Friday 21 March 2014 by Alison Wishart. No comments
Opinion, views and commentary, Personal Stories, Uruzghan, Tarin Kot, Signaller, ANA

Day 11 - compartmentalising

The food is so good and plentiful at the Aussie mess, that we've divided our stomachs into compartments: we switch over to the "dessert stomach" when the main stomach is full.

The CO (Commanding Officer) of 7RAR (Royal Australian Regiment), the main army unit deployed in Uruzgan at present, also uses compartments but in a much more serious way.

The CO is responsible for about 460 people from 7RAR who are currently in Afghanistan. He has a wife and three kids in primary school back in Australia whom he talks to every couple of days and emails. He was flying out of Tarin Kowt the day after I spoke to him to commence his two weeks leave that every person who deploys for longer than six months is entitled to. When I asked him how he manages the responsibilities of his job with those of being a husband and a father, he said he compartmentalised. He has to switch off from thinking about his family in order to focus on his very complex and demanding job. I guess it's a bit like having a family room and an office in your head and moving between the two. At the moment he can only enter the family room remotely - via skype, telephone or email. I wonder if his wife gets to leave the "family room"?

I also spoke to the CO's Signaller - a 21 year old female doing what is traditionally a male role.  She accompanies the CO when he goes into the Afghan National Army Compound every couple of days to talk to their commander. She listens in to the intelligence that comes over the radio from the base as this may give her prior warning if there is a security threat and help her keep the CO, and herself, safe. In her full military combat kit, she commands respect. As one of only 11 females in the group of 460 from 7RAR she is used to fighting for respect.

LCpl Tamara Jesenkovic wearing her full combat protection - photo by G1
LCpl Tamara Jesenkovic wearing her full combat protection gear - photo by G1

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.