On Tuesday 1 May the school was honoured to welcome back one of the most distinguished Sennockians of recent years. Brigadier Jonny Bourne OBE is Director of Army Plans, and his talk to Years 9 and 10 focused on his experiences commanding 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles during an eventful tour of Afghanistan in 2007-9. In a powerful and authoritative lecture, Brigadier Bourne drew out the complexity of operations in Afghanistan, placing a particular emphasis on the human element – building trust with the local population. The Nepali soldiers of the Gurkha Rifles were especially valuable on the ground, as they were able to relate linguistically and culturally to the mountain-based society of rural Afghanistan.
Much of his talk was devoted to explaining how fighting was not the only element to the Gurkhas’ deployment, and that the principal aim was to restore conditions that would enable economic stability, increased education and the rule of law. Another feature of this compelling talk was his explanation of the complex rules of engagement that limit the circumstances in which British soldiers can open fire on Afghans, even if they are armed and believed to be insurgents. The job of the modern field commander in Afghanistan was shown to involve a high element of cooperation with armed forces from various countries, including the USA, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. The high point of this remarkable lecture was a detailed reconstruction of Operation Spin Ghar, in which Brigadier Bourne’s unit launched a daring helicopter assault against a concentration of Taliban forces in 2007.
The lecture closed with nail-biting video footage of the Gurkhas being delivered into combat by Chinook helicopters, including a seemingly impossible landing of soldiers on a mountain-top. All who attended this lecture were privileged to receive a human-scaled insight into the complexities of modern warfare from one of its most highly decorated and successful practitioners.
Photo by Corporal Andy Reddy RLC. Crown copyright/MOD
Tuesday 8 May 2012
by Charlotte Hails