Monday 24 March 2014 by Alison Wishart. No comments
Opinion, views and commentary, Personal Stories, Tarin Kot, Al Minhad, army life, Afghanistan

Day 15 - Hurry up and wait

Like parents who get their children's names muddled up, the three blokes I am travelling with often get each other's names confused. So now they are called G1, G2 and G3, and collectively, the G-force. 

I am known as 'Dead eye dick", because I shot 13 out of 13 rounds on target with the pistol. However, the enemy would probaby be on top of me before I managed to line up the shot and pull the trigger. As someone who advocates that war should always be a last resort, I never expected to be learning to fire a pistol!

Learning to fire a pistol at the practice range with Captain Stuart, photo by G1
Learning to fire a pistol at the practice range with Captain Stuart, photo by G1

Nick-names are de rigueur in the armed services. I've met "Pipes" (beacause he blows his own trumpet); "Swede", (because he's tall, blonde and hunky) and thought "Polly" was a girl, until I was introduced to Ian Polanski. I haven't yet heard a nick-name for a CO (Commanding Officer) or XO (Executive Officer) though. Perhaps it's only in the non-commissioned ranks.

The G-force are currently playing darts and drinking angry bears (see day 8). I'm still wobbly from another flight on a flying whale (see day 8) and desperately tired from all the waiting. Armies have been sitting around waiting since wars began, so at least I am getting an authentic experience!

We were told to hurry up and have our bags ready by 10am today, so that we could wait 3.5 hours for the plane to arrive. Then we were told to hurry up and put our body armour on to board the hercules, so that we could wait 20 minutes for another plane to land and spray us with dust as it taxied within 20 metres.  After 7.5 hours we arrived back at Al Minhad Air Base (AMAB).

 
G2, myself and G3 waiting to board flight from TK to AMAB - I'm clutching reading matter, which I feel much more comfortable with than a gun
G2, myself and G3 waiting to board flight from TK to AMAB - I'm clutching reading matter, which I feel much more comfortable with than a gun

AMAB is like a holiday caravan park compared to Multinational Base Tarin Kot (MNB-TK). All it lacks is the swimming pool. I will never again take for granted having a window in my room (no windows in the dorms or offices at TK as they are rocket proof - see day 13); being able to clean my teeth with water from the tap; or having living things around me, like plants and pets. Members of the ADF (Australian Defence Forces) who are on deployment to AMAB still get the extra $239/day for being away from home, plus their usual wage, all tax-free. 

grass sculpture in between accommodation blocks, AMAB
grass sculpture in between accommodation blocks, AMAB

I was initially shocked by the environmentally footprint of AMAB, but MNB-TK's is far bigger. As water is scare, and expensive, only paper plates, bowls and cups and plastic cutlery are used in the mess and in offices. When you feed 1600 people three times a day (see day 14), that's a lot of disposable plates! All the rubbish is burned nightly, which adds to the acrid grey fug (see day 13). There is no recycling of plastics or paper in TK, and perhaps none in Afghanistan. The Taliban are experts at recycling - they will re-use bits of wire, metal, mobile phones, wood, cigarettes and batteries to make IEDs (see day 6).The Taliban would say: "they have the watches, but we have the time" (as quoted in Chris Masters, 'Uncommon Soldier' p.153). They are practiced at waiting too.

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.