A RESTON soldier has deployed to Afghanistan for the first time, where he is commanding troops on the front line.
Corporal Craig Brown (28) is serving with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (also known as 2 SCOTS) on their tour of duty in Helmand Province.
On operations, Craig is employed as a section commander. Being a section commander involves seeing to the needs of the eight or so soldiers under his command both in barracks and on patrol. This can range from ensuring that the troops have enough to eat, to leading them into battle in a combat situation.
He explained: “My role changes on a daily basis; from ‘stagging’ on sentry duty, to patrols both in vehicles and on foot. I also ensure that the guys in my section are administered properly and have the correct kit and equipment required to do their job.”
Craig has been on a number of interesting patrols. One in particular saw him and the rest of his company move up to clear a compound that they suspected was being used as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) making factory.
He recalled: “It took a week to clear the compound and we found more no fewer than 10 IEDs there. This, coupled with the threat from Taliban fire from the immediate area around us, made it a nerve-wracking experience.”
It was during this clearance that Craig became one of few soldiers to have used the ASM, or Anti-Structural Munitions, weapon, to ensure that the insurgents did not have anything to hide behind.
As part of his job, Craig often comes into contact with members of the Afghan National Police (ANP), who British troops are putting great efforts into training and mentoring.
He said: “We have recently moved into a location where we live with as well as work alongside the ANP.
“We go on joint patrols with them as well as mentor them in how to become effective policemen, able to protect their communities.
“I am looking forward to continuing to work closely with the ANP as I feel they have shown great potential already.”
Craig was brought up between Reston and Edinburgh. He attended Eyemouth High School before deciding to join the Army in March 2001.
Although this is Craig’s first tour of duty to Afghanistan, it is not his first operational tour, as he has previously seen service in Iraq.
Craig added: “The conflict here is very different from the one we fought in Iraq. The roles that we perform are very different. There are greater risks, but it feels like there is greater reward too - we can see the end result of our efforts much more.”
Another improvement that Craig has noticed since his last tour is the equipment that is available to him and his colleagues. From the personal issue items like Osprey Body Armour, protective glasses, fitted hearing protection, and armoured pants, to the vehicles and weapons that they have at their disposal.
He said: “The equipment that we get now is a lot better and there is more of it. We have everything we need to do our jobs and we can’t say that they don’t look after us.”
Craig is looking forward to returning to the UK in April, when he will get to spend time with his family and friends and his girlfriend Poppy Milne.