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.
Since my last blog our work plans changed slightly. We had planned to spend a bit of time covering the Afghan driver and electrician courses but these got replaced with filming the week long training that everyone is mandated to undergo upon arrival in Afghanistan. The course is currently running less frequently so it takes longer to complete and longer to film.
A view from the skies
To fill in the gaps between training and filming Andy arranged for me to go and film the Chinooks whilst they picked up and dropped an under-slung road. Flying is my favourite part of being out here and in the last two weeks I have managed to fly in both a Hercules and an Osprey which were both pretty high on my ‘to do’ list.
The Joint Air Group (JAG) is the air operation unit for the British contingent within the Helmand area of operations. It has the mission to act as the troop carrier and air support for other military units.
The JAG has numerous helicopters within its detachments, Chinook which is the pack horse of the fleet, it is as well part of the air ambulance Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), Merlin which acts as a troop carrier and air support to ground troops, Lynx which is used for close support to other air assets and ground assets, the Apache Helicopter which is used as part of the support of ground and air assets and is used for air to ground operations as well.
We have spent a few days up in Patrol Base Oullette, working with Sergeant Colin Fiddy an advisor to the Afghan National Army (ANA)(see video). After moving out onto the patrol the ANA set up a vehicle check point (VCP) whose aim is to provide security for the local village, by monitoring the traffic moving in and out of the area.
Setting the scene
This was the first time that we had been that far north of Helmand and the first thing I noticed was the difference in landscape. We had an awesome backdrop of the mountains on one side with a great expanse of desert stretching out to our front. On the other side was a village backing onto the lush green zone, and walking across in front of us were local children herding a caravan of camels, if you didn’t know better you could be mistaken for thinking we cinematographers.
After a few flight issues (i.e. we couldn’t get any) after various road moves across Helmand Province we finally arrived back in Bastion. A few days later we moved across to Shawqat, whilst we were there I filmed a piece on Corporal Tony Sivo who is in charge of an EHRT course (Explosive Hazard Reduction Team).
This course is designed to enable Afghan soldiers to become instructors themselves and the next step up from the Explosives course we covered a few months ago in Camp Bastion with Sergeant Major ‘Moxie ‘ James. Once the Afghan students have completed their training at Bomb Disposal their next step is to learn to teach the explosives courses. Tony’s role is to advise and assess the Afghans teaching on this course. (see video)
A ‘cut-away’ to Kabul
Just after this we had a last minute tasking taking us to Kabul to film the return of artefacts to Afghanistan from the British Museum. Afghan artefacts from a number of different historical ages have been returned to Kabul by the British Museum with the assistance of the British military. Flown from the UK into Camp Bastion, Helmand, the crates were then transported by Hercules aircraft to Kabul, where they were collected by Professor Omara Khan Masoudi, General Director of the Kabul National Museum.
Unfortunately for Andy he wasn’t feeling too well, but this gave Corporal Dec Traylor, a RAF photographer out here on a short visit, the opportunity to come out with us. Whilst we were in Kabul we managed to get out on a Humanitarian Aid Drop (HAD) patrol this is a MSST (Military Support Stabilisation Team) led initiative which helps to provide some of Kabul’s poorest citizens with food and other essentials.
With security for the event provided by the Afghan Uniformed Police stationed in the area, the soldiers from 16 Signal Regiment, based in Elmpt, Germany, are heavily involved with assisting the local population in the delivery of rice, blankets and cooking utensils. While usually the aid is delivered from the gates of Camp Souter, the decision was made to move to the Khuja Rawash Secondary School in the heart of the community to hold this event. The aid activity is conducted with heavy involvement from the community, and the local tribal elder, or Malik, is integral to deciding which families in the area are most needing and would benefit most from this aid.
Our next stop will be R and R (flights dependent), we will be back on screen at a blog near you soon.