Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Maj Iain Moodie, OC B Company, 2 RIFLES BG - blogs from Helmand, part 2
This month has been a real rollercoaster of a month. On 7 May 09 we tragically lost Rfn Adrian ‘Shelly’ Sheldon to an IED. Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and friends.
We held a camel racing night here in the FOB in memory of Shelly and most of the ‘camels’ were auctioned for over $100 each. A total of $2,260 was raised and will be given to Project 65, a charity that will split the money between the RBL, ABF, H4H, St Dunstan’s, BLESMA and others.
Whilst we are on the subject of Project 65, we are very conscious that BG HQ is racing the wives in Ballykinler, to row from Belfast to Kabul, and vice versa, to raise money for the same charity. We are delighted to learn, here in FOB Inkerman, that the wives are currently thrashing BG HQ. Our view is that it is all the lobster and cream teas that they have in, by under slung, courtesy of the civilian helicopters that is at the root of their demise. There is a separate blog article of the event but thanks must go to everyone in the FOB for their generosity, especially the Riflemen, Gunners and Sappers who gave up so much of their hard earned cash to an excellent cause and the memory of a fellow Rifleman who is still sorely missed.
The Green Zone has transformed from something of beauty, as I described last month, to something that is slowly dying by asphyxiation. The heat is choking everything. The poppy is dead and has been reaped, so now there are just bare fields. The wheat has turned brown and the local nationals are setting at it with scythes and bundling it onto anything that can transport it to their stores, be it tractors, cars, or donkeys.
The farmers are re-planting again with more drought resistant crops such as curry beans and maize – these crops are more heat resistant but also require less water as the Helmand River yields less and less life-giving sustenance into the irrigation ditches. This drop in the water level has had a positive effect on certain challenged members of the company, who can now cross the ditches and canals without fear of drowning. Sgt Baker, our MFC from 3 YORKS, no longer patrols with his snorkel and arm bands.
Now that the heat has increased and it no longer rains, so the insect life has become more prolific. Shoes now need to be shaken to avoid the odd scorpion; feet need to be lifted off the floor to deny the incredibly fast camel spiders who run with such determination and speed that any pre-emptive move of feet from the floor would be pointless; and lights have to be turned off to avoid the haze of midges and other ‘night-flyers’. An individual walking around the FOB at night, with a head torch, now gathers a personal little swarm of insects, and requires a moment or two of darkness before entering the sanctuary of one’s mosquito net.
Fresh rations arrived into the FOB this week for the first time in 35 days. Hoorah! This is no fault of anyone’s just that fresh food is always a lower priority than ammunition, water, equipment, 10-man rations and mail. It has been such a treat to see a piece of chicken, a burger, real sausages and even steak. Sadly, the supply will end and it will be back to the mundane and the predictable 10-man rations.
Operations continue and we have conducted a number of long, hot patrols into the Green Zone. These have been really rewarding and have allowed us to understand where we are at the end of the harvest season. Everyone is extremely focused on why we are here and doing a cracking job. Everyone has performed exceptionally well and delivered when required.
Finally, I just want to say a collective ‘Thank You’ to you who is reading this for all your support. There have been so many well-wishers, not just an individual’s family and friends, but those who are generously sending welfare parcels to be distributed amongst those Riflemen who are not so fortunate.
We are extremely grateful for your support and generosity. Not only do your gifts alleviate some of our hardship but your messages of support galvanise us and push us on. To do this without your incredible support back at home would make it infinitely harder. We really do appreciate your kindness and collective support. Thank you again.
Maj Iain Moodie, OC B Company