Deploying to the MEAO - Day 1
Twelve months ago I went to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) with the Australian War Memorial. I was working on an oral history-photographic project. The core part of the project was interviewing and photographing 19 currently serving members of the ADF - from the army, navy and airforce - before, during and after their deployment in 2013 to the MEAO. In another 12 months time, you should be able to see the results of this work in an exhibition which will travel around Australia.
These blog posts were written while I was in the MEAO but were not uploaded to the AWM website at that time.
I am planning to upload one blog post each day, exactly 12 months on from the actual day I was on deployment. We left Canberra on 12 March 2013.
Day 1 - departure lounge
Showered, fed, watered, exhausted. I'm in the Qantas Club lounge (thanks to my travelling companion's membership and sweet-talking at the reception desk) recovering from a hectic day of wrestling with technology, watching the clock, and almost forgetting my passport! I left my packing till the last possible moment - this morning - perhaps due to a sub-conscious denial that I am about to travel to a war zone.
This is a blog about my trip to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) - so named by the Australian Defence Force (ADF), to cover all those exotic countries where Australia is fighting the good international fight against the Taliban and terrorism. I'll visit the United Arab Emirates (where the main airfield is located in Al Minhad); Kabul and Tarin Kot in Afghanistan; and Bahrain (the naval base).
I have the privilege of interviewing 19 currently serving members of the ADF during their deployment to Afghanistan. My colleague, Stephanie Boyle, and myself have already interviewed these 19 people about their hopes, fears and expectations before their deployment. I am travelling with a photographer, who is taking portrait photographs of the interviewees before, during and after their deployment. One of the intentions of the project is to get a better understanding of how a deployment such as this affects the people in the ADF, and to understand their experiences, as human beings first, and members of the armed forces second. This is a big and exciting project for the War Memorial, and one that we hope will help to tell the story of Australia's role in Afghanistan with a human perspective.
In the 'before' interviews, one of the questions we asked the people was "how are you preparing to go on this deployment?" Some of them spoke about doing favourite activities for the last time in a while, like going four-wheel driving with their mates, going surfing, cooking and drinking fresh milk.
I have been preparing by spending time by myself - something I won't get to do much of over the next three weeks as I'll be eating, sleeping (in dorms) showering and travelling with people ALL THE TIME. An introvert's nightmare.
I hope to be able to record my own hopes, fears, expectations and experiences in this blog - internet connections and project commitments permitting.