Thursday 13 March 2014 by Alison Wishart. No comments
Opinion, views and commentary, Personal Stories, IEDs, Paul Kelly, Weapons of the Weak, landmines

Day 6 - 'From little things, big things grow'

An IED can be a very little thing. It sits just under the sand, waiting for a person or vehicle to step on it/drive over it, and boom!

Improvised Explosive Devices are like home made bombs or landmines. Terrorists will make them from anything they can get their hands on: plastic drink bottles, fertiliser, old batteries, alfoil, clothes pegs, and bits of old ordnance left behind by the Russians.

In our course today we saw examples of all of these and learnt how to 'read' the sand to try and guess where they might be buried. The local Afghans also know how to find the warning signs that an IED may be up ahead and avoid becoming the unintended victims. When I see patterns in the sand, I now think: are they the remnants of children's games or a sign of danger ahead? The army uses several methods and a range of equipment to try and locate IEDs but the country is riddled with them. The battle zone has expanded from the desert to the intellect as scientists in Australia who are working on counter-IED measures pit their wits against terrorists who are developing more sophisticated and subtle explosives. From something little, like an IED, a big counter-IED industry has grown. Paul Kelly sang about hope, but the risk of stepping on an IED is an ever present fear for Australian soldiers. Of the 39 Australians to die in Afghanistan to date, 12 were killed by IEDs.

One of the other bits of content I recall from my uni days (see Day 2), was studying a book called "Weapons of the Weak". The author argues that people who do not have the same cultural or economic power as the dominant or ruling class have to rely on their ingenuity, numbers and local knowledge to fight for what they want. They don't have much money, but they use the resources they have to great effect. Their guerilla tactics undermine and confound the "oppressors" and insidiously turn the tables of power. An IED is a vey effective 'weapon of the weak'.

PS. Apologies for the delay in sending out this 'post' but now that I'm in the MEAO, I have to get my posts checked by Defence staff and they are very cautious.


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.