Page 73 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
P. 73

 Op SHADER – an overview
The Third Battalion’s deployment on Op SHADER 8 proved to be one of far greater change than perhaps anyone could have predicted. Arriving in Iraq in December 2018 after a protracted relief in place caused by poor weather conditions, initially three distinct groupings deployed to three separate locations. A large force protection platoon and a number of Rifles trainers deployed under a Squadron from 21 Engineer Regiment to Taji, to the west of Baghdad, where they were joined too by a small Battlegroup Headquarters element. C Company, supported by additional Engineers, deployed to Besmaya, east of Baghdad to provide Counter-IED and bomb disposal training and force protection. Finally, hundreds of miles to the north, B Company deployed to Kurdistan, with a small headquarters and force protection team based in Erbil but with two separate training locations in Manila and Atrush, some 2-4 hours’ drive away, delivering infantry training to the Peshmerga.
No sooner had our feet touched the ground in Iraq were we told that change was afoot! Orders were given to the effect that we were to withdraw from Besmaya, providing two significant challenges – first, the extraction of a Company’s worth of personnel and equipment (including Foxhound vehicles) back to Taji, and second, how and where to re-invest the manpower dividend across the Battlegroup so that they could be meaningfully employed. With some detailed planning and hard work by the Company headquarters, the first challenge passed with few issues. The second lay at the feet of Battlegroup Headquarters.
The nature of the coalition training mission in Iraq is such that, across the numerous training sites, different groupings and nations can find themselves with too few trainers to deliver quality training to the Iraqis under their tutelage. This realisation triggered the concept of ‘mobile training teams’ (MTTs) – small groupings of high-quality trainers who could deploy at relatively short notice to deliver bespoke infantry training in partnership with other coalition nations as and where required. The first such MTT, comprised 5 of the Besmaya dividend deployed to Qayyarah West to work alongside the Canadians based there shortly after the Besmaya closure was complete; in doing so we brought ourselves significant equity at the very highest levels of the coalition mission by demonstrating versatility and a can-do attitude. Shortly after this, a further MTT deployed to Al-Taqaddum to work alongside the US Marine Corps. In both cases, our Riflemen quickly developed a close relationship with their North American counterparts, winning admiration
and respect for their professionalism and the
high quality of their teaching.
Dovetailing nicely with this concept came the request from the British Embassy in Baghdad to provide support to the Al-Rustamiyah First Military College – colloquially understood as ‘Sandhurst
in the Sand’. In delivering short, 1-2 day long packages and mentoring
on topics ranging from urban opera- tions to medical training and even
the Cambrian Patrol, many of those
deployed were able to benefit from an enthusiastic training audience and an insight into Iraqi officer training – as well as a stay in the British Embassy, with the associated comforts (rooftop swimming pool, proper English breakfast) that entailed!
Whilst this occupied much of Battlegroup Headquarters’ time, there was plenty more to keep us busy – if it wasn’t US-Iran tensions and the associated risks that that entailed, it was the daily battles to try and release money to make welfare or other improvements, and if it wasn’t that it was desperately trying to ensure that our replacements got their visas through so that we could all leave on time!
Throughout all this, B Company were up in Kurdistan, at considerable reach from their higher headquarters. Thankfully they were completely reliable, and indeed one of the most pleasing aspects of working in Main was receiving almost weekly appraisals from our coalition partners across Iraq, commenting on how impressed they had been by the Riflemen they had been working alongside. Op SHADER 8 brought out the very best in our Riflemen, and we should all be very proud of what they achieved.
Capt Will Jackson Adjutant, 3 RIFLES BG
           THE RIFLES
Iraqi Officer Cadets listen in to the Chief of Staff’s Cambrian Patrol dits
 Relationship building in Kurdistan

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