Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Rfn Phil Thomas - 3 Rifles BG
The day normally starts with a kick to the cot bed I’m curled up on. Its six o’clock in the morning and I can see my breath as a cloud of mist against the dirty white of the wall in my room.
“Get up Tommo! Time for a scrape.” My Plt Sjt Tim Exley says. I force myself out of my doss bag, and head down the well. The lads have fashioned a pulley system to get the water out so we don’t have to dip in to our valuable “brew water” supply.
We moved into these two compounds about eight days previous and, with the help of an engineer section, have transformed them into something resembling a home. After washing and shaving comes breakfast around the communal fire, the hub of the camp. There is the usual bartering over ration packs (usually with ALOT of corned beef hashes left in the corner, swiftly followed by the platoon commander Lt Dixon sniffing around for seconds).
The plan for the day is a routine patrol for a couple of hours and then some down-time till my multiple takes over the guard of the patrol base. We spend the next couple of hours getting kit ready, oiling weapons, checking comms and, for some of the lads, getting some head down (a good soldier sleeps when he can).
Its soon time to head to the loading bay then out the front gate. Today we have the ANA (Afghan National Army) with us, it’s a major bonus for us because they really excel at interacting with the local community in a way that ISAF forces could never achieve and this helps with building up the hearts and minds initiative that is so vital to rebuilding the country.
Whilst walking around we tend to attract groups of children looking for sweets or pens and, in the case of some of the riflemen’s attempts at Pashtu (the local language), something to laugh at. It is slow and hard going, with the weight of the kit combined with the drills we use to combat the IED threat. But we have all known people who have either been killed or injured by these devices so you don’t hear any complaints.
We meet a local mullah (elder) and the Boss discusses improvements to local amenities such as the mosques and schools. We head back to the patrol base and say farewell to the ANA until the next patrol. After a short debrief then it’s off to fill sand bags and carry on making little improvements to the camp (a plt serjeant is only happy when his men are working hard rather than hardly working).
While we were out, some mail was dropped off so the lads spend some time reading letters from loved ones and parcels full of sweets. As it’s the run up to Christmas as well, we have started to get cards and mince pies and all the usual paraphernalia that comes with it. We’ll be having the local ANA commander over for Christmas as we were kindly invited over to his base for Eid (Islamic equivalent to Christmas) where I tried goat for the first time and for the record it’s like a really fatty lamb. Christmas is a chance to have the great tradition of the boss and sjt cooking and serving us all Christmas dinner.
My turn for sentry comes around far too quickly so it’s time to wrap up warm and sit on a cold sand bag for an hour at a time, not the most exciting job but considering we’re in Sangin, a necessity none of us take lightly. Its 21:00 by that time and I’m glad the lads have gotten the fire going so when I come off the sangers, I can warm my ice cold hands and listen to the banter, with the lads coming from as far south as Cornwall and as far north as Newcastle (plus anywhere in-between) it’s quite varied, mostly at me for being the only Welshman.
By half ten it’s time to hit the hay. It’s surprising to how tired you can get, thinking you have to do the same thing tomorrow, but as we’re finding out no day in Sangin is ever the same as the one before.