Saturday, March 23, 2013

Deployment Entry 1

NB: Names have been omitted to protect the privacy of others.

Well my first week here is done and dusted. It's so different here. It's dirty, dusty and looks like a massive construction site but it's extremely well organised and run with a high degree of precision. Everyone here has a purpose and moves around with a sense of seriousness about themselves. It has definitely been a bit of an eye opening week. I have settled in quite well all things considered and am finding my feet with the role here.

Every Tuesday and Friday we do security for a civilian airline called KamAir. My job is to search local female Afghans coming onto the base to catch the flight. It's pretty full on. We are all kitted up in body armour and at the 'action' condition of weapon readiness. There is not much more than a big ass HESCO wall and about 30m separating me from Tarin Kowt city during the KamAir days. So it's pretty well as close to the front line as I am likely to get.

The Afghan women that come through are really interesting. We have a female interpreter, O, who is an absolute cracker. She helps facilitate language issues. The women here are really quite beautiful once you get them out from under their coverings, but we have to make sure that they search area is clear of any males because if they see the women uncovered, that would be a death sentence. It's a lot of pressure, to be responsible for someone's life with something that we would consider so insignificant. Some of them are really good with the searches; laughing and giggling with O while it's all being conducted. It must be a strange experience for them, not only seeing women in uniform whose faces aren't all covered up but also being physically touched by a woman as well. Some of them seem absolutely terrified by the entire experience and no matter how much we try to reassure them you can just tell they are petrified.

The children that travel with them are quite cute, and whilst it is a confronting or scary process for them as well, we are usually able to smooth it all over with a little bit of chocolate or a lollipop.

I have to admit I was nervous the first day. These people are coming onto the base, the men being searched by local Afghan security working with ISAF but the women don't get searched at all until they reach me. While there hasn't really been any intel to suggest the use of women as PBIEDs there is nothing to say it won't happen, so I could very well be searching a walking, talking bomb. The thought had my stomach more than a little unsettled at first.

The rest of this week has rolled on smoothly. A second KamAir under my belt now. Finding it easier to get around the base now and starting to look at the shops and getting a bits and pieces to take back home. So far I have been able to go to the gym for an hour each morning, which I am enjoying, and I have done a good job so far of avoiding the massive amounts of chocolate and soft drinks here. I have even skipped desserts - though that is easy to do when you don't go to the DFAC for dinner.

Friday morning we had pancakes breakfast at the chalet, cooked by the WOD and one of the FLTLTs. It was bloody delicious and massive. I treated myself to a pancake and some fruit. Figured it was ok as a treat.

I cannot get over how prolific drugs are here in Afghanistan. We are regularly collecting seized packages from the AMK9 teams whose narc and explosive dogs check vehicles coming onto the base. I've learned how to test the various substances, which is really cool. Tonight we are doing a raid/search on a contractor sector in the base to see if we can find prohibited substances because they are not allowed on base at all but are getting in somehow. I will be leading my own search team which is pretty cool!


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