Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Job.....

So what are we doing here….? As I mentioned before I’m here as part of 120 soldiers making Cambrai Company, made up from four cap badges, The light Infantry, Fusiliers, The Staffordshire Regiment and The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters. These four cap badges make the West Midland Regiment, a TA regiment that where asked to provide a Company of infantry soldiers for OPTELIC 7, Iraq, leading to Cambrai company being formed. Cambrai Company has been tasked as Force Protection for MND (SE) Basra APOD (Airport). The lay out of the Airport, it has one large perimeter with a front Gate manned by IPS (Iraqi police service) and RAF Police, this is known as Alpha Gate, this gate controls access to the civilian part of the airport and access to a second perimeter which surrounds the military enclave. The gate to the Military enclave known as Ritz gate is manned by us as one of our tasks. Within the military enclave there is the MND (SE) HQ this is the hub of all multinational forces within the South East of Iraq so its a very important location, this is also guarded by us. Also within the military enclave you have the military airport, all the RAF helicopters/planes, Iraqi Air Force and allot of separate camps for all nationalities including the Iraqi army. An example of one camp is our accommodation and company HQ, Allenby Lines; Allenby lines provides accommodation to 100’s of soldiers and civilian contractors from all different nationality’s, this camp also has its own perimeter fence and gate within the military enclave as do all camps within the enclave. Allenby is also guarded by us as another of our tasks. The APOD is a very busy place, with allot of people coming and going, armed forces from all nationalities, flights in and out bringing more people in and taking others home. Cambrai company has 4 platoons and the HQ element, the HQ element stay “at the rear with the gear” otherwise known jokingly as REMFS (Rear Echelon Mother FuckerS). The 4 platoons then use and break every thing supplied to them by HQ, then moan that HQ can’t replace it but that’s our prerogative as soldiers to bitch and moan about everything! I’m a member of 1 Platoon and the platoon is broken down into 2 multiples then broken down into 3 teams of 4 men within each multiple. The best way to give you a picture of what we’re doing is to walk you through a full rotation; we work on a 12 day rotation and at the end of the 12 days start the rotation again…. Starting with Mobiles 1, on our last rotation we went out on 3 taskings. The first being an AO (area of operations) patrol, our AO covers most of the Al Basrah province(Al Basra’s main city is Basra), Iraq is broken up into provinces, you could look at it as states like in the US. Al Basrah borders the Iraqi provinces of Di Qha, Al Mathana and Maysan. Also Al Basrah province borders Iran and Kuwait. Our tasking was to tie in with the RAF regiment as there main job is the defense of the Airport and part of that is AO patrols. We joined up with the RAF regiment and broke down into 3 vehicles and two 8 man foot sections. The 3 vehicles we took were, one snatch; a snatch is a Kevlar armored land rover with a hatch in the top for 2 guys to provide top cover by standing with the heads and weapons poking out the top. One wolf, this is a stripped down land rover with an open back and roll cage, the top cover still stand up but just lean on the roll cage and hope we don’t get shot at! The 3rd vehicle was an RAF wimic/pinky this is also a stripped down land rover with no sides but 2 two 7.62mm General purpose machine guns bolted on so what it lacks in protection it makes up for with fire power! The 2 foot sections were heli born on a Merlin Helicopter. I was the driver in the Wolf, the 3 vehicles had 4 men in each including driver, commander and 2 top cover. We moved of into a local village and secured a helicopter landing site on a road junction by using the vehicles and dismounts to block the roads and stop pedestrians form entering the landing site. Whilst doing this its inevitable you’ll get loads of children flocking round you “MR! MR!” asking for money, water, chocolate and trying to talk to you, mind you the surprising thing is the young kids speak better English than allot of the adults. It becomes difficult to do your job when you’ve got kids every were! You’re trying to watch out for any potential threats, you’re keeping an eye on them, each other, your kit and your vehicle because they’re thieving buggers! If it’s not tied down they’ll have it! You find a way though because you have no option as the threat is very real. On this particular patrol we had one of the clerks come out with us so she could get a bit of time on the ground and she ended up with a swarm round her so we had to keep a watch full eye on her as well, a high risk out here at the moment is kidnapping. When your in a populated area static in the same place for a period of time you run the risk of getting dicked (a spotter for the insurgents reports your location so an attack of some sort can be mounted) so its always best not to hang round in the same place for to long but when you blocking of a road to land a Merlin you’ve got no choice and your presence won’t be missed! For me personally this was a first I’d never cleared an area for a chopper to land. The kids soon fucked of once the chopper came into land as the combination of down draft, sand and no goggles is a very bad combination! Sand blasted eye balls!! Once the foot patrol was on the ground the vehicles satellite the pre determined area of the foot patrol to provide a quick response force for the patrol, so if they got in the shit and needed help to extract there’d be no serious dramas. Also it adds to the visual presence on the ground if the locals see foot patrols and vehicles patrolling. Once the foot patrol had finished we did the same again blocked the road off and the Merlin came in to extract the foot patrols. This finished late evening, we then had to get back to camp get all the kit of the vehicles and then we were briefed on the mornings tasking, prepared the vehicles and equipment for the morning. We got to bed late probably about 11pm then up at 4am to commence the next task. The day’s task starting at 4am was to provide an armed escort for some officers British and American to 3 forts on the Iraq/Iran border. This was set to be a long day, we had a fair distance to cover and that’s not including any hold ups due to coming across suspicious devices/objects by or in the road etc that need closer inspection to make sure we’re not going to become the victim of an IED attack and get blown up. The platoon commander’s navigation skills were put to the test as the maps we use don’t mark all roads and tracks and for the ones that are marked on the map a large proportion of them are blocked of or destroyed so the initial route he had planned soon went out the window! The roads over here aren’t maintained and really put your driving to the test some times. Think of the farm tracks you end up on when you’ve gone the wrong way in England its just hard mud baked in the sun with dips and ruts bouncing you round all over the place but imagine that to the degree that you couldn’t even take a car down it, those sort of tracks are the roads here for miles and miles. The problem is in a snatch its top heavy any way kevelar and they’re very heavy much taller than a normal land rover and then you’ve got 2 blokes standing out the top. It sways and leans all over the place, since we’ve been here one snatch tipped over on a motorway slid sideways and one of out lads on top cover had to have his spleen removed (he was sent home after the operation). This task was a good though we got to see allot more of Iraq, we got out into the marshes or were the marshes were before Sadam drained them turning them into baron wastelands with man made irrigation systems made by the locals to try and grow crops and provide water. The tracks used to lead through expanses of water filled marsh but now they’re just mud tracks with a 6 foot drop either side leading into baron dust bowels. It’s amazing to see how people live still so basic in mud huts, fishing and farming for food, no comprehension of modern technology like digital cameras, things we take for granted. We eventually found the first fort, the officers went of to do whatever it was they were there for once we’d made sure it was all secure. Security wasn’t a major drama as the fort was manned by Iraqi army and Iraqi border police and relations with them are relatively good. Then there we were, stood on the fort by a river, the other side of the river a fence that went for miles and miles either way following the river, watch towers dotted along it, the Iranian border. After seeing so much on TV and reading about all the western tension with Iran in the news it was quite strange to think we were a stones throw away. Looking through our telescopic sights we could see the Iranian guards in the watch towers. If they looked over to the roof of this fort through they’re binoculars all they’d see would be a group of British soldiers having there photo’s taken pointing at the border or maneuvering a confused Iraqi soldier into a pose for a photo. We saw the funny side….


Anonymous Dave said...

Hello, it's good that you've got some sort of system on the go for updating the blog. All sounds good to me, just hope it's stays that way! The working shift put's it into context. Though it's pretty good that the guard it split up and not completed in consecutive day's - not the most interesting of tasks I would have thought. Any way i've got some night shifts to do from tomorrow (19/12) so i'll drop you a bluey.

7:39 am  
Blogger Mike Hubbard said...

Origionally we did 6 days gaurd then 6 days mobiles! which was hard going!! but that only lasted forthe first rotation as the fatigue quickly started to show in everyone so the OC chaged it round to break it up :O)

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