Brigadier Maurice Sheen, who is Deputy Chief Executive of the DefLog VQ Trust, played a leading role in the establishment of two military academies which will provide future officers and leaders for both the Afghan and Iraqi armies.
Both academies are modelled on the British officer training model and echo some of the elements from The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The Afghan Officer Academy is the UK’s enduring commitment to that country after combat troops leave at the end of the year.
The Queen has appointed Brigadier Sheen, 61, a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the latest Operational Honours and Awards List by the Queen for his work in Afghanistan. He has also been awarded a Bronze Star Medal from the President of the United States for his work in Iraq.
Brigadier Sheen, who has served with the Army Reserve, formerly the Territorial Army, for more than 36 years said, “It’s a great honour to receive these awards but the best thing of all is that three members of my team were also on the Operational Honours and Awards List.
“That’s really satisfying because it was a team effort by the Brits and the Afghans. I could not have had better support from the Afghan Army, who really got behind this project.
“The key to its success is the enduring relationship we built with the Afghans. They were a great bunch to work with and I miss them a great deal.”
The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth-highest individual military award in the US Military and it is unusual for it to be awarded to a non-American.
Brigadier Sheen spent 10 months as the Colonel Training and Commander of the Coalition Training Team helping to re-establish the Iraqi Military Academy outside Baghdad in 2005.
British troops require the Queen’s permission to wear medals awarded to them by other nations. In the same week as he was awarded the CBE, Maurice Brigadier Sheen was also granted “unrestricted permission” to wear the Bronze Star Medal from The Queen.
He said: “Although I was in Iraq with a British team, it was a British and American operation and my immediate boss was an American general. The Iraqis wanted the British officer training model, so we were asked to help them.”
In January, 2013, Brigadier Sheen was asked to come out of military retirement to become Chief Mentor to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul.
Starting from a “blank piece of paper” the first officers are expected to graduate from the academy later this year. Eventually, it will produce over a thousand new officers each year, essential to sustaining peace and stability in the country.
Brigadier Sheen said: “The great thing about the Afghan Academy is that every ethnic group is represented. The officer cadets have been selected on merit rather than patronage and with our support they will play an essential part in securing peace in Afghanistan.
“It was a real privilege to be involved and play a small part in helping build a better future for a beautiful country.”
Throughout his time in Afghanistan, Brigadier Sheen had to be alert to the constant danger of “insider threat,” where someone turns on the troops alongside them.
British mentors at the Academy in Qargha, just outside the capital Kabul, were protected by so-called guardian angels, armed comrades tasked with watching for the first signs of trouble.
Brigadier Sheen said: “Whilst effective security measures were in place, you never knew in middle of all those Afghans whether one would suffer what we call a green on blue incident.
“The insider risk is always present but the Afghans really wanted to make this work and looked after us as much as we looked after them.”
Brigadier Sheen thanked the DefLog VQ Trust for allowing him to take up the post in Afghanistan.
He added: “I had retired from the Army Reserve and was working for DefLog when I was asked to deploy to Kabul to set up the academy with the Afghans and command a large mentoring team. The Trust agreed for me to go for 12 months. The support of the employer is absolutely critical and I am very grateful to them for allowing me to go. The transfer of skills from the military to civilian life and vice-versa what makes the Army Reserve so valuable.”
Brigadier Sheen will be presented with his Bronze Star Medal at the US Embassy in London on April 3 and his CBE at an investiture at Buckingham Palace.
In 2010 he received the Queen’s Volunteers Reserve Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
He added: “We all realise that without the support of your family and friends, things like this would never happen. It’s a fantastic occasion not only for the recipient but for them as well.”
DefLog VQ Trust, which is based in Riverview Road, Beverley, is an educational trust which provides civilian qualifications to members of the Armed Forces. It also owns TIR Training, a leading provider of driver training, Apprenticeships and employability training to the logistics sector.
Paul Downey, Chief Executive of the Trust, said: “We are all delighted that Maurice has been honoured in this way.
“To achieve two honours in a week is a remarkable achievement and fully deserved for the work he has done not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but throughout a distinguished career in the Army Reserve.
“It’s typical of Maurice that he volunteered for a very difficult assignment in a dangerous part of the world. His contribution will have a lasting impact on the security of Iraq and Afghanistan and we are all very proud of him.”