DSG: Supporting Camp Bastion
05 April 2011
Defence Support Group Chief Executive Archie Hughes sheds light on the DSG's contribution to the British armed forces' efforts in Afghanistan…
In October 2009, the Defence Support Group (DSG) deployed 29 staff to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan as part of the Permanent Joint Headquarters' (PJHQ) Equipment Sustainability System (ESS) programme. The programme removes the need for equipment rotation by conducting forward regeneration at the front line, which maximises equipment availability for operational commanders, minimises the time that vital equipment is away from critical operations and provides better value for defence.
This is not the first time DSG staff have worked alongside their military customers. For a number of years, DSG supported the British Army Training Unit Suffield in Canada, and have deployed on operations in Iraq and Kuwait, while in the UK, DSG employees are in garrisons providing in-barracks equipment support.
Despite the challenging environment and the threat of indirect fire being a reality, DSG is never short of volunteers who are willing to deploy to Afghanistan. The requests for volunteers are consistently oversubscribed and there are no shortages of keen, capable candidates. Even recently graduating apprentices have gone out on deployment to provide support to the critical equipment in use by the UK armed forces.
The customer community fully recognises the work carried out by DSG, with Sir Bill Jeffrey, former Permanent Under Secretary, and General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, former Chief of Defence Materiel, having presented campaign medals to DSG staff.
In praising the men for their contributions, Jeffrey said: "The work you have done, and continue to do, is absolutely essential in supporting your colleagues in the armed forces and is literally saving lives on the front line. You should be immensely proud of your invaluable contributions. The medals you are receiving are a token of gratitude, not only from those for whom this equipment is vital on battlefield operations, but also from the Chief of the Defence Staff and everyone in the MoD who recognise the invaluable work you are doing. This is yet another superb example of the crucial role civilians play in supporting current operations."
The willingness of staff volunteering to work in what can be dangerous and life-threatening situations is a measure of how seriously everyone at DSG takes its role in supporting the UK's Armed Forces.
Following the successful ESS Interim Regeneration Capability (IRC) in 2009, the journey for the programme to reach Full Regeneration Capability (FRC) at Camp Bastion has come to fruition. The IRC was operating from canvas shelters and with daily temperatures up to 50°C and frequent dust storms, life for soldiers and the DSG staff is tough. Despite having to contend with the testing conditions and hostile environment, the team's spirit and high standard of output has seen DSG awarded main contractor status to operate the FRC facility until 2013.
On Monday 3rd January 2011, Secretary of State for Defence Dr Liam Fox officially opened the ESS Regeneration Capability (RC) at Camp Bastion. This was the first time a minister had visited the completed ESS RC facility and the party all commented positively on the success of the programme to date and the benefits to operations.
In an interview for the British Forces Broadcasting Service, the Secretary of State was fulsome in his praise for the RC: "This is going to provide us with cutting edge facilities and ultimately save us money. Excellence and savings are words we are going to use quite a lot in 2011 and this is a perfect example of it. Congratulations to everybody in making the project work so successfully, within budget and on time.
"That is something the rest of the MoD need to learn well from and to congratulate you on what is a great achievement, and to say thank you very much on behalf of all our armed forces for you in support, sometimes the unsung heroes."
Touring the workshop, Fox reviewed the work undertaken by the DSG repair teams, and was interested to learn that DSG is growing the capability in Bastion from the initial concept of platform regeneration through to intimate support to the REME Battalion and repair of electronic and mechanical subsystems.
The size of the DSG team in Bastion will grow incrementally from the initial 29 to approximately 100 by the middle of 2011. The programme has produced a fully-established regeneration capability with a new state-of-the-art workshop facility purpose-built to accommodate the requirement of FRC to complete planned, periodic deep repair and maintenance.
Daz Dalzell, DSG General Manager at Bastion, comments: "The actual move was a big undertaking as we still had to meet our commitments, but it was necessary and the new workshop's extensive office, support facilities and air conditioning really improve working conditions for the team. It is an excellent facility and we are making sure we maximise its use to improve output. The message from the army is that we are doing a good job, but we need to keep the momentum and keep up the high standards we are delivering."
Showcasing its breadth of capabilities and demonstrating the significance and importance of having repair facilities in-theatre has led to changes in the levels of tasking. DSG is now carrying out up-armouring, depth repair and forward logistic planning, while ongoing discussions with the customer indicate that additional work in the near future will include electronics and components for land and air platforms.
DSG has a wealth of experience in working on military vehicles, enabling the group to maintain and repair legacy fleets such as the tracked Warrior vehicle, but the equipment in use is changing and current operations favour wheeled vehicles.
Fortunately, DSG has the capacity and capability to support both types. Our workshops have the capability to work on legacy systems but can also tackle new state-of-the-art equipment. Consequently, DSG has been able to rise to the challenge of maintaining the diverse advanced battle equipment now in use, such as Jackal, Mastiff, Viking, Wolfhound and the MAN SV truck.
The work we do in Camp Bastion is vital and we must deliver what we promise on time, but in this very real climate of savings on costs and pressures on budgets, we must ensure we are delivering maximum value for money for every defence pound spent.