This week 3rd Battalion The Rifles officially transferred responsibility and command of the Sangin area of operations to 40 Commando Royal Marines.
Over the last few weeks, Royal Marine Commandos and attached Ranks have been arriving in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Jackson, in the Sangin region of Helmand province. They have been receiving comprehensive handovers from their counterparts in the 3 Rifles.
The Area of Operations was formally handed by the 3 Rifles Commanding Officer, Lt Col Nick Kitson, to Lt Col Paul James, Commanding Officer of 40 Commando Royal Marines on Sunday (18th ).
Lt Col James said: “It’s great to be here. It’s an honor to take up the reins and having the opportunity to help the Afghans improve the lives of their people in Sangin and Kajaki.”
The Commandos will be based here and in the other associated FOBs and Patrol Bases (PBs) for the next 6 months where they will continue to provide security to the region, mentor the Afghan National Police, partner the Afghan National Army and enable the continuation of reconstruction projects in the area.
Just prior to 3 Rifles departing to leave Sangin they, together with their Afghanistan partners, they jointly hosted a ‘thank you and farewell’ Shura. The Shura involved key members of the local community and was also used to welcome members from 40 Commando Royal Marines to Sangin. The Shura incorporated a meal and much reciting of achievements and praise for the progress that 3 Rifles have made during their six month tour in the north eastern corner of Helmand Province.
The Commandos have already made a number of minor cultural changes around the FOBs and PBs to put their Royal Marine stamp on them. Army phrases have been replaced with Royal Navy terms – toilets have been renamed ‘heads’; the ‘cookhouse’ has become the ‘galley’; ‘brews’ have become ‘wets’ and ‘Scoff’ (meals) has become ‘Scran’.
This has all caused much amusement with the Afghan Partners from the Police and Army, together with locally employed nationals and interpreters who all live within the Bases and work with the Commandos every day.
For around a third of the Commandos, this is their second, third or even fourth deployment to the Sangin area and these Marines all commented on the significant changes that had taken place since they were last in the area.
The vibrant bazaar, which is a matter of a few hundred metres from the ISAF Operating Base, is one of the most significant signs of progress achieved by the 3 Rifles Battle Group throughout their tour. The locals and children are becoming increasingly friendly and comfortable with the present of ISAF troops and their Afghan partners. The children are even starting to talk and play with the troops. This is seen by many as real and tangible improvements to the quality of the local Afghan’s way of life.
After a hard six month tour 3RIFLES hand over the Sangin region to the Royal Marine Battle Group in a better state then when they took over control in September 2009. 40 Commando now have an excellent foundation on which to build and will continue to provide security to the region, and will show the local people that the Government is the best choice for them, and that the insurgency has nothing to offer them but fear and oppression.