The Waiting Game
It was the largest roll of notes I’d ever seen. 3 grand in fifty pound notes. The guy who hauled it out did so as if it were a rolled up copy of the Sun. One night on sentry I had a conversation with another guy on how his law exams were going. Another evening those of us new to the unit went through a joining process at the end of which we were judged by our peers as suitable to serve alongside them.
The side effect of leaving us in a state of complete physical incapability as we crawled into our pits in the early morning was only a minor talking point, getting up the next day for annual fitness tests just another non event none of us stopped to think about for a second. No one failed.
No one ever fails.
The daily grind of camp life is a very different experience from the outside world. But in here our unit attracts all walks of life – academics, tradesmen & school leavers alike. It’s a varied environment. Which is just as well, as the amount of skills our squad needs to pick up en route to Afghan is also pretty diverse.
Forensics, electronic counter measures, IED search, team medics, language – the modern nature of warfighting has morphed the battlefield into a highly dynamic multidimensional theatre where quick thinking across any number of domains previously the reserve of the trained specialist is required.
To aid the man on the ground in this our kit has seen a near constant flux as new equipment is both trialled & issued to the field in rapid evolutions. On an individual level, we’ve never been better supplied. Which is just as well, as the Helmand insurgency proper has been going on for upwards of 5 years now.
To our North the US has created blitzkrieg-like conditions to take the war to the Sangin Talebs who had proven so stubborn when we were there. It’s a bloody tactic but appears to be yielding results. The Taleban soon adapt to new tactics, the question is whether coalition forces can manoeuvre more effectively.
I haven’t tasted war yet but I’m glad I’m going in with those I’ve trained alongside these past months. The ever-changing situation in a tribal matrix such as Helmand demands fighters who adapt breathlessly.
There is undoubtedly a feeling of relief as much as anything that we can get a chance to make the training count for real. And while reconstruction and war fighting at times seem to occupy the same ground – just completely different dimensions – it will also feel good to ascertain first hand just what is happening on the dusty desert wastelands of southern Afghanistan.
And so too, while I believe in the benefits of troops developing their own ideas of the way ahead, the inevitable clash with reality on the ground is another interesting context for the experiences of deployment.
We’ve been hanging around a while, things are now getting decidedly faster.