Lieutenant Claire Jackson is team leader for the British Army’s combat camera team for Herrick 19. She works alongside Sgt Dan Bardsley (photographer) and Sgt Paul Shaw (video cameraman). They are based in Afghanistan and will be covering the work of the Armed forces, in particular 7th Armoured Brigade – the Desert Rats, throughout the winter. They capture moving and still imagery from events out on the ground that national broadcasters don’t have access to.
The Afghans take the lead
It’s that time of year when everyone reflects on the past twelve months in terms of what they have or haven’t achieved, and what their goals and aims for the following year are going to be. Looking back on my year, or even the last few months since beginning this tour, I would struggle to list all the memorable experiences we have been so fortunate to have witnessed on this tour.
I knew when I volunteered for Herrick 19 that the sort of taskings we were going to get would be very different from the previous Combat Camera Team (CCT) tours, and to be honest I was worried that we might get bored and be struggling to find work. But how wrong was I. We may not be out fighting on the front line any more, but we are still contributing in a training and advisory role, with the Afghan National Army taking the lead.
A few months ago we were asked to cover the opening of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Qargha, Kabul. Over 200 officer cadets arrived dressed in their chemises and flip flops with long hair and beards. Within a couple of hours they had been issued kit, had their hair cut, and were dressed in military uniform, standing very proud on the parade square. It was an incredible transformation.
One month later, we were invited to go back to the ANAOA to capture the cadets on their first field exercise. This brought back several memories from my officer training weekends and time at Sandhurst – leopard-crawling through the grass, and being told to get down lower! They also went through a variety of other field exercises, including patrolling and crossing obstacles. It was great to see them working together and with a real sense of professionalism.
A Christmas like no other
I had no idea what to expect when I found out that I would be spending Christmas Day in Afghanistan. All I knew was that it would be very different from the usual home rituals – waking up and opening a stocking, a morning walk across the moors, a bit of mulled wine and nibbles, present opening, then a late lunch followed by several hours of gorging on chocolates, watching movies. Well the gorging on chocolates was there this year (and still is – detox starts in the new year), but the walk was replaced by running a half marathon (two laps around Camp Bastion) whilst wearing a festive jumper with 500 other mad festive characters.
Having survived the run, after a bit of editing we headed out to Christmas lunch in the cookhouse. The meal consisted of the typical festive food that you would expect on Christmas Day, but was eaten with plastic cutlery and paper plates and accompanied with the usual array of non-alcoholic squash and water. The afternoon was spent pushing out press releases and uploading footage and stills that we had captured over the past few days, ensuring that the British media got what they needed for the daily news bulletins. And what a lot of coverage we got across TV and newspapers over the next few days. Good job all round, AMOC (the Afghanistan Media Operations Cell)!
Another year almost over, and time for the CCT to head back to the UK for a well earned bit of Rest and Recuperation (R&R) and battery recharge, ready for the final few months of the tour in 2014. Things are definitely winding down in Camp Bastion, but there is always a story to be told, whether it’s the closing down of a forward operating base (FOB) or a new character in town. That’s the great thing about this job – you never know what the next tasking will be.
Images were taken by Sgt Dan Bardsley