Deploying to the MEAO - Day 17
Day 17 - Battle rhythmn
Back in Australia, you'll hear the phrase: "work/life balance". Balancing the needs of children or significant others with the demands of a job while running a household can be a complex and sometimes stressful juggling act. Things get out of balance easily. On deployment, I've come to the conclusion that the equation is not "work/life" but "work = life".
People work weekends. The cycle of a week is created by the Friday morning sleep in they get at Multinational Base Tarin Kot, which is preceded by pizza every Thursday night in the mess. Otherwise every day has the same routine.
One of the soldiers I interviewed talked about getting into a "battle rhythmn". He would get up about 6am every morning, go the gym or go for a run, shower, eat, then be in the (windowless) office by 8am. His duties during the day were punctuated by making coffee (in the espresso machine), eating lunch and dinner, contacting his family, and another PT (personal training) session. The absence of domestic chores meant he could work through until 9 or 10pm before starting it all again the next day. As an RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) or "senior soldier" of a regiment, I think the only battles he had engaged in were with the printer and the coffee machine!
Creating a routine is a common way for people to make sense of an expanse of undifferentiated time. An eight month deployment can feel endless, especially when the days lack variety. Creating a routine is also a strategy that hostage prisoners use to help them get through their days/weeks/months in captivity. As Australia prepares to withdraw from Uruzgan province, it has taken a step back from the "front line" (see Day 13) to advise and allow the Afghan National Army (ANA) to lead the fight against the Taliban. Even when the Special Forces (SF) go outside the wire now, they must take one ANA soldier with them for each SF soldier. This means that there are a lot of soldiers from 7RAR back at the base doing mundane tasks who are getting thoroughly bored and frustrated. They may be part of a QRT (Quick Response Team) or MRT (Medical Response Team) but when there are no emergencies to respond to... then they are getting paid handsomely to stay fit and healthy.
Boredom can mess with your head just like seeing a mate injured can. I admire the section leaders who can keep their troops from becoming complacent and venting their frustations inappropriately. Gym sessions are both physical and psychological workouts.
I am writing this post from one of the lounge chairs in the recreation area. Sometimes the "sounds of war" are the roar of a crowd at a footy match (broadcast on a wide screen TV), the click of a cue on a billiard ball and the whirr of air-conditioners.
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.