment of RG personnel to units in Iraq. He has been there since August 2004 and has been instrumental in organising attachments for RG soldiers to the Scots Guards Battle Group out in Iraq.

Sgt James Gracia is leading a group of 12 soldiers deployed in Iraq and has sent this update about their time in the desert:

The group arrived in Iraq on the night of 12 Jan 05. They were very quickly pushed through further training prior to taking part in active duties. This included using the new grenade launcher which is attached to our rifles and learning how to shoot from the top hatches of the armoured Land Rovers.

Being attached to a Guards Regiment means life is not quite as we know it. There is much stamping of boots and snapping of crisp salutes. Even the camp names reflect Guards traditions and we are living in the ‘Left Flank’, formerly known as Camp Abi Naji near the city of Alamarah. Whilst being looked after by the Scots Guards, the troops at the Left Flank have in fact been attached to the Welsh Guards Battle Group and it is quite interesting to see the subtle differences between the Guards Regiments and the friendly rivalry between them.

This attachment to the Welsh Guards continued until after the Iraqi elections at the end of January after which we returned to the Scots Guards Battle Group and moved to Shaibah Logistics Base.

The Scots Guards have gone out of their way to make us feel part of their unit and have taken very good care of us. Very quickly we struck up lots of friendships and a desire to foster links between our units. Some have even enquired as to attachments to our Regiment or how to get posted to Gibraltar.

Alamarah was the scene of significant insurgent activity last year with the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment becoming the British Army unit with more contacts with the enemy in their stay than any unit since the Korean War. However things are much calmer now and no activity against the Multi- National Force (MNF) has taken place. The occasional shots are heard in the distance but this is largely criminal activity or people celebrating a wedding or other family occasion by firing into the air.

Much of the routine work has consisted of patrolling the streets and areas surrounding the city. These patrols are carried out in support of the Iraqi Police Service and the Iraqi Army. Liaison with these units is good and they have proved friendly and enthusiastic. Our interpreters are also eager to please and help us considerably in understanding what the situation is whenever we go out to investigate a report. When not patrolling we man Vehicle Check Points (VCPs) where we carry out checks on people and vehicles. This makes it difficult for insurgents to operate and also helps in clamping down on crime.

Our other main task is dealing with reports of unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from the war in 2003. Every now and then, a report comes in of a shell or grenade being found by children and the explosives disposal team is then tasked to deal with this. We are then called in order to assist with security at the site of discovery and cordoning off the area.

Although we haven’t been here long we feel we have achieved something by helping the Iraqi police and soldiers in stamping out elements of the insurgency and cutting down on crime. This is essential in order to allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their society. It was very encouraging to see the good turn-out for the elections, and in this area there was no disruption by the insurgents.

Two other members of the Regiment are also serving in Iraq following a posting to Germany. These are chefs Sgt Joe Bula and LCpl Iriak Silva who have been deployed with their units to provide catering support for the British troops there.

All soldiers will return to the Gibraltar in early April for some well-earned leave before rejoining the Regiment. Their next duties will be somewhat different as the Regiment starts preparing for the summer’s ceremonial season.

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