About Airborne Forces

Foreword for Pegasus Magazine by General Sir John Reith KCB CBE, former Colonel Commandant The Parachute Regiment.

As I write my final foreword for Pegasus as Colonel Commandant, 16 Air Assault Brigade has just handed over the Helmand Task Force to 3 Commando Brigade, marking the end of an historic summer during which all four battalions of the Parachute Regiment and supporting airborne units served together on operations in Afghanistan.

1 PARA continues to move from strength to strength in its role as the core of the Special Forces Support Group. Up to half the battalion is deployed on operations at any one time, whilst the remainder retain their skills with intensive training. I am delighted that 1 PARA's success has been reflected with awards to its soldiers in recent Operational Honours Lists.

2 PARA has returned from its role as Battlegroup (BG) North in Helmand Province. The battalion HQ was based in Sangin and the company groups were deployed in forward operating bases. Throughout the summer they were almost continuosly engaged with an array of Taleban IEDs, small arms, RPGs, mines and other devices. Even with this relentless enemy tempo, there are clear indications that 2 PARA's tenacity has reduced the effectiveness of the Taleban's tactics and command coherence. Most importantly, the locals are visibly tiring of the Taleban. As the BG returns home, our thoughts are with the families and friends of the ten Parachute Regiment and five supporting arms soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country.

The men of 3 PARA have all safely returned home from the battalion's regional role in southern Afghanistan. The battalion worked directly to the 2 Star led Regional Command South and was employed throughout the southern provinces, conducting both influence and kinetic operations, ranging from refurbishing a school to restoring order in Kandahar City following the Taleban prison break. The tour culminated when the BG was expanded to some 1200 troops, including two companies of 2 PARA, to ensure the final approach to the Kajaki Dam for the delivery of a new electricity turbine. This was a huge brigade operation that included two US aircraft carriers in support.

4 PARA seamlessly provided over 80 individual reinforcements to the other battalions and suffered the tragedy of losing a soldier killed whilst serving with 2 PARA. 4 PARA continues to be regarded as the benchmark model for a TA battalion and its recruiting remains healthy as it expands into the NW of England. In addition to its operational focus, I am most grateful for the significant support it provides for events such as Support Our PARAs and the Arnhem commemoration.

I am proud and delighted to report that throughout this intense period of operations, all ranks lived up to the high standards set by their forebears in other defining and demanding campaigns, such as the Second World War and the Falkland Islands. Whilst I congratulate everyone in the battalions for their manifest professionalism, I must also highlight the dedication and enduring support delivered by the Airborne community here at home: RHQ, the rear parties, the PRA and other members of the fold gave everything they could in a team effort to ensure that those in theatre, the families, and particularly the bereaved families, received the support that they deserved.

We have honoured our fatalities, but we must also honour our seriously injured, who despite suffering life changing wounds, have shown no self pity; with their courageous and positive attitudes they are an example to us all.

In such an historic operational year, it is fitting that the new Museum of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces will open at Duxford in December and will display our history from Bruneval to Helmand.

We must now look forward to ensure our continued future success. Our focus next year will be on recruiting and retention. To achieve full manning we need the support of the whole regimental family, past and present.

It has been a great honour to be Colonel Commandant and I thank you all for your professionalism and support throughout my tenure. I wish you and your families a well deserved Christmas break and I wish the Regiment and my successor Major-General Jonathan Shaw every success for the future.

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