4 September 2018
An Australian Army officer embedded with Train Advise Assist Command - South is helping maximise the efforts of Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces counter-insurgency operations in southern Afghanistan.
Since May 2018, Future Plans Officer, Captain Patrick Walton, has been based at Kandahar Airfield while deployed on Operation Highroad, which is Australia’s commitment to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
The Command covers the provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Daykundi and consists of troops from Bulgaria, Romania and the USA with a small team of Australians working alongside them.
Forces train, advise assist and enable the Afghans through security force integration of effects to develop long-term sustainability and posturing of the force.
Captain Walton said his role was to combine all available coalition assets to support ongoing operations.
“These assets include close air support and surveillance aircraft, attack helicopters and fires effects,” he said.
“My skills as a Tiger helicopter pilot set me up for success in this role because planning for the integration of these effects is what I’m trained to do.”
Captain Walton said the mission began at the Security Force Advisory and Assistance Team level who advised the Afghan National Army 205th Corps, Provincial Governors and Afghan National Police on conducting deliberate operations.
“With the Expeditionary Advising Packages a group of advisors 'fly to advise' the four brigades in the region, and sometimes the kandaks, for train, advise, assist and enable missions of a limited time (usually five to 30 days),” he said.
“I support the advisors as they support the Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban.”
The Plans is led by an Australian lieutenant colonel and includes a US Army major, two US Army captains and Captain Walton.
“It’s a rather small cell to do a divisional current planning effort, which means it can be busy and we can have some long nights,” he said.
“A lot of my effort involves short-notice deliberate planning which can be turned around in an hour or two to achieve a tactical effect on the same night.”
Captain Walton said he was proud of the recent work he did to facilitate the evacuation of Afghan soldiers from the battlefield at short notice.
“The Afghan Air Force fly Mi-17 helicopters to and from the battlefield for evacuations and to resupply troops,” he said.
“By planning for the employment of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters of US Task Force Panther, combined with the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and fires assets I was able to support the task.”
Captain Walton said although there were only a few Australians embedded in the 10,000 coalition personnel and contractors at Kandahar Airfield, they made a strong impact in key areas of the coalition’s headquarters.
“We’re involved in most of the major operations and are given a lot of respect from our US counterparts,” he said.
“Apart from our high level of professionalism, we bring a candid approach and honest assessments, even at the junior officer level, where we are confident to say our piece in front of the colonels and Commander.
“It’s been a highly rewarding deployment and a fantastic opportunity to work with some incredibly professional Australian and US officers.”