LIEUTENANT James Onstenk, 24, a former pupil of Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury, is currently deployed in Afghanistan with 2 Close Support Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), as the Forward Heavy Platoon commander.
His platoon comprises 36 soldiers who are tasked with repairing all heavy armoured vehicles before they are flown back to the UK.
Lt Onstenk is responsible for all aspects of the soldiers’ lives while they are in Afghanistan; from their health and welfare to the engineering work they carry out.
The Forward Heavy Platoon has had a busy two months since arriving in Afghanistan at the start of O p e r a t i o n Herrick 19.
They are split into two sections to conduct the two different kinds of work which comes to the Platoon: redeployment and security force assistance (SFA).
The redeployment section is in charge of repairing and servicing all heavy armoured vehicles before they are sent back to the UK.
The SFA section is tasked with conducting all repair work required to support the security force, which still conducts operations daily.
This has resulted in a wide range of jobs, from engine changes on Mastiff vehicles to manufacturing 248 Warthog wheels in 72 hours.
“The work my platoon do day in day out continues to impress me,” said Lr Onstenk.
“I’m really proud of them and the way they have settled into life in Afghanistan.
“There are a few creature comforts available in Camp Bastion, such as welfare, internet and an excellent gym, but it’s still pretty austere out here. Having the support of friends and families back in the UK and Germany is a massive boost though, particularly to the younger soldiers on their first operational tour.”
Lt Onstenk joined the army in 2011 after completing a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Sheffield.
He is normally based in Fallingbostel in Germany as part of the 7th Armoured Brigade and this is his first operational tour.
“After spending two years training and building up experience ready for Afghanistan, it’s great to finally be out here commanding a platoon. The added bonus of being in the REME is that I get to use my engineering degree to help solve technical problems, keeping working equipment in the hands of the soldiers.”