Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.
Dogs on a plane
As part of a camera team, you get asked to film some weird stuff. It doesn’t come much weirder than being pulled out of your bed at 3am to film some dogs being walked around the desert.
After I had woken fully, I found out that we were going to film the military working dogs (MWDs) being walked before their flight home following their tours. MWDs, unlike their military handlers, have no standard tour.
Depending on their ability to work, some of the dogs getting on the plane had been in Afghanistan for up to three years. They were going home to Germany for some well-earned rest. It’s not unheard of for the handlers to buy their dog from the Army after it finishes it’s career. Indeed some handlers have even used their operational bonus to buy their dog.
When you’re stumbling around in the dark surrounded by MWDs, it is a useful fact to know that the dogs you have to be careful of are not the protection dogs, who tend to be bigger and louder than the rest, it’s the hyper-focused search dogs that will have a little nibble on you if you get too close.
Highway to Helmand
Aside from the dogs, I had my first outing into Helmand to visit 22 Engineer Regiment. The job we were filming involved removing a bridge that had been damaged; which would then be replaced by an Afghan contractor. Though I only got to see it as they were stripping away the first bits with the help of a US Marine Corps crane team.
They had been working hard all night to build their temporary base near the bridge before working on the bridge itself, so they were tired by the time I got there. The bridge is near a place called Lashkar Gah Durai and is an important feature on Highway 1 (which is a bit like the M25 but for the whole country). So, they were working quickly to avoid the traffic building up.
It was great to get out and finally do the job I have been training for. However, it was useful for another reason. As I am sure most people who have served will tell you, it doesn’t matter how much you organise your kit on pre-deployment training, you will always have to re-jig your kit after your first time out on the ground. I have now realised just how much of a pain the tripod I have to carry for my cameraman is going to be.
Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris