The Argyll and Sutherland
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Overview. The Argylls returned home after a unique and very rewarding task in Iraq, having produced one of the best-trained and equipped brigades of Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC, now called the Iraqi National Guard). This has made a significant contribution to the future security and prosperity of Iraq at a momentous time in this country’s history.
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The tour was very testing for all ranks. It was conducted in a challenging and rapidly changing operational environment, in harsh arid conditions, and working with people with a very different cultural background. Conditions that are far removed from the experience of the general public. Having risen to the challenge and performed outstandingly, the Jocks return to Canterbury in the knowledge of a job well done.
A briefing on the Iraq Tour was given at the Regimental Association Reunion in September in Canterbury.
Deployment Dates and Scale. January - Mid July 2004, with 410 Argylls deployed in theatre, of which one platoon was from the Prince of Wales Royal Regiment (PWRR) who are serving with the Argylls on a long term attachment.
· April 2001- September 2003. Belfast Resident Battalion, based in Palace Barracks, Belfast. The Battalion was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace for its contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process.
· September 2003 -. Air assault battalion in 16 Air Assault Brigade based in Howe Barracks, Canterbury. A programme of re-roling training is initiated, concentrating on the reconstruction of specialist platoons in Manoeuvre Support Company, skills that have laid largely dormant during the Northern Ireland tour.
· November 2003. The Argylls are appointed the Iraq Very High Readiness Battalion. Whilst re-roling training continues, however is overlaid with a programme of pre-deployment training.
· 17 December 2003. The day before the battalion goes on Christmas leave the order is given to deploy to Iraq towards the end of January. For some elements this is revised again later to be as early as 6 January 2004.
· End January 2004. The Argylls assume Full Operational Capability in theatre with a strength of just over 400.
· End June 2004. The Argylls complete their mission and commence re-deployment to the UK. MB1 return in 3 July and a Press Facility is held in Canterbury on 4 July to record the welcome home. Homecoming is complete by mid July 2004.
Task. The Argylls were given the task of training 5000 men of the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC). This force, renamed the Iraqi National Guard on the transition of Authority, form a major component of Iraq’s indigenous security forces. Their primary responsibility is the security of rural areas, notably including main supply routes and key infrastructure. The task included the raising of an ICDC Bde HQ as well as training four large battalions. In addition to operational output, every aspect of the ICDC including administration, infrastructure and logistics had to be put in place.
Approach. The Argylls embedded itself alongside the ICDC wherever possible. This close working relationship rapidly build up the required trust and mutual understanding. A mentoring approach was adopted with the Argylls conducting training on the job. This allowed the ICDC to make a contribution to the security situation right from the start. This played to the enthusiasm of the ICDC, and allowed responsibility to be transferred gradually as progress was made. It meant that the battalion was deployed across the length and breadth of the UK Bde Area.
Outcome. By mid April the ICDC, mentored by the Argylls, assumed responsibility for most of the rural areas under the UK Brigade’s command. Before the end of the tour the ICDC command structure from Brigade level down was in place, allowing them to act jointly with coalition and other Iraqi forces, ready to assume responsibility in time for the recent Transition of Authority. This achievement has drawn the praise of both the UK and US military.
Significant Events. The Argylls were dispersed across the whole of the UK Brigade area including both Basra and Maysan provinces, often in very adverse conditions with daytime temperatures approaching 50’C towards the end of the tour. This combined with a high rate of patrol activity training the ICDC meant that the Argylls inevitably were involved in a large number of incidents. By the end of the tour over 5000 rounds had been used in fire fights (including some of the enemies fired back at them!) and the Argylls re-confirmed their enviable reputation for toughness under fire. Undoubtedly more detail will emerge in due course however and the highlights are many however the following events in particular are noted:
Casualties. With such a high level of activity, casualties were inevitable. Each one was felt deeply by the whole Argyll community who receive the warm thanks from the 1st Battalion. The Argylls took three significant casualties in theatre during the tour. LCpl Craw was tragically killed on 7 January 2004 in Iraq whilst undergoing training as part of the Battalion’s initial deployment. Two further incidents resulted in Private Stonham being crushed by an Iraqi tanker on 27 February and Private Hannah receiving injuries in a firefight on 29 March that resulted in the amputation of the lower half of his left leg. Both continue to recover from their injuries and it is hoped that they will make good recoveries. A number of less significant injuries were received. In some cases they recovered in theatre, with some returning to the UK for treatment. Typically the spirit amongst the casualties was irrepressible with a return to Iraq to complete the remainder of the tour high on their agenda. In some cases this was achieved.
The Home Front. Whilst the majority of the Battalion has been away, the families have been looked after in Canterbury. This tight knit community is delighted to have their partners home again.
Outlook. Following some leave in August 2004, the Argylls will complete their conversion to the air assault role before taking part in a large air assault exercise in the middle of October 2004. Thereafter the Argylls will prepare for the next operational tour, expected to be Bosnia between March and October 2005.
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Updated: 17 March 2014