Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reflection and Closure...

Its nearly a year now since we got back from Iraq and life is back to normal, my life is the manic scene of chaos it was when I left it for 10 months… it didn’t take long to get back to normal, as soon as I got home I was having to get arrangements sorted for our adventures in Ibiza sorting the finer details of putting on a couple of events at one of the worlds biggest clubs!

Before I put some closure to this blogged episode of my life here’s a final unfinished piece that never got added… I found it just now on the word document I used to draft the blog before upload..

It’s been a while since I last wrote about what’s going on over here. Personally I’ve been having allot of things to think about and deal with as well as life over here being very quiet for a couple of weeks, times ticking by at light speed it seems but very routine at the same time. Being over here does give you the chance to step back and look at life as your own life does seem to stand still for 6 months, I’ve never really thought in depth about what I’m doing with my life or what things I’d like to do with my life except what I’m already doing. I’ve always admired my friends who can up sticks and travel the world or go and work abroad but I’ve always been too scared to disrupt my safe routine life… until I decided to spend 6 months in Iraq of course. Mind you I suppose the key thing there is I didn’t have to leave my job, which is one thing I’d never do as I’m intent on succeeding in a good career.
The emotional journey we’ve all gone through out here, from before you leave the UK to when your actually here is an achievement in itself. Being over here has brought allot of problems to allot of the lads with relationships ending or struggling. I suppose it’s to be expected as it’s a long time to be away. Some one said to me “I can remember saying to my mates before I came out here, if me and my girlfriend break up while I’m over there I’ll be in the best place, as I will have plenty of time to deal with it…. How wrong could I have been!” On reflection being over here is probably the worst place you can be! As when you’re on guard you’ve got allot of time to stand and think about what’s happening. All you can do is phone and write you can’t sit down face to face with your girlfriend and talk things through. Time over here does fly by but your memories of home are as you left it, like the photos on your wall, a freeze frame, your memories of home stand still while you’re here but the concern is life doesn’t stop back home. When you break up with your girlfriend normally after a month or so of getting on with life you start to feel better about it, as you’ve been to work, gone out with your mates, sat round moping etc but you can’t do any of that over here. The fear is that if you break up over here, with 3 months to go, when you get back your partner will be over you and moved on. How ever when you get back from a tour it’ll hit you full bore like it happened that very day.

That’s the last part I wrote and never got on-line. Some times were hard over there and emotionally everyone felt the strain and some point. Looking back now it’s easy to forget the bad parts and just remember the good. I see the lads now and there’s a special bond there and there always will be, would I change anything… No, I don’t think I would…

What’s prompted me to finish this blog of, well… when Radio 4 contacted me and said they wanted to use some of my blog for a radio piece I was surprised. When I listened to the show today it made me realize the life experience that my unit was open to over there and all the other troops experienced is something very rare, very terrible and special all at the same time. Like I said at the start of this blog, it’s why soldiers join the Army to actually do the job you train so long and hard for, it’s an odd one as its something people wouldn’t wish on a country or a person yet its still something people want to experience but some never will. So hearing first hand what its like opens peoples eyes to what its all really about. Hearing my blog read out, made me wish I had shared everything that happened through this blog as there was so much that went on now only a few will ever know of… this life chapter is over and there probably won’t be another of this scale in my life..

Mind you the way the world is today who knows the next blog I write could be from Afghanistan…


Friday, February 24, 2006

More rocket attacks! and bringing down insurgants....

Nothing can prepare you for witnessing a real life fight for some ones life. Once the ambulance doors were open the patient inside had severe injuries including lower and upper limb loss, his injuries had left him in a very bad way and he was engulfed in a last ditch attempt to save his life. The Naval medic was giving chest compressions while another bagged air into him, before we moved him from the ambulance she gave him a few more as there’s no way compressions could be done whilst carrying him from the ambulance to the waiting sea king. Any medic training you receive be it civilian or military when you cover CPR your always told that if your doing it correctly you will probably break a rib, I’ve always had a mental picture of what that would be like but now I’ve seen CPR being done for real correctly and it fits the image I had but when its real it looks a whole lot worse! It will probably be the one memory that sticks with me more than the loss of limbs.. He was a big guy and as she gave a compression her hands dipped into his chest and his body wobbled, you could see he was out of it by the way his body was so relaxed and his arm was dangling of the edge of the stretcher until it was put back in place by some one. While that’s happening your caught up by the adrenalin and the need to get him away as quickly as possible, you don’t really think about it all, just make a quick mental note to think about it later… We got the stretcher of the ambulance and four of us carried it over to the heli and lifted it on. It’s harder than you think when you’ve got a bloke weighing probably 14 – 16 stone. Lifting the stretcher onto the sea king you’re lifting it to head height from the ground. Once he was on board my team was told there wasn’t enough room to get on as well so they’d fly back for us once they’d dropped him off at Shiaba (logistics base with a hospital). We got all our kit and placed it up against the hesco wall, the heli was getting ready to lift off so we got our goggles on and made sure all the kit was huddled in front of us, the last thing you want is kit to start blowing all over the place! The heli took off and sand blasted every thing in sight with an almighty roar of wind, dust, rota’s and engines. Once it had gone and the dust settled you could see we were all having our own moments of reflection the mood was different but every one was on the same page. We sat down leaning against the Hesco and then I realized how hot it was, we were so used to it being wet and cold all the time it was quite nice to be sat in the sun with no wind. With the heli gone the silence was quite deafening there were lots of warriors parked up and people sat around them but no noise, every thing had been so hectic and then there was a still silence and sunshine. All of a sudden the noise of prayer came drifting over the walls, the one thing we hadn’t heard since we’d been here! We’re not based in the city and there’s no mosks near us. The ayatollah was chanting his prayers over a tanoy system from up in a tower on a local mosk. It was quite surreal everyone reflecting on the poor sods we just loaded onto the heli sitting in the quite sunshine, no wind and the whining chanting sound of prayer drifting over us reminding us exactly were we are and the whole motivation behind those blokes getting blown to pieces….. Recently I went home for 2 weeks on my R&R (rest and recuperation, Leave) on my return to Iraq 2 days later we had the largest rocket attack recorded at the Air Station, 12 rockets were fired over one night, a couple early evening and then the main body late at night, nothing was hit and no one was hurt but it made for an eventful night.

The first rocket came down when my whole platoon had just got back to our accommodation after finishing 3 days of guard. We were just chilling out having a shower etc. I was in my room with about 3 others watching a DVD when we heard what sounded like the worlds largest whistling fire work, those little ones you get that whistle and pop. It flew right over our accommodation and then we heard the dull boom as it landed over the far side of the air field. Rocket attacks have been more frequent recently, a highly amusing routine has developed, every one puts on there body armor and helmets then stands out side there rooms on the street talking about the rocket that just flew over head, waiting for the next one to come whizzing over. We’re still under cover on the street as there’s a big dome that site over the accommodation. Its just highly amusing as it’s the only time everyone socializes as a platoon on the street chatting, the chairs come out the rooms, the brews start flowing. It got me thinking of a scene from monty python when the Zulus are attacking the British, the brits are getting slaughtered but they're all still drinking tea and talking about other more pressing matters, the stereo typed British stiff upper lip thats blantantly just madness! Eventually the camp tannoy kicks in, with its droaning mortar alarm about 2 rockets to late, a big cheer follows from the whole platoon as we can never understand how they get the alarm so late every time. In this sitting 3 rockets flew over and boomed away no were near anything or any body. The second lot came over just as we got back from a patrol later that night/early morning, we pulled into camp with the wagons and were just about to de kit them when the first rocket flew over and made one hell of a bang that seemed pretty close by so we all darted under hard cover in case any more followed and they did. For the next 20 minutes another 8 came flying over and some were in quick succession so you got the boom, boom one after the other or nearly at the same time.
Al our platoon sergeant came flying out of the guard room “Immediate notice to move!” shit that means we’re going to go out and find the b’stards, everyone was pleased with the prospect of going out to get them so we started moving the wagons back round and checking the kit, we new they were ready as we’d just come of a patrol but it was best to be safe. An American officer who was sharing our hard cover heard what was going on and asked if he could join us “Your’ll going out there to get em!?? Can I come with ya??!!” sadly we had to refuse the last thing we needed was an extra person with us. Then moments later we got stood down and every one was pissed of then, we couldn’t understand why when we were ready to move nobody on camp would have been able to get out faster than us…. After the notice to move the rockets flew over for another ten minutes, we could have got to the firing point and taken them in ten minutes easily! But ours is not to reason why….

We arrested our first suspected insurgent recently. We were on IRT ARF again and we were crashed to what we were told was an IED so we were expecting more injured people to pick up and deal with, once we got on the frame (sea king) and got in the air our 4 man team again were then in the dark as we couldn’t hear what was happening due to the noise and not being plugged into the internal comms. It was late at night about 11.30pm after being in the air for about 10 minutes flying south I noticed through the window we’d passed over Shiaba but other than that didn’t know were we were going. The Chris turns to me and shouts “We’ve got to arrest some one!” I wasn’t expecting that! A million questions than passed through my mind, were we going to land in a built up area? A road? In the desert? Was he armed? Was there more than one person there? Were there any of our troops there already? All of these things we didn’t know and couldn’t find out! The frame started to loose height I turned to Chris and pointed down to ask if we were landing he nodded and the loady who hangs out the side with the GPMG (machine gun) cocked his gun, Chris shouted “make ready!” so we all made ready as well, by making ready you’ve got a round in the chamber so all you need to do is take off the safety and pull the trigger. When you make ready you know it’s serious! In a few minutes you might have to take off the safety and start getting rounds down. The frame came into land; this was it we were getting off! We literally didn’t know anything we could jump off and some one could be shooting at us straight away, we all jumped off and it was pitch black I don’t carry night viewing aids as I’m normally driving but the team commander does and so does one other. I couldn’t see anything especially with all the dust and grit flying round, we weren’t in a built up area and it wasn’t a road it looked like we were in the middle of the desert some were. Once on the ground I pulled my weapon up into my shoulder scanning round and moving out from the frame at the same time, finger hovering over the trigger guard and thumb by the safety ready to click it off if needed. We spread out to get some kind of all round defense but still with the main aim of finding the person we were to arrest and needing to keep eyes on each other. Then I clocked him to my right he was stood up facing us in a white jumper, he was obviously disorientated by the dust flying in his face from the down draft and the noise of the massive sea king that just landed about 40m away from him, I shouted to the rest of the team giving them an indication to were he was not that they could hear me over the roar of the sea king. I pointed my weapon at him and moved in towards him all he would be able to see is the red light on my head and my weapon pointing right at him with another three red lights also moving in his direction. Once I was right by him I shouted “British Army! Stay were you are!” there was no point shouting it sooner he wouldn’t have been able to see or hear me. He probably wouldn’t have been able to understand either but by shouting at him with a weapon pointing at him any would get the message. I saw Chris in my peripheral vision just coming into position on my right weapon pointing as this bewildered bloke as well, Warner and chiders came into position, pointing there weapons out into the darkness as we didn’t know if there was any one waiting to open up on us from the vast expance of blackness. Chris got his plasty cuffs out while I continued to cover; Warner came into cover Chris while I moved into a better position to cover our left flank. Once Chris had him cuffed Chris and Warner moved him back to the frame while me and chiders covered them, once they were on we covered each other bounding back to the frame. Finally we were all on board and the frame lifted off, the detainee was sat in between me and chiders with Warner in front weapon pointing towards him. My job then was to make sure he didn’t pose a threat didn’t try move around and watch for any dodgy hand movements, my rifle was between my legs so it would be useless if he tried anything as I couldn’t wave it round fast enough so close up. So I sat with my elbow poised in a casual yet prime position to give him the good news in the face if he did try anything. Once we’d all settled I realized something funny, when we took of from the air station one of the nurses had passed chewing gum round and every one had had a piece. There were 6 of us sat staring at the detainee our 4 man team and the 2 nurses and we were all excited a bit of adrenalin pumping and chewing this gum at a million miles an hour like ravid dogs, it was like a scene out of a dodgy American cop film. Now we’d go this bloke we had to drop him off. It turned out he had been one of a group of 5 men found digging the side of the road on one of our main supply routes. Probably laying a road side bomb for the next convoy to go past, a British patrol had seen them arrested 4 and the one we got had ran off, he got 5 miles into the desert only to be picked up by us after his marathon run, no wonder he rolled over without much of a fight, he must have been knackered! We dropped him back at his starting point were the patrol were waiting to take him off our hands…..

Monday, February 06, 2006

The realities of war.....

Realities of War…. That would technically be the wrong choice of words, as we’re not at war we’re helping to restore democracy and stability in Iraq. As such we’re a peace keeping force with rules of engagement, but as a peace keeping force we can still get shot up or blown across grid squares by the insurgents… we have our hands tied with what we can do about it or how we respond to it, we’re here for security and there are set rules of engagement to follow. From what I’ve been told by the ex regulars we have amongst us in Cambrai Company it’s much the same as Northern Ireland but here the rules of engagement are even stricter. How ever I’m no expert on Northern Ireland that’s just the impression I’ve got of the old sweats amongst us. Rules of engagement don’t exist for the insurgents as they plant IED’s loaded with anything they can find, nuts, bolts, staples, rocks, anything that will maim and kill… but they are far from stupid as the amount of small arms contacts is virtually nil these days, they know they don’t stand a chance in a fire fight against us, as they have found out against the British and the Americans all over Iraq. They’ve realized the best way for them to fight is by planting a bomb on a road, disappearing and detonating it from a safe distance out of sight, were they can’t get killed and will live another day to plant another bomb. As infantry soldiers we talk about traditional war fighting, referring to being in our greens (temperate camouflage) “the enemies situated here, we’re situated here we attack at dawn” typical infantry fighting, what we train for back in the UK. In reality that’s never going to happen again the last war we had fighting in a temperate environment was the Falklands, the other conflicts have mainly been won by air power resulting in long term peace keeping commitments. The British army has got the right background for this kind of conflict after being in Northern Ireland for so long, Bosnia, Kosovo etc and it shows if you look how well we’re doing in Southern Iraq with minimal numbers. The area is relatively happy and if you compare it to the north, our casualty ratio is very small, we loose more soldiers through injuries in road traffic accidents than from Insurgent attacks. As I’ve explained before one of our roles is to provide an ARF(Armed response force) 4 man team to go with the Navy’s Sea King born IRT(Incident response team, medics) When we get a shout we take allot of heavy kit and the medics have allot of kit as well, the equipment we take is communications and other equipment that enables us to provide protection to the medics and chopper crew whilst on the ground, as when there’s been an incident there is a high risk of follow up by the insurgents and a Sea King is not really the easiest of things to conceal, so it attracts allot of attention. Once it’s dropped us and the medics off it might have to get airborne again to provide top cover, as it’s going to take to long to stabilize the casualties before they can be loaded on the chopper. The last thing you want is a Sea King parked up on the ground in that environment. Once on the ground we’re then basically on our own with the medics and any other call signs that may be at the incident, our role then kicks in providing ground protection for the medics. The best example of this was during the rescue of the 2 SAS soldiers from an Iraqi police station in Basrah city, IRT was crashed to go and deal with the subsequent casualties, the medics and ARF ended up being left on the ground for at least an hour, the situation on the ground got very hostile as you probably saw on the news, pictures of the warrior getting petrol bombed and the crew being attacked by an angry crowd. The Robuck company lads who were doing our job before we got here were then left with a public order situation and had to join the line to try and control the public order situation while the medics did there thing with the casualties. Every situation is different, the location, the casualties and the threat level no incident will unfold the same way so what happens and what actions are taken are always dictated to you at the time by the situation on the ground it self. Recently we were crashed on IRT (incident response team), it was our first serious incident to respond to. Luckily in the morning we’d been up in the Sea King practicing our drills entering and exiting the chopper and winching drills so we were confident with what we had to do, the last thing we would want is to be crashed and proceed to flap around not knowing what we were supposed to be doing. When we got crashed it was mid afternoon I’d just drifted off to sleep and woke up with a jump as I heard the metal steps outside the room clattering with some one flying up them. That sound wakes me up with a start every time, when ever I’m sleeping at IRT I’m always lying there wondering if it’s going to happen. Will we get crashed out or won’t we? Even when I’m asleep my senses must still subconsciously be waiting for some one to come up the steps and though the door giving us the news “you’ve got a job!” every time I hear bumping or banging I wake up with a start ready to fall into my kit and out the door and every time its either nothing or some one popping in with dinner, breakfast or just to say hello on there way to the ops room. This time though it was a real job not lunch. We all jumped out of bed and picked up our kit which is always packed ready to go. Ever thing is always kept close to hand as we need to move straight away and board the heli, speed is essential as the medics have to get to the casualties as fast as possible to give the patients the best chance of hospital treatment within the golden hour. Once we got on the heli we don’t know where we’re going or what sort of incident we’re going to. The pilots, medics, loady and our team commander have headsets linked into the Sea King so they can all talk to each other but the remaining 3 of us don’t, we remain relatively in the dark as to what’s happening. As a four man team we do have our own comms that we use once we’re on the ground but that’s no use t o us on board the sea king. The team commander usually puts the mouth piece of his comms with us inside the headset from the sea king leaving it on permanent send so we can here what’s happening but over the roar of the sea king it’s very hard to make out through our small light weight headsets. So really we rely on a bit of charades and shouting with Chris our team commander. We were first told on the strip running towards the chopper we were going up as top cover, so the heli would fly round above the incident incase it was needed but this time it turned out we were going to land. Chris shouted to me we were landing in 2 minutes, there were some serious casualties and then gestured a chopping motion over his leg implying one had lost a limb. My thought process then went into preparation, mental preparation bearing in mind I’d never seen or experienced any thing like I was about to, the last thing I’d want is to freeze or puke and lots of other ridiculous things that flashed through my mind. I new I’d be alright though as I did have the right frame of mind, dig in and get in with it, think about it later, once it was over. The sea king rolled round steeply, we could see through the windows we were flying low over Basrah city along the river, from up high Basrah looks just as I’d imagined, dry and dusty a random patch work of squares walled areas that may be gardens or courtyards, small houses made from rough brown dusty brick, lots of grey shades to them as breeze blocks seem to be the popular building blocks over here. From up there the roads were just thin dusty strips randomly weaving between the buildings. We were flying low enough to see children running around and rest of Basra’s populous going about there business, its hard to picture what it would be like to live in this environment. In the UK if you saw a sea king flying low above your homes with a gunner hanging out the side all the children would be out in the street, staring up in amazement but here they just carry on as if nothings wrong, they’ve all seen and heard so much in there lives already I’m sure nothing surprise’s them. The heli started banking steeply again and there was several large bangs as chaff was fired from the heli’s defenses, we new this was nothing to worry about its activated automatically by sensors all round the heli as soon as a threat is detected it dispenses chaff but this can be caused by reflections off the water hitting the sensors. After a quick cursory glance at the loady I new it was nothing to worry about, if the loady looks calm enough hanging out the side door with his gpmg (machine gun) you know its ok. Eventually we came into land, Chris shouted to me we had landed at he Shat, the Shat being the Shatal Arab hotel, now a British base location for the Basrah battle group, the Highlanders. There were no signals to get out yet and as we can’t hear what’s going on we sat tight, we could see they were all talking over the sea kings comms and the medics were getting there kit ready so we just made sure we were ready to jump out as soon as some one gave us the signal. After what seemed like an eternity we were ushered out of the heli, the medics jumped out first and as we jumped out we could see we were on a secure landing site surrounded by hesco (huge wire baskets filled with sand and stones to provide blast protection), so we had landed in the Shat not outside it. My first thoughts had been we were landing on a road outside the shat as an IED had been detonated hitting a call sign and we would have to get out and provide all round protection for the medics and help with casualties. As I climbed out the down draft from the propellers was throwing dust up into my face luckily I had my goggles on so I could still see, so I kept my head down and semi blindly ran forwards till I was a safe distance from the chopper. It took a few minutes before we new fully what was going on as the medics were in discussions with people already on the ground. As we weren’t being used we were out of the loop for the time being, eventually Chris came back to us and explained. A civilian close protection team had been hit by an IED(road side bomb) about 800m away form the Shat, being non military they don’t have communications with the military and no one new they’d been hit until the injured members of the team had been brought to the front gate of the Shat by Iraqi civilians. The fact Iraqi civilians brought the injured men to a British camp shows how the mood towards the multinational forces is good, as in the past there’ve been incidents of bodies being dragged round city streets as I’m sure you’ve seen on the news at times. Now we new what was going on we then found out what the plan was, the casualties were being stabilized in the tiny med centre at the shat so the medics jumped in some transport and went down to the med center to deal with the casualties and assess what to do, who to move first etc. While the medics did that we had to wait, as we were within the protection of the shat we didn’t need to do anything so we just waited until the first ambulance came with the more serious casualty on. We got up and ran over to the back doors, we new we’d be needed to lift the stretcher of the ambulance onto the heli. I had a million things going through my mind, we were about to deal with something none of us had experienced before, I had a churning feeling in my stomach almost like butterflies before a public appearance. The back doors to the ambulance flew open and we all got our first slice of reality pie…..

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sleep depravation and rocket attacks....

Well Christmas and new year are now over and to be honest I’m glad… very bah humbug I know but New years eve ended up being a repeat of Christmas day, the same patrol, same time and no beer but hey that’s life… I’m not saying I didn’t have a laugh and feel a bit festive but in all fairness I’m glad its over so we can get back into getting on with the job and getting the months down, all the festivities did was slow down time and get every one pissed of all the time for one reason or another half the time relating round being tasked for a job when every one else is getting a beer that evening. Then inevitably with any job that mood then cascades into everything you do for the whole day and the whole team at least now with no more special days when its tradition to be with you family’s, be merry and drink large quantity’s of alcohol everyone won’t have a reason to be annoyed that they’re being tasked to a certain job and we can get on with it and be happy…. Since the new year we’ve been relatively busy there’ve been several IED and Arms finds also a couple of IED attacks so sadly they weren’t found before they detonated.. And yesterday we had our first rocket attack luckily the rocket didn’t hit any thing of importance in the camp and more importantly there were no injuries. When the attack actually happened we were all in the cook house eating tea and in all fairness I was starving and tired… I was just tucking into my profiter roles and Chris said “Look at that tit over there he’s just walked in, he’s got his helmet and body armor on and washing his hands at the wash point” (for hygiene before you eat everyone has to wash there hands at set wash points) a point to note when your walking around Allenby lines you don’t have to have your helmet and body armor worn just a couple of minutes away so you can leave it in your accommodation when you go to the cook house. Then the bloke in question turns round, he was a naval officer, above the roar of talking in the cook house he bellowed out “I think it would be advisable for you all to don your body armor and helmets!” when he said that we then new shit he wasn’t just wearing it for the sake of it we were under attack, it was comical because the entire cook house then stampeded out the doors to grab there body armor and helmets they had left in there rooms and the Naval officer was then the only one left in the cook house and he just strolled up to the service and got his dinner. It tickled me that he’d calmly wandered in washed his hands then made his announcement and cleared the cook house and the queue for scoff! Since writing about the first attack we’ve been rocketed again so that’s twice in three days! The last one was closer than the first but still nothing to worry about as in the 6 months prior to us being here they had at least one a month and nothing was hit and nobody hurt, the rockets they use are just propped up against something pointing in our general direction and triggered so they just fly any were really then land some were near. When the latest attack happened I was in bed, I’d just got in as we’d just finished 3 days guard and I had about 14hrs sleep over the 3 day according to my driver’s hour’s record!! I was tired and we were going out on an escort 5 hours after we finished so I was getting as much sleep as possible! Be it only a couple of hours.. any way back on to the rocket, I was just settling to go to sleep and there was a deep boom and the room shook at first I thought it was some one knocking something over next door but it was followed by the clattering of crap landing on our mortar cover (a massive metal cover over all the accommodation and paths so if a mortar ever did come on target it would detonate on that rather than us) then about a minute later the whining of the mortar alarm. The rocket had landed directly in line with our accommodation but no where near enough to cause any dramas. I stayed in bed as I felt sleep was more important than donning my body armor and helmet and standing round waiting for the all clear, it’s landed, and it’s gone off nothing I can do about it now…. And SLEEP!! We’ve really felt the squeeze as the R and R (we all get 2 weeks home leave) has started this rotation. It’s the first time we’ve done 3 days of guard down a team due to them being at home for 2 weeks on R&R. It was hard going as I mentioned before basically sleep was none existent and if we’re going to be doing this amount of tasks for the next 4.5 months then something will end up giving as we’re all knackered after just one 3 day rotation! We’re straight into mobiles now and as we’re down a team there’s going to be no let up on this either… the pattern is set now and the grafting really has begun!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day!!!!

ITS CHRISTMAS!!!! What did we do? How did it go?? Well with all things considered it was a good day after all we’ve still got a job to do and the insurgents won’t take the day off so we can celebrate… Christmas eve was spent on IRT after our platoon commander dropped a Moral destroying bomb shell! We’d been on Allenby guard for the 24 hours straight after Ritz gate, every one was in high spirits as we were going onto IRT then taking over mobiles 1 on the evening of Christmas day so the odds were high we’d have the evening to have our 2 cans and celebrate Christmas as best we could. Also we’d been informed that officers form DIV HQ had volunteered to take over all our guard taskings for 4 hours on Christmas day allowing the whole company a bit of time to have dinner, gather together for a few words from the OC etc etc…. But to dampen the mood the platoon commander informed us our half of the platoon, multiple Bravo were being tasked to go out on a patrol at 11pm Christmas night! And the other half of the platoon would have the evening off.... Hey thats life, some one had to go out and the best thing to do is "get it down your neck!" and get on with it! Well you can imagine how the mood went from there…. So Christmas Eve night we sat in the IRT room watching Harry Potter and waiting to be crashed out to an incident but gladly that didn’t happen! We had some crackers, sweets and Santa hats to entertain our selves even though the mood in some was more “bar hum bug “than “HO HO HO!” once Casualty came on the TV and everyone’s parents on the show seemed to be dying at the same time we decided to hit the sack! In the morning the door to the IRT room crashed open and my instant thought was “Bol**ks we’re being crashed!” but it was the OC and company sergeant major coming to bring us our Christmas morning “gun fire” (its tradition for the officers to bring soldiers tea with rum in to there beds on Christmas morning) The good thing was we then changed over and were on 12 hours rest, for once the rotation landed nicely! Once I’d got back to my room, showered, shaved, sorted myself out and opened up my presents my moral was tip top but some were still very “bar hum bug!” my theory is it might be shit but you have to make the best of what ever the situation is and to be fair over here it could be allot worse! Even though we’d been dicked for this patrol why not stick a smile on and enjoy yourself! But after trying to explain that a few times I gave up a mid the refusals to wear Santa hats as Christmas was canceled! and other people trying to convince each other they’re the more hard done by one…. I went of to use the phones, it would be 7am in the UK 10am here but as the rush later would be ridiculous I thought it best to try now. The rush later was big as some people had to wait an hour and a half but they had to wait as they wanted to speak to there children on Christmas day but for people like me without children its not so desperate, I would love nothing more than to speak to Beth, my mum and my brother on Christmas day but I’m sure they’d understand if I couldn’t get to the phone but if I had children I’d queue for and hour and a half. Any way the rest of the day was good me and Warner put up our decorations made a cup of tea, sat down and watched a film “The 40 year old virgin” whilst scoffing chocolates! To be fair a typical thing to do on Christmas day. Then the company had a sing song and Christmas dinner, all in all very festive all things considered! Now however its back to the job we’re just about to start getting ready to go out on our patrol and it hasn’t stopped raining all day! And it’s hammering it down now so the roads are going to be bad! As sand and water make mud and lots of it!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Ritz and Mr Blair.....

Next we have Ritz gate…. This is the first of the staging on tasks (stag is guard). When the my platoon come of mobiles 1 onto the Ritz gate we have normally been on a tasking in the day or early in the morning so it’s been a long day already. What do we do at Ritz gate? Ritz gate as I explained earlier is the only entrance to the military enclave for military personnel and any civilian employees/contractors. We have to search all locally employed civilians (LEC’s) that need to gain access to the enclave. A large amount of LEC’s work on the camp 100’s in fact so there’s allot of people to search in and out and all ID’s have to be checked. Ritz isn’t that bad as we have a fast change around from position to position so you get a change of scenery and I different face to chat with, well its going to be a different one out of the two possibilities! The only down side is it can get tiring depending what you’ve been doing with Mobiles 1 if you’ve been on the go for 3 days up at sparrow fart every day then out all day jumping straight into Ritz and staging on till the early hours of the morning then up again for the morning searching surge as the LEC’s pile into work. Bus loads come through and searching 52 LEC’s between 2 of you is a task some times, generally they are all cooperative but then you get some that aren’t so happy to help. I prime example is one guy yesterday I searched a whole bus load myself and then once I’d finished and Warner had given the inside of the bus a once over I told them all to get back on but then I clocked one guy sat on the bus pretending to be sleeping, leaning his head against his arms resting on the chair in front, I saw him look up and then get his head down again. So I stopped everyone getting on and gave the window a bang and beckoned him of the bus. He strolled of the bus his body language resembling something of Harry Enfields Kevin and Perry! I new he was trying to avoid the search probably because he couldn’t be bothered with it but at the same time in the whole scheme of things he could be avoiding it for a reason. I gave him the once over with the hoodlum (a hand held metal detector) and half way through that he tried to walk of so I grabbed him by the arm and turned him round and told him to pack it in! At the same time an English speaking LEC was telling him to pack it in, you can always tell the general gist of what’s being said by international language of body language. Because he was being awkward I then moved into a more thorough search which he wasn’t happy about and by this point I was happy he didn’t have any metal objects on him but I thoroughly padded him down to fuck him around and make sure, I then said to him and the guy who was speaking to him who I new spoke English, “If you cooperate with us we will get on and things will not take as long but if not things will just get more difficult each time you come through here!” I then let him and every one else on the bus and on there way after being delayed longer than necessary. I figured that he’d get a rifting of every one else on his bus for making them all stand outside in the rain longer than necessary and yes its been raining! We had a visit from Tony Blaire yesterday and apparently it was on the news so if you saw him at the HQ in Basrah that’s the DIV HQ we guard. The funny anecdote of the day was from one of the news reports, “Mr Blaire’s visit lifted the moral of the troops in Basrah” yeah right! Our first full day of rest for about 14 – 16 days, our first lie in!....... 9AM!!!! BANG BANG BLEEDING BANG!!! On opening the door, Sergeant Green is stood there “enjoying your lie in lads? Well it finished now!” they needed extra men down at DIV HQ because the PM was coming and we ended up stood in the DIV HQ car park on the side of the road he was coming down making sure no cars left the car park when he was on his way through and that also involved looking smart and coming to attention as he drove past…. So this paved the way for standing in the same place for 3 – 4 hours instead of chilling out writing letters or watching a film, generally relaxing…. So reviewing the news report moral was definitely not lifted, especially when you’ve got numerous officers running round flapping because the PM’s coming! Chucking orders and bone taskings at every spare soldier they can find it’s definitely not a moral boosting experience but hey that’s the military… Mind you I was stood on the car park right by the front door to HQ were they got in and out of the vehicles so at least I was right by all the action and ended up about 10m’s away from him.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

STOP! "Photo Oportunity!"

Just a quick interlude with a couple of recent pictures.....
Me on an early morning route clearence patrol....

Warner and Fitz just before we leave for a late night AO patrol
(Taken with my FUJI SLR on a slow shutter speed using the rover bonnet as a tripod)