Monday 24 March 2014 by Alison Wishart. No comments
Opinion, views and commentary, Personal Stories, Tarin Kot, battle zone, green on blue, smoking

Day 13: colours of the battle zone

The rain has cleared leaving the sky clear of dust.  This provided some spectacular views to the distant mountains beyond the Tarin Kot base.

View from the balcony of my dormitory of TK township and the green zone
View from the balcony of my dormitory to the green zone and the mountains

Just outside the base is the township of Tarin Kot and the "green zone".  This is the fertile land in the river valleys where crops grow through the summer. It sounds peaceful, but it isn't. Tall crops like wheat provide cover for insurgents. Terrorism flourishes alongside the essential food crops.

The military uses colours to symbolise the different players in the war zone. The green space is the term used to signify the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Police Force. The blue space refers to the coalition forces who are fighting the insurgents - hence the term "green on blue attacks" which are now known as "insider threats".

The red space is the contact zone, where the fighting takes place. Often the fighting occurs in a human space, inside a house or a village where civilians live and insurgents hide. There is no "front line". Lastly, the white space is the strategic space where governments, NATO, and the Defence Department make decisions that affect the battle space. Like the white clouds that float above the mountains of Afghanistan - they don't get dirty but they have a big impact.

What do you get when you mix the colours red, white, green and blue? A big black mess.

For me, the colours of Multi-national base Tarin Kot are fifty shades of brown, and grey. From the brown of the Hesco barriers to the beige of the uniforms, one is swimming in a sea of brown. Each night when I go outside my accommodation cell, I'm enveloped in a fog of grey tobacco smoke. Cigarettes are cheap here - about 50 cents a packet, and it gives you something to do outside of an evening. The dorms are so tiny and airless that they are not a fun place to hang out. Smoking is a regular recreational activity for soldiers, then they puff it out at the gym!

A dorm for four people, about 3M wide x 8M long  x 2M high
A dorm for four people, about 3M wide x 8M long x 2M high
American soldiers enjoying a smoke and a game of cards outside blg 14
American soldiers enjoying a smoke and a game of cards outside blg 14

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.