Page 101 - The Chapka 2016
P. 101

 At the end of August 2016 I climbed aboard a Ukraine aircraft and set out for home for the last time – my active service ca- reer was at an end but what an end; my last tour spent as Com- mander of a British operation – Operation ORBITAL, Ukraine. Just 9 months earlier I had returned from active duty with the United States Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, on the Southern flank of Europe with a focus on Counter Violent Extremism; this year had been spent on the Eastern flank with a focus on a resurgent Russia.
A month earlier (Jul 16), I had been with my Chief of Staff, Major Tam Wight-Boycott, 1 RTR, looking East over the mighty Dne- pr River, dividing the ‘Steppe’ from the ‘Forest Steppe’; it flowed wide and heavy through the once closed city of Dnepropetrovsk before making its ebbing, low gradient decent to Odessa on the Black Sea. I made the point to Tam that standing on the banks of the Dnepr as we were, nearly due South of Moscow, in uniform would 36 years ago at the start of my career (Munster, Dec 81), have been unimaginable. In my lifetime I had been through the Cold War; I had served in the remnants of the British Empire in the Far East, had witnessed the break up of the Soviet Union and been involved in stabilization in the small wars that followed; I
Any AVSO officianado would be having kittens
had seen the expansion of NATO nations formerly under Rus- sian led Soviet Union control; I had helped the Western Balkan countries enhance their Euro-Atlantic cooperation and latterly I had engaged in stabilizing and bolstering nations threatened by violent extremism and now resurgent Russia.
I had seen seismic geo-political change with no obvious sign of slowing, but then there was a moment of career closure just North of Odessa. Over lunch I sat opposite a former T-72 tank commander who had served in the Red Army in Berlin at 30 minutes’ notice to move, back in the mid 1980s – I too had been deployed forward in Berlin in my fully ‘bombed up’ Chieftain, with only a wall dividing us. To any passing stranger, they would have seen two laughing colonels reminiscing about the old Cold War tank days. So, that was it – at the very end of my active service I had shaken hands with my former adversary over lunch and left him to his family in his land in the East of Europe while I returned to mine in the West. We parted in peace, both having done our duty; now it is the turn of the next generation. The End.
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A Mercian STTT teaching the Ukrainians to fight...
 Tank Commanders

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