Both 2 and 3 PARA deployed to southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in 2008, forming all-arms battle groups over 1,150 men strong.
2 PARA operated as Battle Group North operating from five Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in the Upper Sangin Valley. These were situated in the area of the ‘Green Zone’ fertile farmland stretching one kilometre either side of the Helmand River. They operated in temperatures of over 40 degrees centigrade, in humid conditions, scrambling across ditches and streams that irrigate the area, carrying 60lb equipment weights on patrol and wearing body armour.
C Company 2 PARA manning FOB ‘Gibraltar’ was attacked 36 times, its defenders embroiled in 29 fire-fights around their location and targeted or actually bombed 22 times. The average age of the paratroopers was 23; five died in action, 14 were seriously injured and 30 wounded. Such casualty rates are as high as those endured during the Second World War. It is believed they may have killed 150 Taliban.
3 PARA conducted both combat and ‘hearts and minds’ operations with Regional Battle Group (South). They ranged across a spectrum of terrain varying from the irrigated humid conditions of the Green Zone to the harsh and arid desert in Helmand and Kandahar Province; from the mountains of Zabul near the Pakistan border to close street confines in Kandahar City.
In August the 3 PARA Battle Group provided security for the delivery of a massive new hydro-electrical turbine to the Kajaki Dam in northern Helmand. This was conducted through known Taliban strongholds while the enemy was distracted by diversions or cleared from the convoy route. The turbine was delivered with no British fatalities, discrediting the opposition and delivering a much sought material success for ISAF and the Afghan government.
The tour concluded in autumn 2008..