Afghanistan July 2011 – January 2012

I was deployed from RAF Marham for the period July 11 – Jan 12 to Afghanistan and below are most of the letters i sent back to friends and family in the UK.

Thursday July 28 2011

Matt, hello mate, at last I’ve finally got here. I arrived at approx. 1600 (local) on Weds and to make things even better the numpty movements staff have lost have lost my bags I only have the clothes I’ve got on and a (dirty) change of undies/t-shirt and a selection of miniature toiletries that are about to run out (they were only for emergencies) Mandy (the lady I’ve taken over from has sorted me out from the girls welfare box with female deodorant/female shower gel female talc and the like, I smell fantastic, anyway. due the absence of kit, for the next few days I will be doing lots of hand-washing.

The main reason we were delayed is because the Tri-Star that was bringing us from Cyprus broke down as we hit Syrian airspace, so we returned to Cyprus and were unloaded and the Tri-Star was sent back to UK to be fixed; apparently it had to fly the whole way back to Brize Norton at 12000 feet in case it de-pressurized.

Then the Tri-Star that was replacing that one broke down on the runway, and so the original Tri-Star that was now fixed came back from the UK and picked us up, but of course it also brought a fresh load of passengers and kit; and so of course everybody’s kit and stuff was shoehorned in to where-ever they could fit it, hence my gear going missing.

We had to fly into Kandahar as it seems that some numb-nuts yank flying a Chinook accidentally dumped practically his entire fuel load on the runway; it turns out that kerosene destroys cheaply built runways, who would’ve guessed?  So while they argue over who is going to pay for the damage to be repaired Tri-stars can’t land; we then got a Herc to Bastion.

Bastion is freaking massive, the yank compound alone is almost three times the size the others put together and brilliant news – I’ve found a Coffee shop, I think it’s coffee, so not the best, but it’s okay.  I am in the 903 EAW Operations building and it’s full of officers and seems to be full of rank conscious picky people – awesome, just what I need.  The other bad thing about being in the main Ops building is that I am in the same office as the GSM (General ( ? ) Sergeant Major), t have put a question mark because I am not sure what the ‘G’ stands for. (Update – ‘G’ stands for Garrison. Apparently a GSM is more important than a RSM; god bless the army)

I am sharing a three-man room with a WO and a Flt Lt and we are in a large two storey building that is made up of portacabins which has approx. 24 three-man rooms; the ablutions are okay, but quite narrow, so lots of brushing up against each other whilst shaving and washing.  We are on ship routine for showers; that is to say, water on, water off, soap up, water on, rinse off, water off; we are not allowed to waste water at all.

Practically all the water that comes out of the taps has been treated and is up to UK standards if just a bit chlorine smelly.  Went to a quiz this evening and we were winning all the way up to the sports round, we ended up losing by one point.  My first meal was a lamb curry and was pretty good.

Speak soon, remember to email me your shift roster so I know when to telephone.

Jim

xxx

Saturday 30 July, 2011

First impressions of Afghanistan – what a shit-hole! It is scrubby desert and easily the hottest place I have ever been.  Bastion is absolutely enormous and there seems to be military from all NATO countries (and some others) and loads of contractors and locals. All but one of the roads on the base are compacted gravel and are a major dust hazard; therefore, the speed limit is 24 km and the Military Police get a bit emotional if you speed. I have been here for less than a week and have already been caught by a dust-devil, which enveloped the car and caused us zero visibility for a less than a minute.

I am in the Joint HQ which is a large Nissan-hut shaped warehouse structure with a majority of RAF but the Army have dictated the standards for the HQ and as such we have to stay in dress at all times and have to iron our uniform

The mess is very good and the range of food is pretty impressive; tonight was homemade chicken Kiev’s, lamb curry, steak, lasagna and salmon. Because of the number of young Toms the quality and quantity of the puddings is brilliant.

That’s it for now.

Jim

Sunday July 31, 2011

Matt, hello mate, currently unable to access Hotmail, so I’m using eblueys; when you get a minute go to Superletter and set up an ebluey account. I will call you when I know what shifts you are on.  This is the hottest place I have ever been (and that includes Q8 & Iraq).

Working conditions here are almost exactly the same as back at Marham; that is to say, we are wedged out of the way in to a corner of a large office, and we are fortunate in that due to our position we have very little air con, so I am acclimatizing a lot quicker than I need to.

Just across from me is an Army Capt who doesn’t like the air con blowing on her so playing a game called ‘Paper, scissors, rank’ we currently have the vents directed towards the ceiling which is approx. 15 metres high (we are in a large warehouse-type building); therefore, the air con is as much use as breasts on a goldfish.

My job is basically booking Flights, R&R, Welfare, post, PFA and whatever else they can pass on to me; as a bonus, the laptop I have to use has a broken space bar; therefore all tasks involving the laptop take a lot longer than they need to.  Our hours are 0800 to 2000 and we work a six and a half day week; my lay-in is going to be Saturdays and then into work at one.

I am in a three man air con room and am sharing with a WO and an officer; it’s a bit weird as in the evening we are on first name terms and during the day we have to use ranks. The food in the mess is as good as, or better than, the food at Marham and the spread of puddings is quite impressive. The gym is approx. twice as large as the one at Marham, but in a very large tent.

I am looking to take R&R late Oct/Early Nov.

Jim

xxx

Monday August 01, 2011

Good Afternoon, how’s dad? It’s hot, it’s 41 degrees today and the air con is not working in the toilet portacabin, which makes going to the toilet a punishment. On the subject of toilets, it tums out that there is no u-bend on some of the sinks in the block, which means that bending over the sink whilst rinsing out your mouth or washing your face turns in to either an exercise in breath control or an exercise in nausea.

Had my first gym session today and managed 25 mins on the bike at level 6; then realised that I was suffering and gave it up. That said once I had cooled down it made the rest of the day easier in terms of coping with the heat. We have piles of sachets of sports drink laying everywhere (think lucozade sport powder) so we can keep drinking water and not kill ourselves or make ourselves ill.

During the day this place is helicopter city, it’s like those shots of Vietnam where the sky is just full of choppers; and because of the height/temperature/Taliban all of the big aircraft leave late at night or before sun up which means that every night whilst trying to sleep I have aircraft rev’ing up and roaring off; I am assured that I’ll get used to it, we’ll see!

For the next two days I am with the Army re-doing all the training that I had at Marham; however, whereas the gay RAF would do all their instructing in air con’d classrooms, the Army do all theirs outside at display stands whilst you all stand around in the blazing sun watching/participating, last week a couple of lads/lasses passed out in the heat.

I have booked my R&R for 26/27 Oct to 09 Nov, so all being well I’ll have a couple of weeks of sleeping properly. Before I came here I wasn’t too sure about R&R, but working six and a half days a week, I think I’m going to need it.

Before I forget, I have transferred over 100.00 today.

Jim

XXX

 

Wed August 03, 2011

Maxine, got your email, thanks, it’s always nice to open up the machine and see something to read from home. I read about dad, shame, but no surprize, Parts of this email may be repeating what I’ve said already. It’s hot, it’s over 40 degrees today and the air con is not working in the toilets, which makes going to the toilet a punishment. On the subject of toilets, it turns out that there is no u-bend on some of the sinks in the block, which means that bending over the sink whilst rinsing out your mouth or washing your face turns in to either an exercise in breath control or an exercise in nausea.

And talking of smells, you know when a ship goes through the water, it leaves a wake? well, it turns out that when a jingly walks by they too leave a wake, but it’s not a white trail of disturbed water (sometimes with dolphins), no, it’s body odour, and just like when you over do it with Lynx, it creates a trail that seems to hang around for ages.

Had my first gym session yesterday and managed 25 mins on the bike at level 6; then realised that I was suffering and gave it up. That said once I had cooled down it made the rest of the day easier in terms of coping with the heat. We have piles of sachets of sports drink laying everywhere (think lucozade sport powder) so we can keep drinking water and not kill ourselves or make ourselves ill.

During the day this place is helicopter city, it’s like those shots of Vietnam where the sky is just full of choppers; and because of the height/temperature/taliban all of the big aircraft leave late at night or before sun up which means that every night whilst trying to sleep I have aircraft rev’ing up and roaring off; I am assured that I’ll get used to it, we’ll see!

For the next two days I am with the Army re-doing all the training that I had at Marham; however, whereas the gay RAF would do all their instructing in air con’d classrooms, the Army do all theirs outside at display stands-whilst we all stand around in the blazing sun watching/participating, last week a couple of lads/lasses passed out in the heat.

I have booked my R&R for 26/27 Oct to 09 Nov, so all being well I’ll have a couple of weeks of sleeping properly. Before I came here f wasn’t too sure about R&R, but working six and a half days a week, I think I’m going to need it.

I am not allowed to drive as due the delay in getting here I haven’t done the arrivals course, so I am being chauffeured everywhere. All of the roads, bar two, are compacted gravel and there is a jingly truck permanently driving around spraying water to prevent dust; however, it’s a waste of time as there is dust everywhere. The dust itself is grey and everything is covered in a fine film of grey dust. The paths are also gravel, but they are not compacted and the gravel itself ranges from the size of a hens egg to the size of a cricket ball, you don’t so much walk on it, as wade through it.

My kit finally turned up so no more hand washing. I am looking to take R&R late Oct/early Nov.

That’s it for now.

Jim

Xxx

Fri August 05, 2011

Maxine, all the usual – hope you’re ok hope dad’s not drinking. More rubbish from Afghanistan; did I mention it’s hot here? We have a large water heater, called a Birko, that we use for tea and coffee, it’s on 24hrs, everyday; it turns out that I’m paid 35,500.00 a year to be a water boy because a number of the officers I work with believe that their rank and position means that they can use it as often as they like without topping it up. Whinge over.

I have had a lower back spasm and have spent the past couple of days in the most pain I have been in for years, I have been unable to sit down or stand still or lay down because of the pain; I am currently on Volterol and Co-Codamol for the pain. What a tough soldier I am. Everybody who comes to Afghanistan has to undertake a minimum of two days training when they arrive, this covers things such as weapon handling, hygiene, sexual health, Battlefield Medical training, how to treat/handle prisoner, and a whole host of other things that I’ve already forgotten.

The best part was the Battlefield Medical; one young lad had to lay down screaming because he’d lost his leg and his mate had to crawl about twenty feet under enemy fire to treat him. The instructor simulated the enemy fire by throwing handfuls of dirt over him as he crawled forward, the instructor also made loud banging noises and the associated ‘pinging’ noises to simulate the bullets pinging past him.

As the young lad was then attempting to bandage up the casualty the instructor came up and simulated blood spray with a couple of one litre bottles full of Ribena, he sprayed the Ribena direct in the young lad’s face whilst screaming at him; this is their method of placing pressure on the first aider. The lad who was playing the casualty had to then stand there with his top stripped off and his trousers around his ankles while another lad had to draw the location of the heart and the major arteries all over him.

The lady I am replacing has now gone and I am running on my own with the SAC; he’s incredibly competent and an absolute godsend. People from all over the unit have been popping in to introduce themselves and allow me to put a face to the name/voice.

That’s it for now, I’m going to do some work.

Jim

xxx

Sunday August 07, 2011

Maxine, greetings from Bastion, Afghanistan, not Basra (that’s so 2003/2004).  How’s dad?  With reference to your Swedish massage, Aromatherapy massage, lndian Head massage and Hot Stone massage, be very careful you don’t tum into a bloody hippie.

Went to two days of military training that’s specific to Afghanistan; first day was seriously death by power-point and I struggled to stay awake, second day was a lot more interesting. We had a Battlefield First Aid lesson and in it the instructor picked on two of the lads who were not paying attention and made one be the casualty and had him strip to his undies and gave the other lad a marker pen and got him to draw a heart and all the arteries on the victim, then made the victim lay down and simulate having his leg blown off.

He then made the other lad, the rescuer, crawl over to the victim whilst under fire from the Taliban; he simulated this by making pinging noises and throwing dirt in to the rescuer’s face as he crawled forward. When the rescuer reached the casualty he had to apply a tourniquet to the remains of the missing leg; whilst he was attempting to do this the instructor knelt beside him yelling and screaming and he also had two large bottles of blackcurrant squash which he then squirted over them both, the rescuer got it in his face, mouth and all over his hands, the casualty got it all over his leg and groin.

We also had a brief on sexual health, and I can tell you that after having watched a four foot high gonorrhoea ridden penis it’s going to be a while since I feel comfortable about sticking mine anywhere. The wireless here is shit, we have half an hour free every night, which sounds great; however, it frequently takes up to half an hour just to send one ebluey and getting on Hotmail is a nightmare. So, if I repeat things in my emails, it’s because I am not too sure if my previous emails/ebluey’s have got through.

So far I have watched True Grit/Drive Angry/Battlefield Los Angeles/The Mechanic; this is because besides trying to get on to the internet there is bugger all else to do in the evenings.

The offices of Bastion Joint Operating Base (JOB) are in two large connected warehouses and within each is a sea of desks and a number of self-important Army officers, and next to virtually every desk are several three foot high, quite solid wooden crosses mounted on bases. These crosses are designed so you can slip your body armour and webbing around it and you can put your helmet on top of them; first impressions when you first walk in is ‘Bugger me, an army of dwarfs’.

Well, that was my first impression anyway, nobody else sees it like that – unimaginative gits.

We work from 0800 – 2000 everyday, except in my case Saturday when I work from 1200 – 2000; the sad thing is that I can complete all my work within the first two hours of each day. I am building up to spending two hours  out of each working day in the gym, but taking into account lunch and dinner that still leaves about eight hours a day to stretch that two hours out.

You know when a ship goes through the water, it leaves a wake? Well, it turns out that when an Afghanistani or Bangladeshi (we call them Jinglies) walks by, they too leave a wake, but it’s not a white trail of disturbed water (sometimes with dolphins), no, it’s body odour, and just like when you over-do it with Lynx, it creates a trail that seems to hang around for ages.

Food’s still pretty good, but let’s see how long it takes to pale!

That’s it.

Jim

xxx

Fri August 12 2011

Greetings from Afghanistan, how’s dad, is he any different?  Hope you and Lacey are okay. Well, what’s the news from the war, don’t ask me, I’m too busy running around after everyone else. What’s to say about here? Let’s see.

The toilets are full of graffiti with every one having a go at everyone else. The Army are having a go at the RAF for being a waste of time; interestingly enough, the RAF replies don’t deny it, they just point out how thick the Army is, and that you only join the Army if the RAF won’t have you, nobody’s picking on the Navy for some reason. You can also measure how attractive a girl/woman is by how many comments there are about here on the bog walls; one person writes down what he would like to do to her, and then there is a trail of up to half a dozen other comments and replies leading off from that one either backing him up, adding variations or pointing out who’s more attractive.

Every building you go into there is hand-gel and as we go into the Mess there are wash-points, and if you try to go past them without washing you get bollocked by pretty much every other person there.  Hygiene is massively important to prevent food poisoning or diarrhoea and vomiting.

Part of the reason is I guess that the locals spread their poo on the fields as fertilizer and when it’s dry it mixes with the dust and blows everywhere: so when I walk in and dust myself off, I am actually brushing of some locals poo – possibly their way of getting their own back on us, so everyone tries to stop ingesting the poo by keeping as clean as possible.

The perimeter of Bastion is approximately 37 km or 25 miles in diameter, or a bit bigger than Aldershot, in other words – it’s bloody enormous, and due to it’s size and the heat we pretty much drive everywhere; the yanks use amongst other things, these souped up golf buggies, but the must have had an accident in the past as they have to wear cycle crash helmets when driving them.  I haven’t got out of 2nd gear in the pick-up yet, I really haven’t.

Weather Fact – Today it was 50 degrees out on the aircraft pan again, 44 degrees everywhere else.

We have just been given a large tray of American banana muffins and they are fantastic, I never used to be a fan of any kind of muffin unless it had chocolate in it and I always believed that bananas belonged in porno movies not mixed in with other foods: but now I’m a changed man.

One interesting side effect of the constant dust is the boogies; out here your boogies are massive, dirty and a change from English boogies, if you want I can send you a selection so you can see for yourself.

Went to the American PX today to pick up a couple of mountain bikes for the section and got directed to the back of the shop; we were a bit worried because they were all black and we thought that we may get mugged; but we got dealt with by a lady who not only looked like Whoopi Goldberg, but sounded like her as well. I put on my best English accent and kept calling her Ma’am, it seemed to calm her down.

Anyway, that’s it

Jim

xxx

Saturday August 20, 2011

Maxine, hey, yet another greetings from Afghanistan, I can still barely get on to Hotmail. I received your ebluey with the extra bit that had been tacked on to the bottom. I know that as you sit there you are thinking – ‘Enough of the small talk, on with the story of Bastion’. Well, Saturday I had my lay-in but spoilt it by getting up at nine, but then made up for it by curling up with the Kindle and some beef jerky for a couple of hours.

Every office has a large box full of chocolate bars/Tracker bars and Tayto crisps. Tayto crisps are known all over the military as the cheapest and nastiest crisps that it is possible to buy; whenever you get a buttie box it always has Tayto crisps in it and they are guaranteed to leave a greasy feeling/taste in your mouth.  Anyway the upshot is that of that little bit of scene setting is that I’m quite possibly not going to lose any weight.

We are in the process of moving into a new purpose built building that we will be sharing with the Yanks. I use the word building in the loosest sense; it’s really a fire/deathtrap. Other than the floor it is completely made of plywood – walls, ceilings and doors, there is no fire suppression system other than a few fire extinguishers in the corridors. We are no longer shoe-horned into a tiny corner, but now have our own space, and we actually at last have air conditioning blowing on us.

I attended my first vigil on Wednesday; it was quite moving, but somewhat spoilt by two lads in front of me fainting (in total four people fainted). The Army have decreed that if you faint you will be charged – I can’t wait to see them try that on a sailor or airman!

My new lad, Jim, arrived on Thursday, and my existing lad goes home this Wednesday coming, so the chances are I’m actually going to have to do some work while Jim comes up to speed. Not sure if I mentioned it before but we are currently working twelve hour days; trouble is, we can complete all our work inside two to four hours. We then tend to try to look busy or disappear around the camp on ‘tasks’; what we actually do is go around and scrounge coffee and biscuits or slip off to the gym.

Sunday mornings there are only two of us in the office, everyone else has their lay-in, so I use the time to write this rubbish, drink coffee and watch television. Sending eblueys from work is easy;-however, I’m still struggling to use Hotmail or eblueys on my laptop.

We have been watching the rioting in England and have come to the conclusion that we are safer here; we have also concluded that the Police should be issued with live ammunition.

When we have our meetings/briefings we have to sit around a large table in the conference room, I have discovered that certain officers feel that the closer you are to the boss the more important you are. Woe betide anyone who tries to take their seats, they will make sure that you know you are expected to move.

I have started running in the mornings before work; to be honest it’s so hot here that to run in the day would be suicide for me.  We go at 0540(ish) when it’s nice and cool (it was about 24 degrees this morning), and I am up to two and a half miles with a nice slow gentle jog; there is however, a downside to running here – the dust! When we get back in our skins and teeth are covered in a talcum powder fine layer of dust; your teeth are both slimy and gritty, it’s disgusting, God knows what it’s doing to my lungs.

We have Lancers just around the corner to us, they are still operating Scimitars, Spartans and (l think) Sultans; the lads who crew them are knackered, they spend a week at a time out on patrol, sleeping next to their tanks and pretty much staying alert for the whole period.  The Scimitars et al are ideal for bombing around the countryside as they can go places that no other vehicle can, bar the new Bronco’s that have replaced the old Warthogs, the problem is that if they hit a mine, the crew will die.

We borrowed a minibus and went to the Danish shop and then on to their Cafe; the shop was way too expensive, but full of every kind of chocolate. The Cafe is run by the Danish version of the YMCA and when we there all the Danes had bit of holy singsong and then said a prayer, the Brits did what we do best when presented by something strange and religious – they kept quiet and just stared.

That’s it from this end; about the only thing that keeps me going is the extra 41.05 per day I’m getting for being here. Hope that Dad’s doing alright, but according to the tacked on part of your last ebluey, I see not.

Jim

xxx

Wednesday August 24, 2011

Maxine, it’s the 23 Aug 11 about 0130 in the morning and I’m deputy guard commander manning a radio in a guard hut about 50 metres from the wire for a twenty-four hour shift, of which I do six hours on and six hours off, we started at three o’clock yesterday afternoon and I’m knackered, I really am too old for this stuff; on the bright side we have plenty of coffee, on the downside it’s the cheapest and nastiest available, which coupled with the long-life milk we have to use, creates a drink that cannot be described as coffee, possibly crappy, but not coffee.

We have all been issued with the new 12 hour ration packs and I have just had my first, shelf stable, Italian style marinara containing Fungal Alpha Amylase, butter flavour and medium chain triglyceridesh; in other words I have just had a long-life sandwich. It’s meant to be a sandwich that will last for about five years or so, but it’s not really bread, more of a cakey spongey thing with some Italian style paste inside. Basically it means I’m going to die of cancer in a few years’ time.

Within each ration pack are some sachets of powder to put in your water, I’m currently drinking berry flavour, what kind of berry is indeterminate, I’ve never had any kind of fruit or berry from the supermarket that tastes like this, except possibly a lemon acid berry!

You can tell the things that the lads don’t like as at the end of each shift the spare is neatly packed away into large cardboard boxes in the cupboard in the vain hope that whoever is coming on next will like it.  The cupboard is full of sweets (boiled), biscuits (ginger), nuts (mixed) and enough packets of napkins to outfit Tesco,

About five hundred metres from here resides the Poo king. He is a local business man who takes all of our excrement and uses it to fertilize his fields which grow all the way up to the razor wire.  He’s got the greenest fields for miles around; however, I’m glad that we don’t buy his produce!

We are having an issue with criminal element of Afghan society, they are driving up to the fence in a battered old pick-up, or even once, a donkey and cart, and they are stealing our fence. They come armed with bolt/wire cutters and cut the fence.  We have different rules of engagement to the yanks who are authorised to give warning shots and then simply shoot them.  All we can do is call out the guard who then go and chase them away and then the engineers come out and repair the damage, This whole place is so poor that it’s actually worth their while to steal a few yards of steel razor wire or fence and sell it as scrap.

I’m in the radio room and next door to me is the bunk room, it holds about ten bunk beds and all are full of young men and women who are meant to be in uniform, but are all in various stages of undress and sprawled out unconscious.  The room itself is barely air conditioned and when you walk in to it your nose is assaulted by the smell of twelve hour sweat, bad breath and farts, lots of farts (and that’s without me adding to the brew).

Well that’s enough of my vision of the next thirteen hours or so of my life, take care and I hope that dad’s not too bad.

Jim

Monday 29 August, 2011

Col, greetings, more from the wonder that is Afghanistan, what’s to say about this place? The Afghani’s like to say that Alexander the Great came through here, all I can say to that is he must have been bloody lost!  This week I have been running around like a man on fire; this is because my SAC has been sent back to the UK on medical grounds and is not going to be replaced for, at the least, a couple of weeks.

I went for a haircut the other day, it’s free, and you’re not allowed to tip them, but the barber has a million different military badges/patches on display and on sale for five dollars, so I felt a moral obligation to buy one.  Not sure what it was like in Kandahar, but before he cuts your hair he spends about a minute rubbing it down with hand towel to remove the sweat; it’s quite disgusting when he pulls the towel away and it’s covered in sweat.

The toilets, as with most other accommodation is the same size and shape as an ISO container (like the ones you see on the back of articulated lorries) and to make sure there is enough room for a corridor in front of you and a cistern behind you, the manufacturers have decided to sacrifice the space that is required to sit down in.

When you sit on the toilet and close the door your feet project under the door and your knees and, if you lean forward to strain, your nose are touching the door; the situation is exasperated by the fact that they hang big bags of toilet rolls of the inside of the toilet door. Standing up and pulling up your trousers and then turning around to inspect/clean/flush the toilet turns into an exercise in gymnastics or yoga.

In an effort to lose weight I have cut out cooked breakfasts and am down to one fry-up which is on Saturday morning, the rest of the week I’m on porridge and fruit for brekkie; but this isn’t any old porridge, this is bastion porridge. It’s strong and thick enough to use as cement, if this is the shit that the jocks have been eating then no wonder they’re all alcoholics or miserable.

You were at Kandahar, not sure what the speed limit was there, but here it’s 24 km, or 15 mph, I have yet to get out of second gear; when I get back to the UK and go on the motorway, I’m going to be amazed/terrified at the speed. The RMP’s here regard catching speeding drivers a sport and hide behind containers and large vehicles with their speed guns; I’m pretty much on their side with this as any vehicle going much over the speed limit kicks up a massive dust cloud, and bearing in mind the composition of the dust, is pretty yucky as it sticks to your sweat and clothes.

The NAAFI have a welfare facility with a shop and two coffee bars, one quiet one for sitting around and talking, and one called Heroes which is aimed at the younger lads/lasses as it’s got PS3’s and Wi’s and large TV’s which play nonstop music or sport.  Next to these is an ISO container which has a Pizza hut; they also deliver around the camp and they use a quad bike to get around. All that I’ve said about the speed limit goes out of the window when it comes to the pizza quad; as well as using the roads, they will even welly down the walkways between the tents.

When the Tri-Star’s go tits-up we get no mail other than eblueys which are printed off here, but only in the morning as it’s too hot for the machine in the afternoon. People get a bit pissed off if they don’t get the parcel or letter that they know that their loved one has sent, Some of the lads have the local papers sent by their families every week so they keep up-to-date with what’s going on at home; the problem with that is they then insist on sharing what’s going on in Little Piddling or Snottown (or wherever), and since I’m barely interested in what’s going on in King’s Lynn, I’m certainly not bloody interested in whatever’s happening in their town.

Saw my first HIMAR’s launch yesterday, some yanks had a spot of bother with some compound so called it in, so they put in a big one with a single warhead; apparently it solved whatever problem they were having.

Anyway, that’s it, now just counting down the days to R&R.

Jim

Sunday September 04 2011

Maxine, hope your ribs are ok and they’re not broken (did u get an x-ray?) yet another greetings from Afghan, guess what!  It still hasn’t improved any – it’s still a crappy country.  I’m still mega busy at work and still haven’t heard anything about a replacement for my clerk, and considering that it will take at least two weeks to get one out here from the time they are warned off, it’s not going to get any easier for a while.

What’s the latest tales from this fun packed place- well, there are about six and a half thousand Brit’s here and about 200 – 400 of them are female, and everywhere they go they are stared at; when they walk into the cook house they have several hundred pairs of eyes following them, and when they are eating every time they look up somebody is staring at them.

The sections that have females protect them, I think on a sub-conscious level, because the lads who work with them accompany them most places. The Afghans are the worst they stare all the time, at least the Brits like me have the decency to look away when caught staring.

The corridor running down the centre of my accommodation block is over six feet wide, and along both sides pushed up against the walls outside every room are pairs of boots and trainers; this is because most of us have stinky sweaty feet and rather than poison our roommates we leave them outside our doors. The downside to that is that the corridor, particularly at night, stinks.

In the mess all the cutlery is made of plastic and comes in little plastic bags, knife, fork, desert spoon, toothpick and a paper napkin; this sounds very nice until you realise that the cutlery was packed in Pakistan (or somewhere) about a year ago and since then it’s been sitting in an ISO container in the baking heat. When you pop open the packet everything in it smells musty/dusty and when you use the fork or spoon and bring it up to your mouth and breath in you can smell the musty,/dusty and it ruins the smell of the food.

That’s if you can actually get it to your mouth in the first place; because they have been sitting in an ISO for the past few months the cutlery has become brittle and is more likely than not to shatter when you put it in to the food, this had led to the ridiculous situation of people taking three packets of cutlery back to their table because they know there will be a failure.  Watching someone’s fork shatter/snap when they stick it in to a steak is quite funny, until it happens to you.

In the Mess we have a table laden with condiments, the only problem yet again is that they have been brought in by articulated lorry via Pakistan and have been in the ISO’s for several months. This is particularly noticeable with the salt and pepper, when you rip open the packets you can’t sprinkle the salt and pepper on, you have a choice of dropping lumps on your food or using your fingers to break up the ]umps and then scattering them.  Saw Ross Kemp this morning at breakfast.

We are currently having bit of a battle at work between the RAF and the Army; the RAF have put a glass mug next to the water boiler and when we use a plastic spoon we drop it in the water so the next person can use it. At the end of the day we empty it out to start again the next day. The Army have got the hump with this and see it as dirty and unhygienic and at every opportunity will empty the mug and hide it; now we know it annoys them it is our duty to keep filling the mug with water and spoons.

Just received your letter, TV in the kitchen is definitely the way forward, I’ll send dad an ebluey in the next day or so- I’ve just finished Dragon ore and although the ending was a bit predictable, it was still an enjoyable read; I’ll be keeping an eye out for others of his.  Just started reading Black Swan, more mythology stuff, vampire, fairies and the like – I’ll let you know what it’s like.

I withdraw my whinge about only having four hours or so of work to do a day, since I’ve been on my own, I’m pretty much packing in full days of learning and catch-up, and I’m mentally exhausted. Although, that said, it could have something to do with the building we’re in; it’s a new build with no windows and only fluorescent lighting, so that could be contributing. Hope the invention route comes off, it would be nice to mention in passing that my sister’s an inventor.

Love

Jim

xxx

Saturday September 17 2011

Maxine, more from just behind the front line, fresh coffee still rocks, the girls are getting more and more attractive, but that said, the lesbian count seems to be going up.

The locals, we call them Jinglies, use our mess, and eat absolutely loads, I don’t know where they put it, then after they’ve finished eating they load up a plate with fruit and pudding and try and walk out of the mess with it; and when they get stopped they are really resentful, this is despite all the signs in every bloody language you can think of.

Just inside the wire, but separated from the rest of the camp by another fence we have the Soak Area; this is the place we put the articulated Lorries with their cargoes when they arrive from the coast. Because they pass through hostile territory the baddies can fix bombs to them so when they arrive here they are put out to soak for several days; their drivers who are all Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Egyptian, you get the picture, have to stay with their vehicles until they either blow up or they are released in to Bastion.

There is now some controversy because a number of locals have, for want of a better word, sneaked in to this Soak compound and have set up businesses trading to the drivers; their shops range from a blanket on the ground to a shack made of wooden pallets and plastic sheeting.  Problem is that the Afghan Army have realised that there is money to be made by, as they put it, taxing the businesses.  In reality a number of the officers, backed up by their men, go around and extort money with violence.  The traders are now asking the British Army for protection from them, and this is causing some tension.

I was working away the other day, head down, typing and concentrating when a pair of arms were thrust in-between my face and the monitor, they were absolutely covered in bites, at least a dozen on each arm.  Turns out the lad in question has bed-bugs and it seems it’s my fault. The mattresses are faux leather and are sealed, so the bugs had to be in the bedding, so we had to clear out the room, bug spray it, and issue new bedding; the poor lad spent the next couple of days scratching himself and making his arms red-raw.

I went jogging the other day and as I drifted around, I kept being over taken by loads of young marines; they all run as though they are carrying rolls of carpet under their arma, some of them roll as they run and so look like gorillas. Recently we have had Ross Kemp and Cheryl Cole and the whole F’ing Station has been going mad to see them. I had to feel a bit sorry for RK as he was being asked to sign autographs all dinner and was constantly being disturbed, but he responded well to all the requests.

The Garrison Sergeant Major works with us and his job is to enforce discipline and standards as well as organise the vigils. He stopped a lad the other day who clearly hadn’t pressed his clothes or shaved for a couple of days, he proceeded to tear in to the lad, who tried to explain himself; the GSM was having none of it and just continued bollocking him, so the lad stepped forward and gave a tremendous push and put the GSM on his arse in a ditch.

Let me tell you about the ditches here – they are deep, damned deep, and wide, they are also very wide; this is because when it does rain here the water isn’t absorbed and simply lays on the surface. Anyway, the lad had a couple of days before been on patrol and had a friend blown up, and had accompanied him to the Hospital and then been with him when he died and was a bit emotional.

This has caused a problem here as nobody wants to appear as a monster and punish the lad in question, but for the sake of maintaining discipline he’s got to be seen to be punished – let’s see what they do. The problem may just go away as the GSM finishes his tour this week and the command may just quietly drop the matter when he’s gone.

That’s it for now, will try to write again soon, but still mega-busy as I’m still on my own, I’m currently working a minimum of 12 hrs; but I’m expecting an SAC on, or about, the 28 Sep.

I still haven’t received your eblueys, but you’ve sent them on Hotmail, I had a very quick scan and will get back to you soonest. At the moment the only way I can access hotmail is to go to the internet cabins at about 0630 and quickly log-on and then forward on to my work account to read at leisure.

Love

Jim

xxx

Sunday September 18, 2011

Maxine, good evening, just sent dad an ebluey. Managed to get on to Hotmail the other day and got your emailed eblueys, I still think you should put a complaint about eblueys going missing. I read in your email that you are looking to put dad in to sheltered housing – is he still amicable to it; if he’s just installed a state of the art security system, then that hints at wishing to stay.

I received your packet with the Crunchie biscuits in, they were very nice, we brewed up some fresh coffee and we all shared around our biscuits; one of the lads is from Sennelager, Losekestrasse (our old street) and his wife, who works in Normandy Barracks has sent him a selection of German biscuits.

Sorry to hear that you’re still getting pain from your ribs and that you’re not sleeping well; it’s probably no consolation, but I have yet to have a complete night’s sleep here.  I am either driven up by my bladder at about 0400 or one of my roommates has to see-off every passenger aeroplane and so is frequently up at varying times from midnight to 0300, and with the best will in the world, he’s not a ninja, more of a bull.

We now share our office building with the US Marines and we’re just starting to bond with them; turns out that they are all reservists on a nine month tour and more amazingly, they are the same bunch who deployed with 3 Tac STO in 2003 when we went in to Iraq.

I am really struggling to keep up at work due to the sheer volume of work coming in, there may not be enough for two people fulltime, but there is definitely enough for one and a half people.

That’s it for now

Love

Jim

xxx

 

Monday September 26, 2011

Maxine, just received your latest card, thanks. You say that the house is tidier than when I’m there, brilliant, it just proves that he can pull his finger out when he wants to.

Well it’s Sunday and I had my lay in until 0900 which was, as usual, fantastic.   Ritchie, one of the lads in the room has gone home and has been replaced by a Royal Navy officer, Geoff, or Big Geoff as of now, on his first night here he earned our wrath by snoring so loud that the cupboard doors and bed frames seemed to rattle. We got virtually no sleep and had to wake him up several times to get him to sleep on his side. Next day, Saturday, Neil and I both had a go at him and during the day I was sick from tiredness and had to sneak back to the room for a couple of hours kip.

We are now firmly in place in our new firetrap, sorry, I meant workplace and starting to get to know the yank Marines in the next offices; we thought we had it shit, but some of them are here for fourteen months with no chance of R&R.

Some of them have the most disgusting habit in the world – chewing tobacco! While you’re talking to them they will open up a small round tin and take out a good pinch of thickly shredded tobacco and then stuff it in their mouth between the cheek and the gum and let. it sit there for about twenty minutes or so before chewing; apparently you can’t swallow this stuff so they are either spitting it in to empty water bottles or they simply open the fire door and gob out these massive brown streams of spit in to the compound.

The young civvie girl in the NAAFI is a very attractive, very short and quite well built in all senses of the word, and she is absolutely loving being here.  She is always smiling and very friendly and has possibly about a thousand young lads lusting after her, particularly her assets (did I mention the well-built part).  No matter what she does with the rest of her life or where she goes, she will never be given this level of attention

I have discovered a new sensation, kiwi fruit and watermelon chewing gum, it’s fantastic, only problem is it makes my mouth water and so after half an hour of chewing it, I’m hungry.

Every block or facility here which has ablutions/toilets has a sewage tank in the ground next to it, and since we produce a massive amount of shit, there are always several of them being emptied during the hours of daylight, and as there is always a breeze there is always a faint aroma of poo in the air when you’re out and about; that coupled with the fact that loads of the facilities have standalone generators which thump away all day and night and push out a constant stream of diesel exhaust, means that this tour will be remembered by me as the smelly, noisy tour.

As you go to the gym or move about here you become aware that there are two main preoccupations for the lads (and some lasses), body-building and growing moustaches; there is every variation of moustache here, ranging from Hitler to Zapata. By that I mean the lads are going for every style between the little Hitler/Charlie Chaplain moustache to the full-on Mexican Bandit look (as it seems are some of the girls).

The body-building thing is also taken very seriously by lots of people, they spend an absolute fortune on body-building drinks, powders and supplements, Christ knows how they manage to shit it all out.

Although I’m losing weight I suspect it’s because I’m not drinking, but when I get back for R&R I intend to change that.  Well that’s it, for now, will write again next week and hopefully report that I’ve got an SAC to share the workload.

Love

Jim

xxx

Sunday October 02, 2011

Maxine, more greetings from a place that sets new standards for crappiness, I Hope that you, Lacey and dad are okay, all being well you will receive this sometime Monday 03 I will have managed to speak to you on the telephone.  My SAC, Ben turned up at 0200 on the 29th Sep and is currently doing all the mandatory training and will start with me tomorrow (03 Oct); he’s not going to know what’s hit him.

Anyway, on with the latest from Jim; I am the Barrack Block SNCO and as such whenever the lads whinge or break things, it comes to me to sort out, I’m just not lucky enough! The lads have trashed three ironing board covers due to their lack of ironing skills, so I went to the Quarter Master’s for three new covers; guess what? They don’t do ironing board covers, they only do complete ironing boards, so I’ve had to bin three perfectly good ironing boards (sans covers) and go and collect three new boards: talk about wasteful.

This camp was built by a company called KBR and they have created the most perfect circle ever to create money. They build whatever we ask them to, say a toilet block, but they build it so badly that it barely works; but we then accept it on our books, and so every time there is a problem with it and report it, they charge us about £140.00 just for the telephone call and then charge us again to come out and fix it and for any new parts.

The toilet doors are locked by a simple flimsy lever that even a ten year old would question whether or not it was even slightly soldier-proof: but every time they break it costs us a fortune to repair something that shouldn’t have been used in the first place and that all present know will break again in a week or so.

My roommate has just walked into our room and he has a black nose and eyes – he looks a bit like a black Labrador. The lads he replaced on shift had blacked up the binocular eyepieces and because it was dark he didn’t know and kept using the binoculars.

I am using a bike to cut around the place but due to a lack of bike lights at night I’m cycling around with a torch in my mouth, l just hope I don’t get to comfortable with holding things in my mouth for long times; I’ll order some off Amazon this week.

Most of the vehicles here are TATA pickups and they are all either white or grey, and only the Brit ones have any kind of number plate or MOT. All the contractors don’t really bother with any of that stuff and as such there are some right states driving/limping around here; if you have an accident with one, you’re buggered as they just scarper.

Our convoys come through Pakistan and they are vast, sometimes a couple of hundred of Artics and the Pakistan police are diverting a number of them into their warehouses, cutting the roof’s off, robbing them, welding/sealing them back up and then sending them on their way.

I was invited to a United States Marine promotion ceremony the other day; they certainly do things differently to us. All the lads of the Company are lined up and the promotee’s are marched out in front of them, and then have their promotions read out.

The chap who is being promoted can elect who unpins his old rank and pins on his new rank; one of the Marines in this ceremony elected for both of his best mates to pin his on. They both marched out smartly, stood either side and simultaneously unpinned his old rank and then pinned on his new rank and then both took a half step back and at the same time both punched him on the shoulders and nearly knocked the poor lad backwards. The other two selected to have the Commanding Officer pin theirs on and his punches to the shoulder was a lot more gentle that the other lad’s.

I’ve now got less than a month to R&R and cannot wait; Matt’s already been briefed on what I want as my welcoming party – Pizza, Garlic bread and Jack Daniels.

That’s it for now, will write again next week.

Love

Jim

XXX

Wednesday October 05, 2011

05 Oct 11, about 1732 (local), a fly-blown country in the middle of nowhere.

Maxine, just received both your coffee and your letter, Many thanks, the coffee will be enjoyed by all. Gemma pulled Baby Belle’s and posh cheese biccies out of her drawer, so we all sat around the conference table eating them and drinking fresh coffee and ignoring the telephones.  I have also just received your kit-kats and animal biccies and they went around the office pretty quickly, – once again, many thanks.

As to dad dying; I should hopefully cope better than when mum died, after all, I still speak to her when I’m in the car or out walking, but with dad we know it’s coming.

I have resigned myself to the tablet/Notebook not coming out here and have told Matt to have a play if he wants. The Post Office never emailed me back, but did send a letter to Matt apologising for the trouble he had and they confirmed he could send items heavier than 2 kilos and that they have briefed their King’s Lynn staff accordingly; they also sent him a book of stamps to make up for the trouble he had.

As for dad writing to me, I suspect it’s not going to happen, but it’s not a problem, I receive enough eblueys/emails/letters from you and all my friends to keep me going; it’s a shame that it’s taken me until I’m nearly fifty to fully appreciate you and all my friends properly.

The weather is slowly, weekly changing here; we are in the last week of it being in the high 30’s and from the end of this week it slowly start to fall each week. Today the Temp is about 36, but by Sat/Sun it is predicted to be about 29 degrees.

That’s it for now, will write again at the w/end with the week’s update.

Jim

XXX

Sunday October 16, 2011

Maxine, greetings from Afghanistan, hope that you and Spacelace are okay and that dad is in good health.  Are you bullying Lacey into doing more exercise and still spoiling her with massages? I have now got over my throat virus and have lurched straight in to a cold and still feel like crap; lots of sneezing, a running nose and aching all over; I was warned that once I had some support from a new clerk my body would say ‘enough’ and all the crap would catch up on me. I haven’t been to the gym for a week and can really feel it.

Lessons learned this week are: never sneeze when eating ice-cream; it can actually go quite a distance and pisses off the person sitting opposite you; that said, it tastes/smells nice when it’s trying to come out of your nose. When offered Avocado moisturiser never put a dollop in your mouth trying to be funny- it really doesn’t taste as good as it smells and it takes ages to wash the taste out, even when you use hand-gel (which by the way, tastes even more disgusting).

We’ve had our first thunderstorm and it was pretty spectacular, loads of lighting and thunder then monsoon type rain for several hours; it cleared the air beautifully and in the mornings we can see the mountains in some detail; they are about 40 – 50 km away and if you want to know what they look like close up then play the latest Medal of Honour game. The temperatures are now down to about 25 -29 degrees during the day and down to 14 – 1 6 degrees at night.

The other night we had a rocket attack and all the sirens went off, young Ben rolled straight off his bed on to the floor with his quilt and Steve sat up with a look of confusion on his face; neither of them have been to a war zone before and still haven’t got the hang of reacting to emergencies in the correct manner, which is to simply roll over and ignore it and wait for the danger to pass.

We seem to be going to the Yank Dining Hall about once a week, and to be honest, that’s probably about right; when we are in there we are like kids in a sweetshop and try to either nick as much as we can or eat all that is on sight.  Even their healthy option is bad for you; they were serving grilled chicken breast which had very large and thick slices of cheese on them.

This has got to be the most wasteful place I have ever been on detachment, all the water we drink comes in plastic bottles, and allegedly we now have about a hundred ISO containers full of crushed plastic bottles while they try to find somebody to recycle them.

When we eat in the Mess we use paper plates and cups and plastic cutlery, all of which gets burnt in the burn pits or incinerators along with all the other rubbish that is generated; when you think there are about 20-30 thousand people here in total, then that’s a lot of burning. Every day there are columns of black smoke rising up from various locations across the camp; god only knows what toxins and stuff we are breathing in!

Several months ago up north the Afghan National Police (ANP) had one of their trucks nicked, they reported the loss and they then went looking for it. Several hours later they stumbled across it at the same time as an Afghan National Army (ANA) patrol.  It was parked on the side of the road under a tree; naturally being suspicious they thought that the insurgents had booby-trapped it. Their method of determining whether the truck was booby-trapped was to fire a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) in to it; the ANA being a bit more switched on wouldn’t let them and wanted to wait until the bomb squad had investigated.

So they then had bit of a fight to ascertain who was in the right and during the ensuing scuffle the ANP accidently fired off the RPG, and in true comic fashion they missed the truck and hit the tree behind it. The rocket exploded in to the tree and dislodged a suicide bomber who was hiding up in the foliage and caused him to fall on the truck and explode; this is both policing and insurgency Benny Hill style.

The US Army have started arriving and will be taking over from the US Marines, the US Marines clearly have a different doctrine as all of the lads/lasses have optical sights on their weapons, whereas the US Army still have the old iron sights on most of their weapons. The US Army uniform is made from an identical material and pattern as our Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP); the only difference I can see from ours is the cut of the cloth and the badges they wear.

The US Marine Roman Catholic Padre is in the next office to mine and we have had a few discussions on the nature of religion and monotheism, and he is now determined to convert me back to Catholicism and keeps trying to push a book on to me entitled ‘Catholicism for Dummies’; what I find most amazing is that by training he is a Biochemist.

Looking forward to R&R, in particular sleep, alcohol, good food and women (one of those isn’t going to happen – you decide which). That’s it for this week, I’ve not really got much to say as I’ve not been too brilliant, hopefully have more to waffle about next week.

Jim

XXX

Sat October 08, 2011

Maxine, good afternoon/evening, hope that all is okay with you and spacelace, and that your Swedish massage is going okay.  This morning I received your ebluey from the 07 Sep, once again, it looks as if it has been around the houses, the posties here are truly pants; although, that said, their Staff Sergeant is quite nice.  I went down to chat to her about something else, came away and mentioned to one of the lads here that I thought she was nice, but he thinks she a pigamousse, I disagree, then I realised she looks like Ruth; so, a dilemma, do I ask her out, or do I avoid the whole skinny, big nose look!

Anyway, more about life in Afghanistan, what’s happing in my world, tedium and long days, that’s what.  Camp Bastion is a place so crap that when the Taliban attack us they miss on purpose in case they do something to improve the place.

We went to the Yank dining hall last night for the first time; I now understand why people keep sneaking over there to eat.  I loaded my plate up with king prawns, turkey, peppers, mushrooms and rice; covered it all in garlic oil, paprika, pepper and chillis and then went to the hot plate where it was all cooked up in front of me.

This was followed by the best chocolate ice-cream I have had in years, thick and rich (I had seconds).  The ice-cream was served by a small Pilipino from giant tubs that were nearly as big as he was.  The hall itself was littered with stands that you could just go and help yourself from; there were racks of beef jerky, trail mixes, cakes, energy drinks and powders.

There was a large double fridge that was full of small tubs of Philadelphia cheese; they even had a strawberry flavour cheese.  Anyway, suffice to say I ate enough to make myself sick.

I have a new roommate who likes shite such as Casualty and Coronation Street, so I’ve had to buy myself a large pair of earphones in order to listen to my laptop, they are massive and cover completely my ears, I’ve been told that I look like a fat, semi-dressed DJ.  It’s got to the stage now that I will simply wear them while reading I order to block out the annoying mundanity that is BFBS.

The inside of our mess has suddenly sprouted lots of breeze block blast walls between the tables; this at first glance seems a sensible idea until you notice that none of them are cemented into place, in other words when a rocket comes in, the Briish Army are going to do their best to magnify the blast effect by having extra bit of breeze block slicing through the air.

We have been attacked with rockets three times since I’ve been here, so far all have missed; let’s see how long our luck lasts!

During the day the outside of our barrack block looks like a poolside at Benidorm, it is surrounded by lads and lasses sunbathing.  I cannot be arsed to suntan and so am developing a squaddie tan; that is to say my forearms, face, upper chest where my shirt is open and the back of my neck.

We have been warned off for the first rain this coming week and all of us can’t wait, I don’t actually think any of us believe it as it’s so hot.  But when it does rain here properly it’s going to be pants as the water apparently doesn’t soak away, instead it lays on the surface and mixes with the dust/sand and becomes like the Somme (that is to say – very, very muddy).

In the middle of Afghanistan there is a massive US airbase at a place called Bagram; there is currently a rapist walking around with a piece of two-by-four or a baseball bat.  He is sneaking up behind men after dark and knocking them out and then buggering them; the poor bastards are waking up with their trousers and pants around their ankles and a sore head and sore bottom; the rapist is known as the Bagram Buggerer and the authorities are going spastic trying to catch him.

My new SAC, Ben, is settling in well and coming up with lots of ideas to improve things, most of which we are implementing – let’s see how long he remains motivated!  I’ve got a viral infection in the glands in my throat and am knackered, I’ve got to take it easy for the next week and make sure I drink lots of water; I really shouldn’t have a problem with either of those commands.

Three weeks to my R&R, I can’t wait, at first it didn’t bother me not having a drink, but now I can’t wait to get home and have a glass of red wine, or anything to be honest.

That’s it for now.

Jim

Sunday October 23, 2011

Greetings, last ebluey this side of R&R, hope you and Lacey are okay? Received the cheese and biscuits, thank you, perhaps a comment rather than a criticism – biscuits should not go in jiffy bags, perhaps a box might be better?  All but one of the cheeses were okay, only one had gone mouldy, we have had a cheese and Coffee today whilst watching the Rugby World Cup; Gemma had chorizo, some German peppered sausage and some Baby Belle’s. We took a photograph to send to her mum on the principle that if we show her how much it’s all appreciated, and then she will send more, parents are great.

Not much to say this week as once again I’ve been hanging out of my a*se; the week’s only entertainment has been courtesy of the British Army half-wits next door. They have realised that the Jingly cleaners have the code to the door and have been letting themselves in to clean; therefore, they waited until everyone had gone home and then changed the code.

The next morning was fun as all the rest of the people who worked in the building tried to get in I got bollocked by the GSM for suggesting that a way forward would have been to tell us before they changed it.  He told me in no uncertain terms that my chain of command had been briefed; but when I investigated it turns out he had told the Group Captain and the Wing Commander just as they knocked off. There was no way those two would brief the rest of us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the Army is full of people who have been promoted way beyond their ability.

My unit, 903 EAW, share an office with a Royal Navy Officer and an Army Captain, and every day something that makes me glad I joined the RAF. If you are a lower rank to the Navy Officer and holding conversation or dealing with a customer, he will insert himself between you, tell you something/give his words of wisdom and then withdraw; several times there has been an embarrassed silence after he has withdrawn as the other person has not known what to do or say in the face of such rudeness. He is ex-submarines and we all think it’s something to with that.

The Army Captain on the other hand is quite simply the laziest and thickest individual I have met outside of a riot in Toxteth; whenever I have customer asking me a question about leave, pay or allowances he always has an opinion or something (to his ears only) witty to say.  His face and lips look slightly bloated; a cross between Angelina Jolie and a bad bee-sting victim and he laughs at his own jokes/comments.  If you are getting the picture that I don’t like either of them, you’d be correct.

I’ve started hanging out with a couple of the US Marines in the evenings; we take long walks in the shop, swap war stories, stuff like that. I have found a way for you to join me, just put on a the film The Gangsters, that’s what one of them both looks like and sounds like; his favourite saying is “Jim, they’re savages, fucking savages”. He really doesn’t like the locals!

It doesn’t look like I’ll be home until late on the 27th, either way, I can’t wait.

Love

Jim

XXX

Sunday November 13, 2011

Maxine, hello from a country that could quite easily be called something else, probably with the word ‘dung’ in there somewhere. How’s it going and how’s dad?  I received a letter from Lacey the other day, can you send me her address and I shall write back to her. How are things progressing with dad? I really enjoyed the meal at the Fox and Hounds and am still raving about it to all who will listen. Well, I’m back and to be honest I did not want to return here, still it’s only two and a half months to go, and hopefully it will fly by. Nothing’s changed here; it’s still a crap place to spend your life.

As you can imagine we drink/use a lot of water here and we have several pallets of water delivered every month which we use for filling the fridge or the Birko; however, getting the water is a pain in the arse. We have to go to the Quarter Master’s (QM’s) and fill out a form; this form then goes to the Major (who is the QM) who has to sign every single one of them before they go to the next stage.

A couple of days later we go back and collect the form and take it to the Water Troop and arrange a delivery time and place, which by the way, they ignore totally. By that I mean they will deliver it when they can and put it where they think it should go, usually as far from our building as possible; this means that to stock up our tea bar we then have to use a pick-up and have all hands turn to moving it. This is also true for all other items from the stores, including stationary. The worse thing about this is that we have a Major who is earning between 47 to 57 thousand pounds a year having to sign these off; does British Industry operate like this?

Remember my whinges about KBR and how crap they are?  They have hit a new low in our estimation, when they built the building we are in, they put in a number of internal doors (as you would expect); but the KBR contractors having all arrived here on the short yellow bus or the let’s make profit bus; they have put the pins in the hinges upside down. This means that when you open and close the doors the pins work loose and eventually clink out on to the floor. Somebody, I’m not saying who, then whinged because we repaired the doors instead of contacting KBR and getting them to come out.

When you first get here the Army give all Seniors and above a lecture on Moral Courage, that is to say, if you see anything is wrong, you must speak up; this includes personnel being incorrectly dressed. So if you see someone walking around with no headgear, wearing shirts incorrectly or hands in pockets, you are expected to say something; for the first couple of weeks here every time I caught someone I would point out the error of their ways and make them tidy up; however, it got to the stage that I was actually being delayed getting around the unit from the sheer number of pongo’s that I stopped or challenged, so I decided to ignore all but those with their hands in their pockets.

This plan went by the wayside as the other day I came across two Captains with no headgear and their hands in their pockets; I can’t be arsed to tackle the Army, I only do the RAF. I am noticing that the personal standards of the RAF here are higher than that the Army, which pisses me off slightly as we have the GSM next door who constantly bangs on about how high the Army standards are.

As part of our kit we have been issued with a baseball style cap which the Army have banned us from wearing as it’s not smart enough; that said, I agree with them, the US Army are here now and they all walk around wearing them, and if we wore ours we would look pretty much like them as our uniforms are almost identical.

I had a good trip back here with no problems at all, overall, probably the best trip I have had in years; it was only slightly marred by the MT driver who was a lovely person but seemed to fart for most of the trip.  There were 50 of us on the A330 which is made for 300 going from UK to Minhad, so I had a whole row seats to myself and so spent practically the whole flight sleeping; the cabin crew woke me for meals and then I went back to sleep.

The toilets in Minhad are painted with white emulsion which in case you didn’t know it, is after paper the most perfect medium upon which to write graffiti, and boy, have the Army lads taken advantage of it; I have never seen so much abuse written down in my life (the RAF don’t come out of it well); sitting on the bog was almost like being a Tracy Emin piece of art. Even the Gurkas have got some abuse in, problem is, it’s in Nepalese.

The toilets themselves don’t have bog brushes, they have a small shower/spray that you use to blast away poo; the squaddies love this as it means they can spray over the partitions and shower on anyone else who is having a dump.

I have discovered the good side about this place being smelly and noisy; I can fart to my heart’s content and nobody knows it’s me (unless I do it at my desk).

We had a 30 minute Remembrance Parade and although the temperature was only about 24 degrees we had somewhere in the region of 50 people faint or excuse themselves because they were about to do so. Later on we watched the parade on BFBS and thanks to careful editing we didn’t see a single one go down.

That’s it for now, it’s Sunday morning and there are only two of us in, so it’s quite relaxed.

Jim

XXX

Thursday November 24, 2011

Maxine, hello from a poo pie place, I received your email, can’t remember if I replied or not, I can’t wait to try your vibrating machine, will it not impact upon your joints and potentially damage them?  I tried the vampire diaries but got bored with it. Has Spacelace got herself a job yet?

Did my first proper Guard Duty this weekend gone; bit embarrassing really, on my way there I left 4 fully loaded magazines in the pick-up which was off to the other side of the airfield; luckily the lad who was driving noticed them when he got to his destination turned around and brought them back.

The Guard Duty was 24 hours in a three story sanger with two Rock apes, a Rat Pack and loads of sweeties; I got there as the Sun went down and entertained myself playing with the NVG’s and the Thermal Imager for the first half an hour, then got bored and spent the next 24 hrs day-dreaming.

The two Rocks were from II Sqn and both had been in for less than a year and were dead proud of being in the best unit in the RAF. With the Sun down, no moon, and the NVGs’s and Thermal Imagers turned off, it was so dark half of the Taliban could have walked into the base.

Being a coward when it was my turn I spent most of the time with one or the other of the sights glued to my eyes and a large cup of really crap, lukewarm coffee. Speaking of coffee, one of my favourite subjects; the Danes out here have in their Rat Packs these little bags that you pour boiling water into and it produces fresh coffee how good is that!

I started back at spinning and when I called the instructor to ask when he was holding the easy class in order that I could slide back in gently, he made an innocent mistake and gave me the timings for the hardest class, suffice to say I nearly fainted after 30 minutes.

Myself and a couple of others sneaked in to the American Dining Facility to celebrate Thanksgiving with the US Marines next door and while we were sitting eating a BFBS camera crew came in and not only filmed us, but interviewed us as well; boy are we in trouble when that gets aired!

Made a very important discovery about the racial mix of the three British Armed Forces; the Army have a lot of Africans and Pacific Islanders, the Royal Navy has a lot of Afro-Caribbean’s, and the RAF has a lot of strawberry blondes.  I have discovered that even when sitting on the toilet and contemplating life (yes, with the door closed) it is possible to know when a local has walked by the smell; the US Marines next door refer to the locals as ‘stinkies’. That said I know I’m doing them a disservice by tarring them all with the same brush.

I told one of the officers here to take his hands out of his pockets while he was walking down the road and he started to have a go at me for challenging him, I told that I expected him to applaud my moral courage and that he needed to set an example to his troops; my god, it was like watching some kid out of Kevin & Perry, big sighs, and heaving shoulders.

That’s it for now; I’m knackered as I’m staying in work longer than I have to in order to avoid going back to my room. The WO I’m sharing with is totally and utterly getting on my nerves and I despise the sound and sight of him; it’s made worse by the fact that I consider he has poor personal hygiene.

I had a go at him the other night about how much his feet stank, he got the hump with me and deliberately didn’t shower before he went to bed, so I spent the night in a miasma of stale sweat (and I think a whiff of BO), but I may be being unnecessarily harsh because of the way I feel about him.

Jim

xx

Monday December 12, 2011

Maxine, apologies for not writing sooner, it’s been due to a combination of being busy and a personality clash between me and my nominal boss; I’ve moved bedrooms and told him what I think of him. He wasn’t too impressed so I think he’s biding his time, but we’ll see!  It’s amazing what a difference to the Workspace and how much it can depress your personality, the thing is, he’s not a bully or anything, he just winds me up every time he speaks, and he’s always poking his nose into my affairs at work.

Many thanks for the latest parcel, I received it at the same time as the letter, they really made my day and boosted my moral. Anyway, less about me, more about you, glad that the massage is still going well; is your Vibra-Plate machine still helping you lose weight? How’s dad doing, is he still the same? Did you say that Lacey had a got a job for Xmas or was applying for some?

Anyway, back to me; in the next office to me is a Lt Col with over thirty years’ experience in the Army and not only is he a Buddhist but he is also vegetarian. The vegetarian aspect means he suffers with the food in the mess and pretty much his only source of protein is from nuts, which are lacking in the mess; so I have spoken to the US Marines next door and they have been bringing in jars of peanut butter for him.

The top of our fridge is now covered in the bloody things, there are a number of different types, I thought that there was the crunchy type, the smooth type and the type with chocolate in; but here there’s one with raisins and cinnamon and what seems to be large brown sugar crystals. The other thing about having a vegetarian Buddhist is that we are discouraged form swatting flies in his office as every time one of the lads murders one, he winces.

The US Marines next door are starting their hand-over, we’re really going to miss them as they are a brilliant bunch of blokes; one of them, Dave, has taken to wearing a Santa hat with a bobble, he claims it’s his anti-Muslim hat and will keep them away.

A couple of the Pizza Hut staff stole approx. $55000.00 and they bribed a local to smuggle them off camp and get them up North, the driver got them off camp and then panicked and kicked them out. So the both of them were left pretty much in the desert with $55000.00 and nowhere to go; so they walked back to Camp and tried to get back on.

Part of the procedure for coming back on Camp is that you get searched; the Pizza Hut owners have not pressed charges because it would mean the money being locked away pending the investigation. The both of them have just been sacked and kicked off camp penniless. They’ve opened a pizzetia on Bastion zero, but it’s crap, it’s the only pizza I’ve ever had which has had spam on it and watery salami/pepperoni.

Discovered the Army have a three letter mnemonic called PAL; PAL stands for Pain Assisted Learning and it means that one of the lads has been punched/hit or slapped on the back of the head because he’s been a bit slow at learning a lesson. We are working with a number of Army personnel from the RLC, this stands for Royal Logistics Corp; however, we actually believe it stands for Retards, Lesbians and Commonwealth; this is due to the make-up of the personnel who seem to man it.

While on Guard discovered that the lads who have been on my tower previously have a game that they play when they’re bored; it’s called ‘Let’s see how far we can launch a piss filled bottle’, the goal is get the bottle over the perimeter wire, and as a result there were a couple of dozen yellow filled mineral water bottles littering the landscape. Also whilst on Guard I discovered the difference between a summer and a winter sleeping bag – guess how!

To illustrate how thick some people can be, a group of Bahraini’s (l think) came in to our mess and got their dinner and then went to the accoutrements counter and saw for the first time, Salad Cream. One of them decided to try it, but instead of putting a small amount on his plate or doing the taste test with a sachet, he absolutely covered his dinner with it before deciding to taste it. Turns out he didn’t like it, and so then followed a trip back to the servery for a whole fresh meal.

The Army Captain in my office did his Kevin and Perry act again the other day and when he threw himself down in his chair he missed it again and ended up sprawled all over the floor; I didn’t help things by leaning over and asking ‘First time with a chair with wheels, sir?’ He wasn’t impressed with me and let me know, problem was his bollocking was lost in the laughter of both me and my SAC, Ben.

News update – I’ve just received your latest parcel, and as always it was a lovely surprise, and clearly a lot of thought went in to it – thank you. I have written you a couple (at least one, probably two) postcards over the past couple of weeks to say thank you for the parcels, I have also called a couple of times, but went through to ansaphone, where I’ve left several brief messages. I’ve really not been in the mood to call anyone recently as I’ve been a bit pissed off and harassed within myself.

The Buddhist veggie next door is married to a Taiwanese Buddhist veggie, and they are currently buying house in Taiwan as he’s due to retire as soon as he finishes here; so he’s been calling a fair bit to help sort things out; anyway, long story short – I’ve given him my telephone card to make his calls as I’ve got about a 180 minutes left on mine and even now that I’m a bit more cheerful, I’m still not going to speak for that amount of time.

Right, that’s it for now; hopefully l’ll get a chance to call in the next couple of days.

Jim

XXX

Sunday December 18, 2011

Maxine, it was nice to hear your voice this weekend, all I need to do now is speak to my son.  I’m glad that Lacey’s enjoying her new job, she just needs to motivate her new boyfriend, but in his defence, I’m sure I was probably just as relaxed as he was at their age. One of the parcels you sent had your shredded Bank Statements in as packing; we spent about ten minutes trying to piece them together. Not too much to report on this week.

A member of the Taliban (alleged) was brought in the other day in a coma, one of the big bosses here still insisted that the Military Police go and read him his rights.  Imagine the scene, two burly MP’s turning up in the hospital and explaining to the nurses and doctors

  • MP: ‘We’re here to read Prisoner ‘X’ his rights.’
  • Doctor: ‘But he’s in a coma.’
  • MP: ‘We know.’
  • Doctor: ‘You do understand what being in a coma means?’
  • MP: ‘Yes, it means a person who is in a state of deep, often prolonged unconsciousness who is unaware of their surroundings.’
  • Doctor: Does your boss understand what the word coma means?’
  • MP (Starting to feel to feel foolish): ‘Yes.’
  • Doctor: ‘Carry on’ ‘

Yet again, I’m glad I’m not in the Army.

One of the young lads here is really nice and gentle and when he goes home he sleeps in his brother’s room as his parents have turned his bedroom in to a study. He has come out of the closet and told his parents that he is Gay, and now when he goes home his parents make him sleep in his sister’s room.

Lessons learnt this week – don’t go spinning on a full stomach, I didn’t know it was possible to burp so much (and so loud).

In our office we have an Army officer who is the Camp Bastion Adjutant, and he is so shallow that he makes me look as intelligent/deep and calm as Stephen Hawkings, (but without the wheelchair or the electronic voice or the money); and also within our office we have a couple of drawers/boxes that we put in all of our spare sweeties, cakes and such.

He is continually going through the drawers/boxes for sweeties and snacks, but he never puts any in; and it has now got to the stage in the office that whenever he helps himself there are loud and pointed comments about the drawers/boxes being ‘two-way’ ‘and ‘If you put stuff in there sir, there would be more to take out.’  It’s getting a bit embarrassing now because even my SAC, Ben, is making snide remarks about him within his hearing.  To show you what type of person he is he’s even taking stuff from the boxes that we have put together for an orphanage in Kabul.

You may be aware that there are elements of the Benny Hill Show about the way certain aspects of this war are being fought/conducted, another incident that makes you think that the only reason we’re winning(?) is because the script writers for the Taliban are not as good as ours.

A Tanker turned up the other day to the first checkpoint which was manned by Afghans (I think) and when they searched it they found an Improvised Explosive Device (lED) attached, so they ignored it and let it through.

The Tanker then went to a second checkpoint who also spotted it, and then one of the guards simply pulled it off and threw it away, the tanker then came on base.   Later on the MP’s heard about this and went to have a look at the Tanker, one of them walked up to it and squatted down and had a look where the IED was and immediately spotted a second IED also hidden. The Bomb squad was called and dealt with it correctly.

KBR are still relentlessly worshipping their god of profit, they are charging us $256(£160.00) for a car battery that in the UK would cost £50.00.

Right, that’s it for now.

Jim

XX

Thursday December 29, 2011

Sez, Carlos and Eva Beaver, I hope that you guys had a nice Christmas and Boxing Day; I saw some of your photo’s on Facebook and it brings back memories of me and Ruth with Matt when he was little.  Well that’s Christmas out of the way, and too be honest it wasn’t as bad as I thought, day went like this – Met up at 0900 for bacon butties – NAAFI closed until 10:00, find alternate venue, order bacon butties, bite in to bacon roll, discover it’s been micro-waved at maximum for a couple of hours (or that’s what it felt like), gob out bacon butty, use fresh boiling coffee to cool down mouth, wait five minutes before able to eat or stop tears.

Met up at work for about 1000 for secret Santa and cheese club; I got a nice mug, chocolates and a message pad that says ‘While you were out, this wanker called’.  At 1400 all went to mess for Christmas.  Dinner served by the officers, all warned that there were to be no food fights; this was because there would be a large number of Muslims in there and they might not take too kindly to a pork chipolata bouncing off their head.  1600hrs we went to Air Traffic Control for mince pies and a quiz; it’s the first, and trust me on this, the last quiz I shall ever go to where the answers were multiple-choice. I stacked Christmas day at about 1900 and had an early night.

As I write this I realise that my replacement will be here in 13 days, I can’t wait. Anyway, enough about me, more about the pleasure-dome that is Bastion; one of the young men here, Pinky, is Gay and quite open about it within our Wing and for the past four months he has been on a Gay Military Dating site and corresponding with another young man.

The other week they mutually decided to take the emails to the next level and started to try to find out where each other is; Pinky then said in his email that he couldn’t tell where was because of the location. The other lad then emailed back and said that he also couldn’t say where he was as he was on operations; Pinky then went back and said that he was also on operations.

It turns out that they are both here at Bastion and living about ten tents apart.  Anyway, they arranged to meet for a date, but Pinky sent his hetro mates around to have a look because as he put it ‘l don’t want to meet him if he looks like a poof.’

Several times a week the jinglies drive around all the dirt roads on base and spray water on the roads to keep the dust down and to help compact them, problem is that it is winter in Afghanistan and we are approximately 3000 feet high, and overnight and early morning it is down to below freezing. The roads the other morning were like a skating rink, how nobody had an accident or got hurt is a miracle; they’ve stopped doing it in the mornings now.

I have ran out of deodorant and am too tight to buy some, so I’m using some from a welfare parcel that was sent to ‘Any female engineer in Afghanistan’; that’s right, I’m using girlies deodorant not for the first time and probably not for the last. Thing is, I actually like the way I smell and keep putting my hands on my head to smell my own armpits; it’s billed as Green Tea and Cucumber, but smells more like pink bubble-gum.

Speaking of female things, we have serving here a female Army officer who used to be a Mr, and I gather that everyone seems to accepted it without any derogatory remarks, but that could be because she’s not a petite lady and she’s commando trained. Although, I heard one officer here wonder that when he sent out his next email should it be addressed to ‘Sir’s, Ma’am’s, lt’.

We got attacked the other day and all had to don body armour and helmets; believe me when I say that once you’ve been wearing Osprey body armour and helmet for several hours you don’t need to go to the gym, the shower maybe, but not the gym.

The veggie, Buddhist officer (VBO) came wandering in to our office wearing his armour and was wearing a purple patch on it and when is asked him what the badge meant, he replied that it is because he’s a *Lama and as such can wear the same badges as a Padre;

  • Me, ‘What’s the badge for sir?’
  • VBO, ‘lt means I’m a Lama, and should be regarded the same as a Padre.’
  • Me, ‘Really sir, I thought a Lama was a bit like an *Alpaca!’
  • VBO, ‘You are not funny Sgt Drake, and l’ve heard that one before.’
  • Exit stage right, one disgruntled VBO

That’s it for this week, my next milestone is New Year’s Eve, and then it’s ten days until Graeme lands.

Love

Jim

XXX

*Lama – Spiritual teacher

**Alpaca (noun) a Soth American Mammal; a domesticated, long haired animal of the camel family; related to the Llama and similar in appearance; Latin name: Lama Pacos.