Australia’s Mentoring Task Force – 3 (MTF – 3) is heading home after a seven-and-a-half month deployment inAfghanistan.
Lead by the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), MTF-3 has seen significant improvement in the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) capability and confidence. The result is greater security across a larger footprint in Uruzgan Province.
Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Smith, said when MTF-3 arrived in June 2011 the ANA was conducting around 25 activities on its own across the Brigade each week. By the end of the tour, that number had grown to around 100 independent activities a week.
“The sophistication of those operations has also improved to encompass far more complex cordon and search operations, linked in with intelligence, to achieve a much greater effect out of their operations,” Lieutenant Colonel Smith said.
Sadly, these gains did not come without sacrifice. Three MTF – 3 soldiers were killed in action. Private Matthew Lambert died from wounds sustained in an IED strike on 22 August 2011, while Lance Corporal Luke Gavin and Captain Bryce Duffy were killed in action along with Corporal Ashley Birt from Combined Team Uruzgan, when an ANA soldier opened fire at Forward Operating Base Sorkh Bed on 29 October 2011.
Lieutenant Colonel Smith said despite two such incidents, Australians continue to work side by side with their Afghan counterparts.
“Our soldiers recognise that most of the ANA members are interested in maintaining security in their country, they’re eager to learn, eager to do the right thing.”
Lieutenant Colonel Smith said he was proud of his soldiers’ achievements and those of their Afghan partners.
“I think we really hit an important point in the past seven months, all the great foundations laid by others have created quite significant improvements. As a consequence, the ANA in Uruzgan Province is in a better position to fulfil their role following security transition in the province.
“I am very happy to be heading home to see my family, but I am also reluctant to let go because we have achieved so much and there is a sense that there are further successes yet to come,” Lieutenant Colonel Smith said.
MTF – 3 handed over responsibility for the mission to the soldiers from the Brisbanebased 8/9th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (8/9 RAR) who make up Mentoring Task Force – 4 (MTF – 4) and Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Khalil Fegan on 24 January 2012.
“We hand over to an excellent team, who know exactly what needs to happen to continue the mission and I will enjoy seeing them have similar achievements to our team.” Lieutenant Colonel Smith said.
Media note: Imagery of the TOA parade is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/fotoweb/Grid.fwx?archiveId=5003&search=11121943
Media contact: Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999