Hard, sad, emotional and expensive times in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal James Atkin of 21 Engineer Regiment (21 ER) steps up to  compile his Troop blog.

Lance Corporal James Atkin

Lance Corporal James Atkin

First of all I would like to thank the good men of 3 Troop for volunteering me to write this blog! I had never even heard of  a blog until today. Bear with me and I will try to keep this interesting. Can I also just say what every soldier wants to say in things like this: ‘HI MUM!’

Now let’s get started. I am a Lance Corporal in the Royal Engineers serving out in Afghanistan. I used to be a Plant Operator Mechanic but upon my posting to Ripon last year, like everyone else in the squadron, our jobs soon changed drastically. A vigorous training program commenced about a year prior to our deployment. Although fun at first, the lads were soon bored with training and couldn’t wait to get out here and put their newly acquired skills into action on a real playing field. My job for this tour of duty was to be a Searcher. I was duly trained and my new skills were honed and confirmed on a six week exercise overseas in November . Now my whole life revolves around searching, constantly training, keeping my eye on the ball. I have been out on the ground only once thus far but there are plenty more missions planned to keep things exciting for us. Searchers work in small teams, like a close family unit. We know everything about our team mates and I mean everything! So it’s fun being a part of this. Within 3 Troop there are lots of shiny new bits of kit such as huge vehicles, weapons and brand spanking new gadgets to help out the searchers. It is a tough job with all this heat and carrying the necessary weight, but there is a great sense of job satisfaction, I love it.

I am due some rest and relaxation for a couple of weeks in the not too distant future. I’ve planned to fly to Canada and surprise my wife Ariel in the rocky mountains. Now, don’t tell her, okay?

Things out here on Operation HERRICK 12 have worked out alright for my Squadron so far. There is a lot of training for missions, and now that we have settled in and everyone has fallen into line the bosses are starting to give us some slack. There have been hard, sad, emotional and expensive times. Most recently there were two strong characters from the Regiment taken away from us, so the whole Regiment was stood to attention at the military repatriation service the other night saying their goodbyes.

On a lighter note, there has been a lot of mail posted out to the men in 3 Troop. If you were not aware, ten letters or five parcels in a single day is a ‘crate-able’ offence. Which means you have to buy all the others guys a drink. So there are always fizzy drinks being dished out by my team commander Corporal ’Pogo’ McKernan as well as some of the other guys. If you never hear from me again it’s because I was sacked from writing a blog. If not, I will start writing more about what I am doing out here, how the men of 3 Troop are holding up and how the tour is going. If there is anything that you would like to know don’t hesitate to ask. Until next time, take care.