WITH temperatures regularly over 100°F, Afghanistan is not only one of the world’s hottest regions, but also one of the most dangerous, writes Mark Entwistle.
In the 11 years since the start of the current Afghan conflict, the British Army has lost 438 service personnel, with the most recent being Captain Walter Barrie.
The officer from the Royal Scots Borderers (1 SCOTS) was killed last month and despite the long involvement of thousands of international military forces and aid agencies in the country’s situation over the past decade, it proves how hostile a place it can still be.
It is a situation Sgt Raymond Fleming, from Hawick, is only too familiar with. Sgt Fleming is currently on his second tour of Afghanistan, where he is an adviser to the Afghan Civil Order Police (ANCOP).
A 16-year army veteran, Sgt Fleming – who attended Hawick’s Trinity and Burnfoot primary schools – originally enlisted in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, now 1 SCOTS.
And he says he has noticed a big difference in the situation in the country since his first tour of duty there back in 2010. “My current tour started September, 2012, and is due to finish in April, 2013,” he told TheSouthern via email from his base in Afghanistan.
“My job is an adviser to the Afghan Civil Order Police. I teach them lessons on infantry tactics and some drills that we adopt while in contact – this is to aid them should it happen while they are on patrol or operations.
“This is my second tour of Afghanistan. My previous tour was in 2010 for six months, which was a lot different to this tour.
“There was more fighting to be done, which was a daily occurrence compared to now. These days the Afghans are taking a bigger lead on patrol and operations, which is great to see.
“The weather is also cooling down, compared to the blistering heat of the summer, but it is still hotter than we are used to.”
ANCOP’s mission is to provide civil order presence patrols, prevent violent public incidents, and provide crisis and anti-terror response in urban and metropolitan environments.
But Sgt Fleming added: “There is talk of troops being sent home early, so I will see if I’m a lucky one. It would be great if I was, as I would get home to my friends and family and, of course, my fiancée, as I miss them all.”
When stationed back in the UK, Sgt Fleming has been attached to the Royal Dragoon Guards (RDG) as an infantry adviser.
But he says he is looking forward to rejoining 1 SCOTS in August next year once a 26-month embedded posting with the RDG, getting the cavalry soldiers ready to deploy on operations, is complete.
Sgt Fleming has a home in Hawick where he lives with fiancée Susan Watson.
And he told us: “My fiancée has been a great support during my operations away. I’m looking forward to getting home after this tour and spending some quality time with my family and friends, and some much-deserved rest.”