Tuesday, December 20, 2005

As far as the eye could see.....

The following morning as with the previous day we started early basically the same tasking to provide an escort for a couple of officers to forts on the Iraq/Iran border. This time how ever the forts weren’t along a river they were along a fence that divides Iraq from Iran and instead of 3 there are only two… Another difference was they were further north up into Maysan province nearer to the city of Al amara, Al amara is a more unsettled area of Iraq with allot more Insurgency attacks and problems… Bearing in mind we had been out the previous 2 days and previous day’s task took 12 hours to complete in the end, starting at 4am and not getting back in until 18.00. We then had to get all the kit (there’s allot of kit and electronics that is packed on and used) of the vehicles, get briefed on the next days task and then prepare all the vehicles and kit for our 4am start. By the time I’d got into bed it felt like I’d put my head on the pillow and the alarm went off! Oh well shit happens!

We took 3 Snatch with us on this tasking, 1 of these was a media operations Snatch which is basically a snatch with armored windows down the side so the press can snap away with some protection, also the air conditioning works! and they’re in good clean serviced condition very unlikely to break down… unlike ours! The day panned out navigation wise the same as the previous day, the platoon sergeant was in command instead of the Platoon commander and his planned route soon melted away as the routes he had planned were not there or blocked… We went out of the APOD which led us over some rough tracks into small villages and one track was blocked with junk and barbed wire, we couldn’t move it all as it would take to long and we’d be stood still far to long so we went off road round the side and got back on the road the other side of the blockage. We followed the road along about 500 meters and the reason the road was blocked became clear the road just disappeared into a river we could see the other part of the road on the other side. It looked as though the bridge and the road had been eroded and consumed by the river… The platoon sergeant then re planned his route, this took us into the outskirts of Basrah city and through a market which we weren’t planning on going through but we had to as there was a bridge this way and the next bridge was K’s north! This was my first experience of driving through a market and allot of the other lads hadn’t been through a market like this before either… What’s wrong with driving through a market? Well the problem is public order can snap in seconds you’ve got a stretch of road covered by hundreds of people crammed shoulder to shoulder in some parts so you really don’t want them to become an angry mob! You can’t move your vehicles forward quickly because there’s vehicles every where as well as people. If the local religious leaders have said today I think all British are bad then you’ll get bricked and mobbed, If he has said all British soldiers are good you won’t but there could be a group of fanatics wanting to cause problems, or some insurgents waiting to drop a grenade in a snatch as it rolls slowly through the streets… anything can happen the list is endless with different reasons, groups and methods and your ass does twitch! As we approached the market the front vehicles top cover gave a running commentary of what was in front if there’s a visible route round the market or through the market and also keeping there eyes open for any people with weapons. The decision was made to walk the vehicles through as we couldn’t drive straight through, the vehicles would get bogged down in the traffic and people. When the vehicles are walked through an area like this two blokes out of each vehicle get out and walk along side the vehicle, ordering vehicles out of the way and people this is done politely but if they don’t move or keep coming the tone and aggression is stepped up to pass the required message on as the vehicles are not to be stopped moving for anything. Once the lads are out of the vehicle walking through an area like this they become very vulnerable and have to keep there wits about them, if the situation escalated and public order became a problem as It can very easily, we have certain drills we would follow to try and get out of there without any harm coming to us. Its quite daunting seeing all these people and knowing at any moment they could all start pelting you with rocks and mobbing the vehicles… but again you still have to bear in mind the large proportion of people there don’t want any problems and don’t mind the British being in there country. We got through the market without any problems but the atmosphere deffinatly got a bit frosty and the looks of some people were unsettling, the dismounts said the same. We were all very glad to by driving away from there. We continued on for a few minutes and got to the bridge and would you believe it! The bridge had a height restriction! And the snatch’s were too tall to go through! The platoon sergeant had another look at his map and we turned round and had to go back through the market luckily with no drama’s, we then got onto route 6, this is the main drag into Basrah city and north away from Basrah but we were driving away from it luckily. The platoon sergeant didn’t have any choice but to take us up this route but it’s not the preferred route as it’s a prime target for IED attacks. We eventually found a bridge and carried on our route and it was changed numerous times again and again due to roads being blocked, washed away or just not there! We really got out into the middle of no were with desert as far as the eye could see in either direction following tracks that were just tracks through the desert no metal led roads just desert, we’d get a few kilometers in and it would be going the wrong way or disappear so we’d turn round the way we came and try something else! We went from one extreme of desert as far as the eye could see to another extreme…. We ended up deep into the marshlands and it was no longer like a marsh it was like a huge inland sea! We were on a track/road about 8-10 feet wide, the edge had crumbled away you could see were the tarmac had cracked and slid into the water, then on either side of this road that was slowly being consumed over years by the water was just that, water! As far as the eye could see water either side of the road no desert, buildings, islands or tracks just water! It was one of the most surreal and amazing things I think I’ve ever seen! After driving down this track for a few miles if we looked back all we could see was the thin road we’d come down disappearing off into the distance flanked either side by water! To the front the same just the one single road! We said jokingly if the road collapsed to our front or rear we’d be screwed as we couldn’t turn around and we were surrounded by water! But then we got to a point were the road was eroded badly! And it left us with about 6 foot of tarmac and you could see were it was cracking at the sides waiting to slide in! We got out and mulled it over, we had no choice and it looked ok so we tried it and it was fine (see picture). We never made it to any forts that day as we couldn’t find a way to them that wasn’t blocked or destroyed by man or nature! So in the end we headed back, that day we did 350km and I drove constantly for 10 hours! And it was hot!


Anonymous Benism said...

I imagine its all very surreal mate, it definately seems that way! Have you found anywhere for Rave in a Cave yet?

4:46 pm  
Blogger Mike Hubbard said...

not yet but trust me i'm working on it!! :O)

12:09 pm  
Anonymous Rog said...

It'll be a bugger gettin the decks over to ya ;-)

12:39 pm  
Anonymous Rog + Jan said...

P.S. Hope you and Warner and the rest of your mates have the best christmas that you possibly can. we'll be thinking about you.

cheers mate!

Rog + Jan

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