The first 72 days: Driver and crewman in Kabul

Sig Tonkinson

Sig Tonkinson

Sig Tonkinson is a Communications Logistic Specialist (CLS) currently stationed with 1st United Kingdom Armoured Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment (1 (UK) ADSR) based in Herford, Germany. She is deployed on Op HERRICK 15 where she is employed as both a driver and crewman as part of Souter Force Protection Transport Company (SFPTC), stationed at Camp Souter in Kabul.

 

My story so far…

Hi, let me tell you a little about myself and bring you up to speed, my name is Signaller Tonkinson and I am a Communication Logistic Specialist in 1 United Kingdom Armoured Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment [1(UK)ADSR].  I am part of Souter Force Protection Transport Company (SFPTC), this is my story so far.

I arrived in Herford,Germany, 10 months after my phase two training; to say I hit the ground running would be an understatement. Before September was out I would be qualified as a Team Medic and fired every weapon from a GPMG down to a pistol. On top of that I was issued with all my tour kit went on two exercises, driven a land rover in the pitch black with night vision goggles and manoeuvred a children’s go cart round an obstacle course while blindfolded! There was little respite in October as I had to pass my Enhanced Palletised Loading System Operators Course (EPLS).

My job as part of SFPTC would be a driver, but not just any driver. I would be trained in all lower rank roles, foot patrol, top gunner and the very important team medic. Despite all this training I felt excitement and fear rolled into one, after all I was the new girl! That fear was tamed a little when I realised I wasn’t the only one deploying on tour for the first time. More importantly the lads had become my adopted family. Oh, and there was another girl going to.

Kids in tow

Before I knew it, it was early November and the tour was upon me. My first impression of Camp Bastion was a good one. After a quick load-up of the bags and issue of weapons, we jumped on to a coach for a short bus ride to the accommodation, the tents had air conditioning with eighteen to a tent and the ablutions were converted ISO containers, which was much better than expected. There was not enough time to explore more than the laundry tent and the NAAFI before we headed to Kabul.

We went straight into a hand-over period from 21 Signal Regiment, getting to learn the local area on foot and vehicle routes to other friendly force camps, on my first foot patrol I  experienced the swamping of the local kids, asking for pens, chocolate and anything else they could think of. As myself and LCpl Blundell were positioned at the rear of the patrol, we seem to get all of them. Kids seem to come from everywhere which was a good sign for us as this meant it was unlikely there were any IEDs within the immediate area. Eyes still peeled we moved round a maze of streets, kids in tow I must add! We did manage to give the local kids something by the end of the week, fixing a water pump in the local school.

Taliban still very much present

It was not all work we celebrated our first tour birthday by getting the birthday boy (LCpl Ben Sarafis) dressed up in a protection suit and chased by a military attack dog. Not quite the birthday present he had been hoping for but well done for being such a good sport. I also got to perfect my bartering skills in the market getting a watch reduced from $25 to $15. I was quite pleased until the strap fell off the next day.

It was starting to feel like Christmas when it all went wrong. Not even the Christmas tree sent from home could soften the first blow. A suicide bomber killed 48 people and injured over 100 others at a festival in the centre of Kabul. SFPTC were to take a back seat and be ready to move if required, giving advice, letting the ANP and ANA take control of the situation. The ANA and ANP handled the situation well, our presence was not needed. The events of the week were a reminder of how the Taliban are still very much present within the area and how they can still manage to influence people into doing such things.

Mickey

A real effort was made to keep spirits high over Christmas. In the morning we were greeted at our guard post by senior personal with a gift to hand from UK4U. This was a surprise and a morale boost. Entertainment was organised in the NAAFI during the evening. During the day the guard shift was covered by senior personal and I finished guard 30 minutes early so we could join the rest for dinner. I think everyone enjoyed dinner, especially the food fight. However, I seemed to pay the price later in the evening. I was starving as I had used all my food in the fight and not eaten much! After dinner it was off to bed for that all important Christmas snooze before going back on guard for the evening. After guard I spent some time talking to my family over the phone which really helped lift my spirits again and then it was back to bed.

I did manage to get the New Year off on the right foot distributing aid to the locals and making a new friend Mickey. Mickey is a mouse who is now resident in SFPTC accommodation; he is a little camera shy, but great for morale. With Mickey to keep me company lets hope the rest of the tour goes a fast as the first 72 days!

11 thoughts on “The first 72 days: Driver and crewman in Kabul

  1. I remember this young lady when she came into The Royal Signals Museum as a young recruit, just starting her trade training. How time flies.

    D Brook

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  2. Hello there Signaller Tonkinson,
    it was great to read about your experiences out there in Kabul. My husband has just left (or is about to leave) Kabul (Camp Julien) and I think, despite all the dangers out there, he enjoyed his time. He was attached to NTMA and was one of the DeCom’s Drivers. He is a lorry driver in civvie street and got the call up letter last Spring, after a lot of preparation time in the TA (5RRF). Driving through the streets of Kabul for him must have been great, armoured vehicles, no traffic regulation, no speed restrictions. It will be difficult for him to ajust again to civvie life. He also told me about the festival bomber, but before that, in September, I had a bit of a scare when I heard on the news that the NATO HQ had been attacked. It took 3 or 4 days until I heard from him and he was okay. I hope you are keeping well and nothing ontowards happens to you or your mates out there. Anna Moore

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  5. Ref the above comment from Vincent Robert, it is quite normal to enter the regular service (With your parents OK) prior to your 18th birthday. I was 17 years & 9 months when I joined. To Sig Tonkinson, keep your head down lass and keep safe. From an ex scaley.
    Regards
    Mac

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  7. This lady in question Sig Tonkinson is one of my best friends and to read this about her and see what good they are all doing out there makes me even more proud (if thats possible!!!)
    Missing you soooo much and cant wait for you to come home xxxxxx

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