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Parachute Regiment (Paras) - Afghanistan 2006

2006 - Afghanistan - Operation Herrick IV

In April/May 06, 3 PARA Battle Group deployed into Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The Battle Group's 6 month mission was to assist the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan National Army (ANA) in bringing security and stability to Helmand.

3 PARA Battle Group consisted of :

  • Elements of Headquarters 16 Air Assault Brigade
  • 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment (3 PARA)
    (augmented by elements of 4 PARA)
  • D Squadron Household Cavalry Regiment
  • 1 Battery, 7 Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery (7 RHA)
  • 21 Air Assault Battery Royal Artillery
  • 216 Air Assault Signal Squadron, Royal Signals
  • 1 x Platoon from the Guards Division
  • A Company 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
  • 3 x Platoons from 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment
  • 51  Parachute Squadron, 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault)  Royal Engineers
  • 14 Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare), Royal Signals
  • D Company 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles
  • Pathfinder Platoon
  • 664 Squadron and Regimental Headquarters 9 Regiment Army Air Corps
  • 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps
  • 16 Close Support Medical Regiment, The Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 8 Close Support Company, 7 Air Assault Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
  • 156 Provost Company, Royal Military Police
  • The Intelligence Corps

3 PARA battle group were supported by Apache, Lynx and Chinook helicopters of the Joint Helicopter Force as well as British Harriers and assorted NATO attack aircraft. They could also call on artillery fire from assets at FOB Robinson, a Forward Operating Base in the north of Helmand. Artillery support to 3 PARA would include the 105mm guns of 7 Parachute Regiment, RHA.

FOB Robinson (google earth kmz file)

Among the first 3 PARA BG forces to deploy were the Pathfinder Platoon, 16 Air Assault Brigade's elite reconnaissance force, who deployed in mid-March. The Pathfinder Platoon immediately set to work, moving out on fact finding missions, testing the ground ahead of the main battle group deployment.
read more on : Pathfinder Platoon operations during Herrick IV.

In April, advance elements of 3 PARA (HQ, A Company and D 'Patrols' Company) deployed into Camp Bastion, the newly established British base in Helmand. By early May sufficient battle group elements were in place to begin major operations.

The British strategy in Helmand centered around the setting up of outposts at strategic villages and towns, in order to maintain security and dominate the areas. A series of Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and platoon houses were to be established in the Province.

Camp Bastion (google earth kmz file)

Gereshk

One of 3 PARA's first forays out into Helmand was to Gereshk. A Company (A Coy) made contact with the local population, as part of the hearts and minds campaign. The Paras operated from a Forward Operating Base, FOB Price, at Gereshk, from which patrols were sent out into the town and surrounding countryside. Initial patrols into Gereshk resulted in minor contacts with unfriendly forces, only giving a tiny taste of things to come.

Gereshk (google earth kmz file)

On June 27th, a convoy of C Coy and Royal Irish Rangers, traveling in WMIKs and Pinzgauers, set off for Zumbelay, a village East of Gereshk. Upon arrival at Zumbelay, the convoy was drawn into a heavy, prolonged contact with the Taliban. A Times Reporter, Christina Lamb, was embedded in the convoy and her in-depth report on the fighting at Zumbelay makes for fascinating reading.
ST war reporter cornered with Paras in fierce Taliban ambush
(Sunday Times Report)

Zumbelay (google earth kmz file)

Now Zad

In a response to a call for help from the governor of Now Zad, B Company, 3 PARA, were flown out to the town. On arrival they found it calm but went ahead and helped shore up defenses, staying until they were relieved by D Company of 2 Gurkha Rifles. The Now Zad outpost was to receive regular attacks by Taliban troops during the length of the Gurkhas stay.

Now Zad (google earth kmz file)

The Gurkhas were eventually relieved by troops from A Company, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who faced a similar round of sporadic attacks.

Operation Mutay

On June 4th, A Coy, 3 PARA went on a mission to a secure a suspected Taliban compound, close to Now Zad. They were supported by Patrols Coy, 3 PARA, a platoon of Gurkhas and local police, who were tasked with securing the perimeter of the operation. On their way to secure their objectives,, the Gurkhas' WMIK convoy became involved in a heavy contact. Patrols Coy, also aboard WMIK land rovers, also had a heavy contact. Army Air Corps Apache gunships provided close air support.

A Coy were airlifted close to the target compounds by 2 RAF Chinooks, which came under heavy fire. A protracted fire fight ensued as A Coy fought their way into the compounds and then repelled counterattacks by determined Taliban forces. In addition to air support from AAC Apaches, American A-10 Warthog attack aircraft were also called in. Having secured and searched the compound, A Coy withdrew, fighting running battles with the Taliban, until they were eventually airlifted away.

Kajaki

Around 45 Paras (from Support Coy's Mortar platoon plus assorted troops), were flown to the Kajaki Dam to defend it against repeated Taliban attacks. The Dam's hydroelectric plant supplied large areas of Helmand with electrical power and was coveted by the insurgents. during their time at the dam, the Paras at Kajaki staved off repeated attacks by the Taliban.

Kajaki, Afghanistan (google earth kmz file)

Sangin

June 21 - 3 PARA battle group responded to a request for assistance from Afghan officials, this time focusing on the town of Sangin. A Company, along with support elements, were airlifted by Chinook to Sangin, where they moved into a compound west of the town. This compound would become their home, and the center of a prolonged siege, as A Coy defended against repeated attacks by Taliban forces. The 90-or-so men of A Coy defended their base with .50 HMGs, GPMGs, LMGs, 81mm and 51mm mortars and Javelin anti-tank missiles, as well as their SA80 rifles. In the days and weeks to come, the British forces at Sangin were to suffer several tragic losses, including multiple KIAs.

Sangin (google earth kmz file)

In early July, A Coy were eventually relieved by B Coy at Sangin.

watch video of Paras calling in JDAM air strike at Sangin

Operation Augustus

14th July - A and C Coy, 3 PARA, along with Canadian troops, took part in an operation to attack several compounds belonging to a Taliban leader, close to Sangin. The Paras were airlifted into battle by Chinook helicopters which came under immediate and heavy fire. Air support was provided by AAC Apaches, American A10s and a AC-130 Spectre Gunship. The Taliban retreated in the face of such a show of force.

Following Op Augustus, A Coy remained at Sangin for a week to reinforce B Coy. On July 27th, A Coy were once again in Sangin, relieving B Coy. This time, A Coy's tactics included aggressive patrols out into the surrounding area, aiming to deny its use by the Taliban. These patrols were often attacked by the Taliban, resulting in heavy contacts.

A Coy were eventually relieved by C Coy on August 29th.

Musa Qaleh

As detailed here, the Pathfinder Platoon was drawn into a protracted siege at Musa Qaleh. The Pathfinders were eventually relieved by Danish forces, who were themselves later reinforced by elements of the Royal Irish Rangers who arrived August 6th.

The troops at Musa Qaleh faced repeated attacks by a determined force of Taliban, dead set on ousting the British from their base.

The British were eventually to pull out of Musa Qaleh following a truce brokered by the local Afghans in which the Taliban agreed to give up their claim to the town. This truce, which angered the Americans, was eventually broken by the Taliban, resulting in them taking over the town. A combined ANA/Nato operation retook the town in December, 07. At the time of writing (May 08), 16 Air Assault Brigade forces are once again holding Musa Qaleh.

Musa Qaleh (google earth kmz file)

Pure hell of the siege of Musa Qala
(Times online report)

3 PARA Battle Group officially handed over control to 3 Commando Brigade in November 06, for Operation Herrick V
read more on : Royal Marines operations in Afghanistan

Related Book :

3 PARA
by Patrick Bishop

Bishop's gripping account of 3 PARA battle group's experiences in Helmand Province in 2006 includes a detailed look at the Pathfinder Platoon's operations. Features many great stories of the Pathfinders, Paras and Gurkhas in various skirmishes with the Taliban

A superb set of tales of courage under fire

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