Tom Evans joined the Support to Operations team in March 2003. He has deployed four times in support of operations as an Operational Analyst (OA) – twice on Operation TELIC to Iraq and twice on Operation HERRICK to Afghanistan, providing analytical advice to Commanders from Brigade to Corps level. He has recently moved into the Land Battlespace Systems Department at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
I was a fresh faced analyst of 23 (yes, I’m getting old now) when I joined the Support to Ops Group. The opportunity to provide embedded analytical support to the military end user, and the chance to witness first-hand the impact of my work (which has been mainly positive, I hope!) was, and still remains, a key motivator for me.
As a deployable analyst, one of my first training opportunities was ‘Field Training’ at Chilwell, where I took part in command exercises, learnt military first aid and was taught about mine awareness as well as a whole host of other activities. We spent the nights in rapidly erected bashas (tents) and conducted regular night patrols. I realised a career in the military was not for me after I managed to leave behind the patrol I was leading – I was the only one with Night Vision Goggles and forgot to tap the person behind me before moving on. Oh dear!
My early S2O career involved developing analytical tools and techniques, alongside supporting numerous military exercises. The highest profile of these was Ex ARRCADE FUSION, which I supported in 2003 and 2004 during a nine month posting to HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Core (HQ ARRC) in Germany. This provided an excellent training ground for me to develop my capabilities, gain experience of working directly with the military and demonstrate the value of OA to military officers.
I have been fortunate enough (if fortunate is the right word) to deploy in support of both Operations TELIC and HERRICK in the past ten years, providing analytical support to HQ Multi-National Division (South East) in Basra, HQ International Security Assistance Force in Kabul and HQ Regional Command (South) in Kandahar. The analysis I was providing during these deployments was many and varied including advice to support campaign assessment, analysing trends in kinetic activity and medical planning analysis.
While deployed I also became aware of the importance of understanding and respecting local cultures and traditions, and being sensitive to the perceptions of the local communities we are trying to support. I was able to experience Iraqi and Afghan culture through engagement with the local communities, with one particular highlight being a visit to a local Basra school that was being rebuilt by the teachers and children. At one stage, I attempted a conversation with one of the teachers who could not speak English apart from being able to name the 1966 England World Cup winning team…and David Beckham…of course!
One of my proudest achievements has been the part I have played in establishing and growing the role of the Deployments Team. I became the Team Leader when it was established in 2009, and the team is now responsible for the safe and effective deployment of all Dstl staff either on operations or travelling to other hostile locations overseas. Working closely with Ministry of Defence Support to Operations, Dstl has developed effective policy and processes that have enabled us to safely deploy more than 670 Dstl staff since 2002.
As we transition from supporting current operations to supporting contingency operations, the main focus for the S2O Group will move towards providing analytical and scientific support to UK Armed Forces and embedding OA and Scientific Advisors (SCIADs) into their regular exercise programmes. This will create the opportunity for new members of S2O to provide support to military decision makers, much the same as I did when I started providing exercise support 11 years ago. I hope they enjoy the experience as much as I have but for me, the cycle is complete and it is time for the next challenge...