Brisbane-based soldiers of 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), are playing a vital role in Afghanistan.
Deployed as Force Protection Element 10, they provide security and protected mobility to Australian and coalition personnel who are helping Afghanistan develop its defence and security forces.
The officer commanding the element, Major Morgan Reid, said the Australian Defence Force could not conduct its mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces without the 6RAR troops.
“If we don’t have the Force Protection Element, our advisers can’t do their job, they can’t advise the Afghan National Defense and Security and Security Forces and, therefore, they can’t help make Afghanistan a safer place,” he said.
Force Protection Element soldiers are known by the mentors and advisers they protect as Guardian Angels.
The threat to Australian and coalition personnel in Afghanistan remains high, including personal and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, indirect fire and insider attacks.
The senior Australian mentor at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, Lieutenant Colonel Alwyn Payne, said the Force Protection Element was as essential as the Australian advisers.
“When I was in Afghanistan 10 years ago, we spoke about the selflessness and commitment of our engineers to keep us safe. In today’s operation, it is the Guardian Angels who are out there in harm’s way looking out for us,” he said.
“There is no greater commitment you can receive from another soldier than to stand in the line of fire to ensure you stay safe when things get tough. I am grateful to those men and women every day.”
Major Reid said one of the key successes of the Force Protection Element was its ability to balance the force protection posture with allowing the mentors to continue the mission and feel safe.
He said the 6RAR soldiers were highly professional, competent and motivated.
The Force Protection Element platoon commander, Lieutenant Will Brayshaw, said the most important skill of an effective Guardian Angel was the ability to “stay sharp”.
“Over periods of time the capacity to focus can deteriorate but in that split second that you are needed you have to be ready,” Lieutenant Brayshaw said.
“It is a massive responsibility we place on the soldiers here and for a relatively junior cohort it is even more significant, but across the board our guys and girls are performing really well,” he said.
Force Protection Element soldiers are deployed throughout Kabul wherever there are Australian mentors.
This includes: the Train Advise Assist Command – Air, where Australian advisers are helping to develop a professional and capable Afghan Air Force; the Kabul Garrison Command, which is responsible for 25,000 Afghan troops and the security of Kabul and its 5 million residents; and the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, which is the premier military training organisation in Afghanistan.