16 Mar 2010

Soldier’s Afghan diary: getting to know the locals

Trooper Pete Sheppard, from the Brigade Reconnaissance Force, writes from Afghanistan on teaching some English phrases to the locals.

Soldier's Afghan diary: getting to know the locals

Trooper Pete Sheppard is a radio operator with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF), which is part of Operation Moshtarak against insurgents in Helmand province.

It is all pretty quiet out here at the moment.

Yesterday was a day of rest. Only one patrol went out, going to visit the American troops to gather some intelligence on the ground. Everyone else spent the day catching up on their sleep and enjoying a bit of rest.

Before first light this morning, the whole BRF minus Squadron Head Quarters (SHQ) left on a patrol. They spent the day talking to locals and visiting various compounds.

They didn’t encounter any trouble all day, and there was very little insurgent activity. One of the locals even said all the insurgents had left a while ago, as there were too many ISAF troops in the area, and that they planned to return when we leave.

Back in base, SHQ maintained radio communications from our location to the troops further out, and to higher command; and guarded the compound to prevent any incidents.

With the rest of the unit out, there have been a lot of stags, but on the whole it is still pretty chilled.

There are irrigation ditches – small rivers and canals – near our compound. A few of us went over to one of the water holes and had a good wash in it. The water was pretty cold but the outside temperature is in the 30s, so it was refreshing.

The locals stood around staring at us with interest. We aren’t quite sure why, maybe they were just not used to seeing outsiders. We took the opportunity to teach them some choice English phrases – nothing too bad – which amused us, but they didn’t know what they were saying.

I also observed a group of about six young boys entertaining themselves by throwing stones at water bottles which they had placed down about 20 meters away. It was quiet surprising to notice how accurate they were at throwing these stones, hitting them within only a couple of throws.

We have made a little make shift gym here, using a mixture of “homemade” weights – picket posts, ammo tins, sand bags and the rest – and conventional ones. A lot of the guys take time out to keep up their fitness by using this gym.

The weather is getting hotter and hotter by the day. Can’t imagine what the heat would be like during a summer tour. Unbearable I’m sure. We have been quite fortunate with the weather this tour, it never really got that cold – not what I was expecting anyway.

It’s another day down and one less to go.