Ben Garwood, right, joined the British military in 1997 and retired rather recently. He is the owner of HR4K, a lifestyle brand based in Herefordshire, England. He is also a former member of the Pathfinders as well as the tier one British Special Air Service. Photo courtesy of Ben Garwood.
Ben Garwood, a former British pathfinder, describes his wartime experiences in Afghanistan in the 2015 documentary Pathfinders: Into the Heart of Afghanistan.
“I did an Afghanistan tour there where we did some brilliant stuff,” Garwood, who served more than 11 years with the British Special Air Service, told the Late Night History podcast about his experiences. “A lot of missions were long-range mobility that probably hasn’t seen the extent of that sort of mobility since the back end of the Second World War.”
The pathfinders are a reconnaissance platoon for the British 16th Air Assault Brigade. Similarly to British special operators who located and marked drop zones from Europe to North Africa ahead of invasion forces in World War II, modern-day pathfinders acted as the eyes and ears for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
“The interesting fact from the heritage of the Second World War is the way we patrol on the ground and the way we do our contact drills stems from cavalry and tank units,” Garwood explained. “And we still use that practice today. When we get into a contact and have to fall out or maneuver, always ensure we’ve got essentially one foot on the ground. That still comes from old school ‘mobo.’”
These missions into the central badlands of Helmand Province, the largest and most remote area of the country, were arduous and brutally effective.
“We were getting resupplied to support those patrols,” Garwood explained. “The information you’re gaining was massively critical to the strategic effect of that brigade.”
Watch the documentary on YouTube below to learn more about the deployment that granted the first access into this elite British Pathfinder Platoon.
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Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.
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