Corporal Georgina Coupe is the video camerawoman for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout summer 2012 as part of 12th Mechanized Brigade.
The current CCT includes me Corporal Georgina Coupe, camerawoman, Sergeant Andy Reddy, photographer, and our team leader Captain Will Campbell Ricketts. Over the next six months we will be providing video, photographs and news articles telling the story of British troops in Afghanistan as we continue to mentor the Afghan security forces.
The last few days for the CCT have been epic. We have just come back from Operation Shafuq meaning ‘Dawn’. It was an Afghan National Army (ANA) planned and led operation, to clear a previous insurgent stronghold. The role of ISAF was very much to provide advice. Over the operation, we covered a massive 45 km across a variety of terrain.
Afghanistan is made up of picturesque landscape, which rapidly lost its appeal when finding ourselves chest deep fighting our way through fields in a sea of mud, carrying full kit. The weight of the Osprey body armour, helmet, weapon, water and food alone weighs a minimum of 25 kilos (if you think that the average weight of suitcase at check in for your trips abroad weights about 20), add to this specialist radio and electronic equipment, ladders or in our case cameras and satellites it can total up to 50 kilos.
Working alongside the ANA made for interesting times. Spirits were high as we crossed paths time and time again, there were many smiles and jokes to be shared between the two forces by way of hand signals , gestures and body language, the way that people who couldn’t speak each other’s language could. We shared cigarettes and food with each other whilst commanders poured over maps and plans for the next phase.
After filming the initial planning phase, we were lifted by Chinook into Patrol Base Pimon where we met up with the troops and our Afghan counterparts who we would be spending the next few days with. We left early the next morning in sunshine and a nice cool wind, which dissolved over the next few hours into wind and rain more common to Salisbury Plain than Helmand Province.
Watch the video at this link
Ring of steel
As our call sign made its way into our resting area late that evening Will quickly dug out a poncho, which he held over me and the computer, battling to keep us dry whilst editing our first package, desperately trying to outpace the rapidly depleting laptop battery, only to be beaten at the last hurdle by an electrical storm which didn’t allow us to send our footage. This set the scene for the next few evenings as power and signal strength became our biggest challenges, along with desperately trying to keep cameras free from mud, dust and rain.
These evenings were spent in a ‘ring of steel’ formed by Warthogs, heavily armoured tracked vehicles able to cross even the harshest of terrain. They provided us not only with re- supply of food, water, batteries and all round protection whilst we slept, but in my case a dry make shift office in the back and some desperately needed coffee.
The operation was a massive success for the ANA who led and cleared the way through minefields, searched compounds and fought back against the insurgents. Throughout the op Andy and I had been working with different groups, but when Will had to make his way back to a nearby base to get a better signal, we were back to working together. He took over from Will as the interviewer and we finished off the op with a final interview and cup of chai with the Afghan Colonel, which was a great opportunity to find out how well he felt it had gone.
Over the last few days we have met an amazing array of people, for some, it was the last and apparently toughest op of the tour and for others like us it is only the beginning. Myself and Andy will be busy for the next few days editing the stills and video footage for everyone back home to show what the guys out on the ground have been doing and what else they’ve got coming up.
All images are Crown/MOD Copyright