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Experiences of operational analysis in Afghanistan

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Vicki Savage
Vicki Savage with the Jerboa Rat at Camp Bastion. – the emblem and mascot of 7th Armoured Brigade, sculptured by Anna Redwood.

Since 2009, I have been deployed three times to Afghanistan as a Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Operational Analyst in support of Operation HERRICK.

Each deployment has been to a different headquarters – Kandahar Airfield, Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah and Camp Bastion, supporting different stages of the campaign - from high tempo operational planning to the drawdown and redeployment of UK forces. Tasks were extremely varied day to day - all part of the excitement and challenge - and why I kept going back for more!

In 2009, I deployed to Kandahar to work in an intelligence cell for five months. Part of my role was to identify patterns and trends in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other weapon types, against coalition forces. This work enables commanders to visualise the geographic spread of these threats over time and incorporate the information into future operational planning.

In 2010, I deployed to Task Force Helmand in Lashkar Gar for eight-months, which proved a more austere environment than Kandahar. As well as continuing the important analysis of IED trends, I also worked to make sure we were using our Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance capabilities to best effect.

A personal highlight of that tour was receiving the Commander’s Coin. This is a personal ‘thank you’ from the Commander – recognition of outstanding service above and beyond the call of duty.

Warthog All Terrain Protected Vehicle in Afghanistan
Warthog All Terrain Protected Vehicle in Afghanistan

In December 2013, I deployed for six-months to Camp Bastion - working for both Task Force Helmand and Joint Force Support Headquarters. This tour focussed primarily on the redeployment of equipment and people back to the UK. A key project was the collection and analysis of data to inform the redeployment of Warrior and Warthog vehicles to the UK – a process which involves a lot of work to make sure vehicles are thoroughly cleaned and in good working order. I spent many hours watching soldiers working on vehicles and timing how much effort it took to complete each part of the process– even in the winter snow! This work informed the Commander how long it was estimated for the entire fleet to be redeployed, therefore how long they would be available for use.

Overall, Operation HERRICK has shown me how the military benefits from advice from deployed analysts and scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. This advice is supported by an excellent reach back process to the experts at the laboratory.

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Support to Operations has a wealth of experience gained during campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and is in a DSTLgood position for supporting any future operations.

For me, the legacy of my deployments includes forming new friendships, seeing the direct impact of my work and not least - having the opportunity to see pop star Ed Sheeran perform in a hangar in Bastion – a surreal moment for a me!

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