Legendary group enhances defense at Fairford
By Staff Sgt. Jim Fisher, 457 Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
/ Published March 21, 2003
ROYAL AIR FORCE FAIRFORD, England (AFPN) -- Security here has taken on a formidable new dimension.
After adding layers of concertina wire, K-9s and four contingents of law enforcement, officials at this British installation have added a regiment nothing short of legendary.
The Gurkhas, the world-renowned Nepali special forces contingent of the British Army, have hunkered down at Fairford, alongside Air Force security forces and local police.
For the elite light infantry unit, hunkering down is a simple process, and one of the unit's many extraordinary capabilities. British Army Maj. Neil Stevens, the Battalion second in command of 2nd Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment, explained why his unit is so valuable.
"We can move anywhere in the world on 24-hours notice," Stevens said. "We're ready to go anywhere, anytime."
Stevens said the Gurkhas rely on flexibility and experience. They are configured and used like the U.S. Army Rangers or U.S. Marines. They are also martial artists, airborne tacticians and masters at cover and concealment. As they patrol the Fairford perimeter they will be drawing upon a more intangible quality: their reputation.
"Our capability is backed up by history," Stevens said. "We've received more Victoria Crosses than any other unit."
The Gurkhas have been honored 26 times with the cross, the British equivalent of America's Medal of Honor.
Their heritage is forged from operational experience. After a British conflict in Nepal in the early 19th century, the Royal Army was so impressed with the Gurkha fighters that it recruited and constructed special regiments of the elite soldiers. Since its inception in 1815, the mostly Nepali force in composition and culture has participated in every significant campaign and many lesser-known military endeavors.
"In the last two years we've been everywhere the British Army's been, from East Timor to Afghanistan," Stevens said.
Their reputation is also tethered to their "ethos" -- adherence to a strict, self-imposed code of honor and discipline.
"We must be loyal, honest, well-trained," explained a rifleman standing in front of perfectly arranged cots flush and grounded at their Fairford encampment. "We are very experienced, especially in jungle warfare."
A more recognizable trademark is their long and lethal Kukri knife, a symbol of their legacy and lethality.
The Gurkhas are happy to be working with the four agencies already securing Fairford, including U.S. Air Force security forces, RAF and Ministry of Defence police and local constabularies.
"We're very happy to be working with the MOD police and U.S. forces," a Gurkha rifleman said. "We are not sure about the conflict with Iraq and we don't know what will happen, but we're here now and we're happy to help."
Security forces officials are happy to have the boost in capability, according to Capt. Woody Boyd, SF commander at RAF Croughton, who is assisting in orchestrating the defense of Fairford.
"I can remember 12 years ago as an airmen hearing people talk about Gurkhas and what they are capable of doing," Boyd said. "The Gurkha is an extremely professional soldier and we're extremely honored to work with them. It definitely enhances security."
Security forces officials indicated the regiment will be deployed on the perimeter to thwart any intruders. It will also serve as a last line of defense before armed Air Force security forces on the air field. Stevens alluded to the use of a balance of conventional policing and stealthy tactics.
"We intend to be very visible during the day for the purpose of deterrence," Stevens said. "But at night it's another matter. We'll be configured accordingly."