Taking a bear on patrol in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Preece of 21 Engineer Regiment (21 Engr Regt) writes about introducing Afghans to teddy bears.

We have had a busy week, lots of patrols and lots of work but not a lot of rest. I thought I would describe one of these patrols to you to get this blog started.

With our little respite over, we were once again back on patrol.  This was the Infantry going out for a four-day period to occupy a compound and use it as a mini patrol base (PB).  This would allow the locals some peace of mind.  More importantly for us, it would allow us to have one foot on the ground for the next few days.  Our job was to help escort them in,  and then recce a flood defence plain.  The locals said this was crucial to allow their crops to grow and they had attempted a build a defence with dried mud.  However this didn’t stand up to the test so they asked for bags of cement.

The infantry section was having difficulties gaining access to a compound and, with our recce complete, we were re-tasked. This time we had to check a water pump to see if it had the delivery capability of reaching an ANP OP (observation point) approximately 3km from camp.  With both taskings complete and with the infantry having got no further with negotiating their way in to the compound we were ordered to wait in the centre of the farming district.  We soon attracted the attention of the local children who had been working on the fields.  They wanted the usual off us; sweets, chocolate and pens.  We had an interpreter (terp) with us so we engaged them in conversation.  I took the opportunity to get some pictures of the children holding a bear that my wife had sent out with me.  The reason behind it is she is a primary school teacher and uses the bear to show her pupils the differences in life between themselves and their Afghan counterparts.  The children were astonished by the bear as they had never seen one before.  They were even scared of it when I first showed them.  I had to get the terp to explain what it was.  After this they were more than happy to hold the bear and pose for photos.  There was even an ANP officer who was desperate to be photographed holding the bear.  On return to camp I then had to write an e-bluey in the third person as the bear, explaining my adventures.  Getting shot at one day and writing stories as a bear the other.  Can you get more surreal?  These letters were received by my wife a few days later and my children loved them. It was well worth all the piss taking by the lads.

The last week has been hectic but very enjoyable for the lads.  Every patrol is different and we find all our skills being used, infantry and engineer alike.  Morale is high within our section and we have improved our living conditions considerably since we arrived.