When David Nicolson served in a remote outpost in Afghanistan’s Mirabad Valley in 2011, there was a standing joke that “Mates don’t let mates drive Route Whale”.
The rough road was Taliban territory and a major insurgent corridor. There were so many improvised explosive devices that it was rare for a convoy to make it home without finding one – or being hit.
“Commandos keep referring to Mirabad Valley as Mira-bad-arse Valley – and it was – but we called it ‘IED Valley’,” he said. “The biggest threat for us was IEDs, and obviously getting shot at, but Route Whale was our route, and it was our only route through the valley … I hit four IEDs all up … and the Americans got hit so often that they carried a flat-bed truck with them.”
An armored vehicle driver and crew commander with B Squadron, 3/4 Cavalry Regiment, David had deployed to Afghanistan in June 2011 as part of Combat Team Alpha from the Royal Australian Regiment’s 2nd Battalion during Operation Slipper.
The combat team was part of Australia’s Mentoring Task Force 3, helping train members of the Afghan National Army, which was tasked with blocking the flow of weapons and supplies to Taliban fighters.