Royal Irish troops will be working alongside the famous US 101st Airborne Division ‘Band of Brothers’ on a mission to Kabul in Afghanistan, the regiment’s commanding officer has revealed.
Around 500 soldiers from 1 Royal Irish – along with a number of reservists from the 2nd Battalion – have just begun an eight-month tour of duty in the Afghan capital training the country’s military as part of part of the ongoing mission supporting all of Afghanistan’s national security forces.
Co Tyrone native Lieutenant Colonel Graham Shannon said the regiment will provide vital training and other assistance to help stabilise the still volatile region.
Royal Irish soldiers carried out a number of previous missions in Afghanistan during more troubled times and Lt Col Shannon is encouraged by the gradual improvements.
“You can see the dramatic change in Afghanistan. The battalion had a lot of troops deployed in [Operation] Herrick 4 with 3 Para, we were there for Herrick 8 in 2008 and we were there for Herrick 13 in 2010/2011.
“I was there again in 2014 serving with the US Marine Corps as we shut down [Camp] Bastion and we ceased our major operations in Helmand.
“When you look across that spectrum, and you see now what we are doing in Kabul, you can really see a shift because we are not patrolling the streets of Kabul – the Afghan security forces have got the full lead for that and they are doing that on their own.
“So what we are doing is supporting them, and ensuring that the advisors that are there to develop the Afghan institutions to help sustain their forces development, their training at the Afghan officer academy, that we are supporting to people to do their job.”
Royal Irish troops are recruited from right across the island of Ireland with all 32 counties represented within the ranks. The remaining 10-15% are drawn from around the rest of the UK and many Commonwealth countries.
“In Kabul, there is ourselves and there are US companies and Australian and New Zealand troops all working closely together to deliver this mission. The American unit we will work hand-in-glove with is from the 101st Airborne ... they are the Easy Company guys seen in Band of Brothers.”
Lt Col Shannon described the mindset of the troops as “brilliant,” and added: “The training, and the equipment we have, has been terrific.
“And we are very grateful for all the support we have had from all of the people across Northern Ireland and the whole island of Ireland, and over here in Ternhill [Shropshire]. It has been exceptional.”