Herrick 18 Stories
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.
Fight the ‘deep battle’
For those of you who haven’t seen a Warthog vehicle, they are made up of two boxes of armour on some rubber tracks. Incredible vehicles really, it’s just like someone over six-foot trying to actually fit in one comfortably – impossible.
If by some miracle you do manage to fit, don’t fall asleep. Unfortunately soldiers are programmed from basic training, to sleep anywhere. Particularly if they are about to be up for a long time and for some reason, particularly if you are on transport. So I fell asleep. Bad mistake.
All credit to the Royal Tank Regiment, I slept soundly for the whole journey, although I woke up with my head stuck at 90 degrees for the first 30 mins of the operation; and my neck in pain for rest of the Irish Guards operation (op) on the border of the green zone. This was an op to clear an area in the east of Helmand of enemy weapons stashes.
The Irish Guards are the Brigade Operations Company for this tour. The BOC as they are called, are there to fight the ‘deep battle.’ By this I mean their sole purpose is to target the enemy where he least suspects it and take his ‘lethal aid,’ the stuff he uses to attack us; bomb-making kit, ammunition, weapons.
Brush with the enemy
Before heading out on their task, they dropped us off at a compound with the tactical headquarters to watch the sweep start before we joined it. All was well initially, the guys got off to a good start clearing compounds as we watched them from afar.
Then the first rounds were exchanged. The enemy had reorganized and were fighting back after seeing what the troops were doing. It’s a strange thing; immediately looking to get somewhere more exposed when the shooting starts; but as a team we have to get the footage or stills of the action as it happens, to get the story.
As it was, the action was just out of sight and focused on the troops who had landed with the Helicopter assault force and it was cut short by the Apaches arriving overhead. I had a strange mix of emotions. From a professional perspective I was a tad frustrated on missing what could have been an interesting story, mixed with relief for the guys that it was over. Though we still had the rest of the day for excitement.
Following the BOC’s initial brush with the enemy, we moved out of the command compound and on to the ground with another set of guys. Just in time to see them uncover a hidden enemy weapons stash; which had home made explosives.
This gave us a great chance to see the Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) guys at work. I suspect there is nothing they like better than blowing stuff up. Following a suitably large bang, we continued on with the search.
Throughout the day there would be sporadic shooting as the enemy sought to harass and distract the Irish from their task but the focus of the troops meant that once the day was over five enemy stockpiles had been discovered.
For the combat camera team, we had had a productive time with the BOC. It was a chance to test our working methods amongst the some of the best troops around and, strangely, I found myself coming away frustrated at not getting more of the action, but pleased that we had been give the chance to test ourselves in a near fight before we were actually in the line of fire.
See you next time guys.
Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris