Kenny describes being military but deployed with GCHQ to Afghanistan

Last Updated: 15 Jun 2016
He highlights the interesting, challenging and sometimes funny moments of being a member of the forces working for GCHQ.


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Another operational tour, but this time with a rather strange dynamic.

I was about to deploy as a member of the Forces working for GCHQ who were in Afghanistan supporting the military operation. Quite a strange position to be in; serving two masters but as I was to find out, a rather interesting, challenging and at times, funny one.

Most of the day-to-day business involved liaising between GCHQ and military command elements. This could range from providing intelligence support to help keep forces on the ground safe or arranging military logistical assistance for moving personnel around a military theatre. The latter could be quite problematic, given the working environment.

There were lighter moments that helped break up the monotony. I remember whilst I was watching football one night in the office with my military and civilian colleagues , the familiar sound of the alarms started, indicating that the camp had just been subjected to a rocket attack from insurgents. Our civilian colleague asked, in a slightly panicked voice, "What do we do next?" I don’t think the answer "turn the volume on the television up" was the one that was expected, or indeed provided much reassurance to someone who had just come under attack for the first time in their life. Although a slightly flippant response, our surroundings meant that we were in fairly well-protected place with regards to blast protection, and there was no point in moving.  At the end of the day, GCHQ personnel work very closely with the Military and face the same dangers we in the Military do.


Memories of deployment 

At the heart of GCHQ's support to the Military are our staff. It is a team effort to gather, analyse, translate and report intelligence, but when it comes to keeping the Military safe in warzones, the delivery of intelligence is often done by a single person.

Putting a Signals Intelligence expert in the field can both improve understanding of what the Military need, whilst protecting the use of intelligence. This is a lesson learned in World War One, and it is still valuable today.

In recent conflicts, GCHQ's staff have volunteered in numbers to deploy to warzones to help keep the Military safe. 90 GCHQ staff have received the medal for service in Iraq, and 156 for service in Afghanistan.