Busy time for VIP visits to peackeeping team

Capt Peter Singlehurst.

Capt Peter Singlehurst.

Captain Peter Singlehurst is from the Media Operations Group(V) and is currently serving as the Media and an Ops Info Officer, with 17 Port and Maritime Group in Cyprus.

We are still busy here on Op TOSCA, this time it has been the turn of VIP visits.

 

My Last blog focused on a time of commemorations.  This time I will be focusing on visits and also a subject close to the hearts of many British people, the weather!  As I mentioned in my last blog we were due to have our Force Commanders Inspection on Tuesday 14 May, which duly took place.  Before that, however, we hosted the UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr Hervé Ladsous and also a separate visit by the Officers of the 1 Wolf Regiment of the Turkish Cypriot Security Force led by their commanding officer.  This unit occupies the Turkish side of the Buffer Zone in Nicosia.

So, a busy time for visits and in the best traditions of the British Army everything was planned and rehearsed. However, after suffering from a mini heat wave with temperatures rising into the mid thirties we have been suffering from extremely heavy rainfall and thunderstorms.  This weather is again very unseasonable and has meant that plans have had to be adapted, and in the finest traditions of the Army we have adapted and overcome the problems caused by flooded roads and washed away tracks.

Lt Tom Murphy escorts Mr Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations on a tour of the Buffer Zone. Capt Singlehurst RE

Lt Tom Murphy escorts Mr Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations on a tour of the Buffer Zone. Capt Singlehurst RE

Putting names to faces

The first of our visits was by Mr Ladsous, he is a former French diplomat who now heads the UN Peacekeeping organisation.  His visit therefore was extremely important as it gave UNFICYP the opportunity to demonstrate to him the challenges of this mission.  Sadly, the weather intervened and so the tour of the Buffer Zone in the old city had to be cancelled, but we were still able to take him to visit the old French Embassy building in the Buffer Zone.

The following Monday the Officers from 1 Wolf joined us for lunch in the Officers Mess of the Ledra Palace Hotel.  This visit gave 17 Port and Maritime Group the opportunity to demonstrate who we are and what our previous experiences have been.  This lunch was important, for the CO 17 P&M Gp had decided to invite the Turkish Platoon Commanders and this invitation was accepted.  It appears this was the first time such an invitation had been made and meant that they would have the opportunity to meet their British counterparts, our Troop commanders.  Previous lunches and meetings have only involved the senior officers of 1 Wolf.  The lunch was a great success and of course means that names have now become people.  This was helped because many of the young Turkish conscript officers spoke English.

Omelette Challenge

The following day the Force Commander, Major General Chao Liu spent the day with us in Sector 2.  The purpose of the inspection was to give us the opportunity to demonstrate to him that we have completed our training and are now operating effectively as per his direction.

The Force Commander UNFICYP, Maj General Chao Liu on a bike patrol with Cpl Jamie Dougall 17 Port and Maritime Grp  S/Sgt R Chovanec  Slovakian Army

The Force Commander UNFICYP, Maj General Chao Liu on a bike patrol with Cpl Jamie Dougall 17 Port and Maritime Grp S/Sgt R Chovanec Slovakian Army

The Force Commander during his visit did many of the things that would be expected on such an occasion, including briefings, visits to the Buffer Zone and so on, however some light hearted elements were also included, such as the chefs challenging him to the “Omelette Challenge” from the BBC Saturday Kitchen Show.

The Force Commander is tested on his MHE skills under the watchful eye of L/Cpl Meli Salabogi 17 Port and Maritime Grp S/Sgt R Chovanec  Slovakian Army

The Force Commander is tested on his MHE skills under the watchful eye of L/Cpl Meli Salabogi 17 Port and Maritime Grp S/Sgt R Chovanec Slovakian Army

When Gen Liu visited the QM department he was met with a forklift truck challenge, before finishing his afternoon with a few games of table tennis.  The General met all of his challenges successfully and appeared to enjoy himself.  The inspection concluded with a social call on the Corporal’s Mess before Gen Liu was entertained to dinner by the CO and officers of Sector 2, in the Officers Mess.  The evening was rounded off with the General enthusiastically joining in some Mess games.

Meanwhile the daily work of patrolling and being Peacekeepers has continued 24 hours a day seven days a week.

In future blogs I will take you on some patrols so you can see the challenges the soldiers on the ground face, It is not what you will expect!

Read more of Peter’s blogs here

The heat is on as united nations remember fallen

Capt Peter Singlehurst.

Capt Peter Singlehurst.

Captain Peter Singlehurst is from the Media Operations Group(V) and is currently serving as the Media and an Ops Info Officer, with 17 Port and Maritime Group in Cyprus.

It has been a busy time for 17 P7M Gp here in Cyprus since my first blog here is some of what we have been up to.

Welcome back to Cyprus!

Since my first blog we have been extremely busy here in Nicosia.  The Force Commander for the military component of UNFICYP is Major General Chao Liu of the People Republic of China, so yes we are in the unusual position of being commanded by a Chinese General.  His Chief of Staff, however is Colonel Angus Loudon MBE late R Irish.  Later this month Maj Gen Liu will be visiting us at the Ledra Palace Hotel to carry out the Force Commander’s Inspection and prior to that Col Loudon first visited to carry out his own inspection.  This meant that WO2 (SSM) Pitt of the Ops Squadron was able to demonstrate his new fully trained Honour Guard team to Col Loudon  for his first official visit to 17 P&M Gp.  Col Loudon then became the first visitor to sign the brand new Officer’s Mess Visitors book, before spending the day visiting various departments and also going on patrol into the Buffer Zone.

A fire breaks out in the Buffer Zone.

A fire breaks out in the Buffer Zone. Photo by Maj Adrian Spicer.

The heat is on for 17 P&M Gp already, as the island is experiencing an early period of hot weather with temperatures unseasonably high, the result has been an early outbreak of fires on the Buffer Zone and indeed a fire also broke out in one of the abandoned buildings in the Old City part of the Buffer Zone in Nicosia.  This was quite a serious incident and saw 17 P&M’s Deputy Commander Major Adrian Spicer literally rise to the occasion, when he took to the sky in an Argentine UN Helicopter to assess the situation.  Meanwhile on the ground Major Chris Hike one of our Military Observation and Liaison Officers was able to help coordinate the efforts of both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot Fire-fighters who tackled the blaze from their respective sides of the fire.

Maj Hike RLC(V) coordinates Turkish and Greek Firefighters during the Buffer Zone Fire.

Maj Hike RLC(V) coordinates Turkish and Greek Firefighters during the Buffer Zone Fire.

The situation was brought under control but not before one of the buildings collapsed and extensive damage was caused.  This incident has therefore reinforced to us all here the very the real risk of fire that we were already prepared for.

ANZAC Day commemorated

The last few days have also been ones of remembrance. UNFICYP has a UN POLICE element to it, which has a strong Australian contingent, and every year at dawn on April 25, Australians and New Zealanders gather to remember the fallen and in particular those who died at ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsular.  Wherever they are in the world Aussies and Kiwis pause to remember, as this day in 1915 during the First World War, the soldiers from these two Dominions of the Old British Empire landed on the Turkish mainland.  This was the day when the soldiers of Australia and New Zealand by their deeds began to forge a national identity for the countries we now know.

Anzac Day in Nicosia 2013

Anzac Day in Nicosia 2013

Here in Cyprus in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, the Australian Police Contingent, invited the CO, Lt Col Rob Askew RLC and officers and men from 17 P&M Gp to join them for their dawn service.  We assembled in the cemetery and at 5am, as dawn was breaking, under the watchful eyes of Turkish soldiers in two observation posts and with the twinkling lights of Nicosia in the background, our Fijian Choir sang a lament to open the ceremony. The ceremony was conducted by an Australian Master of Ceremonies from the Australian Federal Police, with the assistance of our Padre, The Reverend Mark Ewbank CF, who conducted the religious element of the ceremony.  Wreaths were then laid by Australian, New Zealand and British High Commissions, the French Ambassador, The UN Chief Of Mission, The UNFICYP Force Commander and various others. A more personal remembrance ceremony has also been held on May 3 by the Royal Engineers serving with 17 Port and Maritime Group.  We gathered to remember one of our own, WO2 (QMSI ) Graham Bean RE(V), who sadly died two years ago on this date while serving with the 3 Royal Anglian Group here on Op TOSCA.  The short ceremony was again conducted by our Padre and finished with a wreath being laid at Graham’s memorial stone in the Buffer Zone.

WO2 Bean's Memorial Service.

WO2 Bean’s Memorial Service.

Read more of Peter’s blogs here

Life on Op TOSCA in Cyprus

Capt Peter Singlehurst RE

Capt Peter Singlehurst RE

Captain Peter Singlehurst is from the Media Operations Group (Volunteers) (MOG(V)) and is currently serving as the Media and Ops Info Officer with 17 Port and Maritime Group in Cyprus.

In this first post I will introduce you to the Unit and what we are doing here. In future I will report on some of the activities of this peacekeeping tour that is so very different from the majority of the Army’s recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Welcome to Cyprus!

In this blog I intend to share the experiences of 17 Port and Maritime Group’s tour in Nicosia, Cyprus, as part of the UN Peacekeeping mission on the island. The British Army’s contribution to the UNITED NATIONS FORCE IN CYPRUS (UNFICYP) is now the longest continuous operation for the British Army.  We have been here since 1964, which of course means many have heard of it and have seen the medal that goes with the tour, but what do we do and why are we here?

Well, it is not Afghanistan and it is not Iraq and nobody is being shot at and, yes, in some quarters the tour is known as a sun bathing tour.  That said this is a real tour that has its own challenges and the reasons that nobody is shooting at anybody is thanks to the UN in Cyprus and those who came before us in the past.  They were the ones who managed to stop the fighting and who have slowly but surely de-escalated the situation and kept the peace.  We now, as a result, are able to patrol and negotiate unarmed between two armed forces who look out at each other 24 hours a day.  Outside the Regimental Headquarters is the memorial to the 28 Canadian Peacekeepers who lost their lives on this tour that reminds us of those who went before.

Bike Patrol Sector 2 City Rorke’s Drift, Pte Billy Brook (l) Cfn James Morley (r) 17 Port and Maritime Regt RLC

Bike Patrol Sector 2 City Rorke’s Drift, Pte Billy Brook (l) Cfn James Morley (r) 17 Port and Maritime Regt RLC

North and South

So now the situation is that two armed forces face each other across a buffer zone and in between we, 17 P&M Group, as UN Peacekeepers, patrol and seek to maintain the status quo so that the UN can work with the political leadership in the North and South of the island to find a political solution to the ‘Cyprus question’.

To maintain the status quo we therefore have to monitor the two sides’ positions and ensure that they are manned at the agreed levels, that no positions are enhanced, and that neither side encroaches into the Buffer Zone.  To do this takes a keen eye and a level head.  And who is doing this challenging work?  In the main, it’s patrols of two soldiers, made up of Privates and Lance Corporals.

17 Port and Maritime Group is formed around the Headquarters element and 54 Squadron from 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, based at Marchwood and commanded by Lt Col Rob Askew RLC, who is also in command here in Cyprus as well.  The Group is augmented by members of the TA in the main drawn from 165 Port Regt RLC (V), the TA sister regiment of 17 P&M Regt RLC.

Capturing Force Protection activity in Kabul

Corporal Mike Hubbard - video operator CCT H17

Corporal Mike Hubbard – video operator CCT H17

I am Corporal Mike Hubbard and I’m an Army reservist, Rifles cap badge and member of the Media Operations Group (Volunteers) (MOG(V)). As an Ex-infantier-turned-photographer I’m currently deployed on a winter tour of Afghanistan on Op Herrick 17, as the video operator for the Army Combat Camera Team (CCT), which is a three-man team consisting of a photographer, video operator and team commander. This job is a million miles from my civilian career working for BT Global Services as an Account Manager

Layer of snow

As a team the three of us recently travelled up to Kabul, with the aim of collecting stories on 2 Signal Regiment. They are based out of Camp Souter, as well as their main signals/communications role they are also providing force protection and other services around Kabul. Working in the media you do notice Kabul doesn’t really get mentioned much, the focus is nearly always Helmand province. So units like 2 Signal Regiment get missed. They are actually doing an infantry task up in Kabul which the Signals have for a number of years. Herrick 17 will be the last tour the signals are doing this job as an infantry unit will be taking over the task on Herrick 18.

On arriving in Kabul the difference in weather was the most surprising thing, as we got off the plane there was a layer of snow everywhere.

As part of the visit, I filmed another My Job in Afghanistan video, following Staff Sergeant Britton in his job as a multiple commander.

My boots crunch through melting layers of ice covering the rough concrete pathway. Bits of rubble and the odd weed poke through the ice. I can feel the biting cold, cutting through my body armour as I walk in the looming shadows of derelict factory buildings. A portion of the UK troops based in Kabul call this camp home. An old factory constructed from concrete and steel, surrounded by high fences topped with razor wire and guard towers lining the perimeter of the camp.  Its times like this I’m glad I’m wearing a helmet, as they do provide some extra warmth.

Inside the buildings they could actually be any barracks back in the UK. Outside the whole place feels grey and dreary but when you look above the wire fences, concrete walls and shattered building, you see breath-taking views of mountains covered in snow and bathed in sunlight, a site you see in most ski resorts in the Alps but not something I associated with Afghanistan. When I leave the patches of freezing shade, the heat of the sun warms me up almost instantly. Everywhere we go in this country all the elements seem to be measured in extremes.

The one thing that is the same in either Kabul or down in Helmand is the smell, it’s not a bad smell but it’s always in the air. The smell of diesel from vehicles, mixed with burning rubbish and refuge. Also the gentle thrum of generators, that’s a sound that becomes so normal after 6 months out here you forget it’s even there. Every camp you go to, there are generators and their relentless noise.

Morale is high

Foot patrols with members of the Signals. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Foot patrols with members of the Signals. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

I arrive at the main gate and meet the rest of the patrol, all ready to head out into Kabul city on a foot patrol. The gate is sheet metal in fact there are two gates, a double layer of protection, with enough room for two vehicles to be closed in between them. Thick concrete blast walls flank the gates and the lane leading up to the gate is also lined with temporary concrete blast walls. The patrol stands in a rough gaggle, wearing full British uniform, body armour, helmets, eye-protective glasses, a mix of rifles and Mini-Mi machine guns are spread throughout the patrol. Rucksacks full of equipment, ammunition, water and radios weigh down everyone’s shoulders.

The banter is flowing so morale is high. I like to think it’s because the guys are looking forward to me videoing the patrol and making them all famous! But I doubt that. Thankfully we’re all stood in the sun while we wait for the last few to arrive. I can feel the sun soaking its’ heat into my core. Staff Britton walks over to me and says “when the main snow fall came at the weekend, it covered everything with about a foot of snow, the following day the sun came out and melted the lot in a couple of hours!”.

Whilst with the Signals, we went out on a foot patrol with them and a vehicle patrol here are some images take by my colleague Cpl Jamie Peters during these patrols.

Foot patrols with members of the Signals. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Foot patrols with members of the Signals. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Foot patrols with members of the Signals. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Foot patrols with members of the Signals. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Foot patrols with members of the Signals. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Foot patrols with members of the Signals. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Patrolling in vehicles. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Patrolling in vehicles. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Patrolling in vehicles. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

Patrolling in vehicles. Image by Cpl Jamie Peters

 

Don’t forget you can follow us on Twitter: @CombatCameraH17

Patrol base downsizing: a sign of the times

LCpl Hylands

LCpl Hylands

LCpl James Hylands (39), from Shaw, Oldham is a TA soldier who is currently serving with 8 Troop, 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron (AES) on Operation HERRICK 17.  He deployed along with the rest of 21 Engineer Regiment (21 Engr Regt) as part of Task Force Helmand Engineer Group, at the beginning of September 2012. Whilst on tour the squadron is known as Engineer Close Support Squadron 1, which covers the northern areas of operation of Task Force Helmand (TFH).

Two weeks’ freedom

Nearly 16 weeks have passed and the time has come (and gone) for R&R (rest and recuperation) a break from the life at Patrol Base (PB) Clifton.  A build-up of excitement surrounds you in the run-up to your R&R departure date, but the need to stay alert and switched on in an ever-changing environment is forever in your mind.  The sun baked days with record breaking temperatures have now been replaced by cold cloudy days and even colder nights.  Temperatures in the minus figures during the night present a new catalogue of problems for the Clifton team.  Water during the night quickly freezes with pumps and motors struggling with the extra demand placed on them from frozen water. The huge need of washing water in the morning time quickly has the lads out of bed trying to solve the problems now presented to them.

Flown back to Camp Bastion for R&R three days prior to your departure date, you attend the mandatory brief, basically about behaving yourself and the dos and don’ts during your two-week break.  It must be a headache for the management; here we have predominately young outgoing men who need time to rest operating in a stressful and challenging environment for weeks on end – to then be presented with two weeks’ freedom with extra non-spent money in their bank accounts.

Oxford to Manchester

Historically within the military system holding rank has its privileges, higher the rank better the privilege that’s the way it generally works with the exception of ‘Space A’.  For people returning to the UK for R&R the time allocated is 14 days including your travel time, effectively less the travel time you get 12 days at home (on average).  Where Space A  comes into effect is if there is an aircraft returning to the UK, not full, the seats are given out to the lowest ranking person first to return home slightly earlier to commence their R&R normally (2-3 days if you are lucky), hence the movement back to Camp Bastion 3-4 days before your fly date.

The kit that you have been lugging around with you for the last couple of weeks is handed back in.  Your 20kg Osprey body armour is replaced with a lighter flap jacket and your helmet stays with you for the return home.  Your weapon which has been constantly by your side or under your bed while you sleep, is placed in the armoury upon your return.  To be honest, once everything is handed back in you feel like you have lost something, for the next day or two when you get home, you are looking were you have placed your weapon; leaving or losing a weapon in theatre holds high consequences.

From Camp Bastion you pick up an RAF aircraft direct to the Middle East, a quick changeover to a civilian aircraft and 18 hours later I was catching a train from Oxford to Manchester.

Transforming PB Clifton

Since November 2012 we have been waiting for a decision on the future of PB Clifton, is it to close?  Be handed over to the Afghan Army? Nobody really knew.  Just prior to my R&R, a decision was made that it would be downsized, restructured and handed over to the Afghan Army early 2013. So here I stand now, fresh from R&R, transported by a Merlin helicopter back to PB Clifton, looking out of the window, not recognising the place.

Sangars have been moved, Hesco walls removed, more walls constructed, the place has totally transformed – construction is going on all around me as I’m left on the ground as the chopper flies away.

I see Cpl Rothwell approach me with a smile, he can see I’m bemused by the whole surrounding area.  “Come on,“ he says, ”I will put the kettle on and explain all.” I have only been gone three weeks I think to myself.

The beginnings of the Orthodox Build Earth (mud build) built by the Locally Employed Contractors

The beginnings of the Orthodox Build Earth (mud build) built by the Locally Employed Contractors

Doing what Engineers do best: bridging

Lance Corporal Hylands at PB Clifton

Lance Corporal Hylands at PB Clifton

LCpl James Hylands (39), from Shaw, Oldham is a TA soldier who is currently serving with 8 Troop, 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron (AES) on Operation HERRICK 17.  He deployed along with the rest of 21 Engineer Regiment (21 Engr Regt) as part of Task Force Helmand Engineer Group, at the beginning of September 2012. Whilst on tour the squadron is known as Engineer Close Support Squadron 1, which covers the northern areas of operation of Task Force Helmand (TFH).

Teaming-up to learn

With 8 troop’s recent achievements with the single story bridging task (Medium Girder 40-tonne load bridge) near Patrol Base (PB) Clifton, the next job to be tasked for us would be a bigger assignment, this time teaming up with our colleagues from 9 troop at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Ouelette.

Planned in for just over a week, the rehearsal stage required our team to travel there via Camp Bastion to practice and learn a new type bridge as quickly as possible. This time it was a double story MGB (Medium Girder Bridge capable of withstanding 70-tonne loads) with 10 bays (number of bays denotes the span it needs to span over a crossing).

FOB Ouelette is located further north along the green zone from us, following the Helmand River. It falls under a different operating area,  ours being Nahr-e Seraj, it being Coalition Force Burma, which was originally part of the Sangin Valley district.  Out of all the areas, 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron (AES) are operating in theatre FOB Ouelette is renowned as being the most kinetic and certainly has a large insurgent presence in its area, hence it has to treated with caution and vigilance.  Upon arrival, you notice this difference straight away. Up to late September this year there has been no significant attacks, but the cautious presence is still maintained.

Nine troop lads have been really busy in this place in the past couple of months shutting down PBs and Check Points (CPs) within the area, constantly working out on the ground, sometimes under small arms attack; whilst performing their daily tasks.  Everyone seems to have a different story to tell, but they have genuinely enjoyed being there and have worked strong as a team, which was evident to me instantly.

The accommodation and work area was a good little set up (it must be an engineer thing) housed in its own little gated yard, with heated tents, ISO containers doubling up as offices and a 12ft x12ft  tent acting as a welfare room; complete with TV and PlayStation.  Some of us were located in this accommodation with them, the others in the empty Hesco Accommodation Bunkers located around camp.

The purpose of our stay was to practice the build and deconstruct of a double story MGB as quickly as possible, working as a mixed 26-man team, in order that we could provide vehicle access bridges to cross a nearby canal obtaining access into a local town – should it be required.

Pairing off into three sections left, right and centre of bridge, we practiced constructing and dismantling the structure until everyone could complete the task with their eyes shut.  All the guys now are fully up to speed with what is required of us and everyone knows the role they could play in any forthcoming operations.

Having now returned to PB Clifton we await any instructions to return to FOB Ouelette to complete the bridging tasks should it be required.

Elements of the Medium Girder Bridge

Elements of the Medium Girder Bridge

Lesson on the Medium Girder Bridge

Lesson on the Medium Girder Bridge

Getting stuck into a practice build

Getting stuck into a practice build

Read about James here: Lance Corporal James Hyland

Bagpipes and dancing girls

Corporal Mike Hubbard - video operator CCT H17

Corporal Mike Hubbard – video operator CCT H17

I am Corporal Mike Hubbard and I’m an Army reservist, Rifles cap badge and member of the Media Operations Group (Volunteers) (MOG(V)). As an Ex-infantier-turned-photographer I’m currently deployed on a winter tour of Afghanistan on Op Herrick 17, as the video operator for the Army Combat Camera Team (CCT), which is a three-man team consisting of a photographer, video operator and team commander. This job is a million miles from my civilian career working for BT Global Services as an Account Manager

‘Cut and thrust of news media’

Where do I start! I’ve just sat down to write this blog and realised how much we’ve been doing! So here’s the highlights from the last month…

First of all what have we got released, well Jay, Cpl Jamie Peters, has had lots of his images used in various forms of print across the media.  On the video front some highlights for me were Remembrance and St Andrew’s Day. These two jobs were both with the Scots Guards who are based out at FOB Ouellette. For these jobs I had to film, edit and send the footage back to the media all in the same day, which is really what the CCT is made for and on both occasions STV (Scottish TV) ran with the stories.

Me and the boss interviewing.

Me and the boss interviewing.

Remembrance Day. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)

Remembrance Day. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)

1st Battalion Scots Guards celebrate Saint Andrews day in Helmand.

1st Battalion Scots Guards celebrate Saint Andrew’s day in Helmand. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)

1st Battalion Scots Guards celebrate Saint Andrews day in Helmand.

1st Battalion Scots Guards celebrate Saint Andrews day in Helmand. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)

The main challenges with this sort of job are, time appreciation and technology. Both these events were planned in true military fashion down to the minute. The situation really did remind me of wedding photography, the couple have their big day planned to the minute and they’ve planned in some 5 minute slots for photographs. You then have to deliver a slice of reality to them and the time table is started again actually giving you a chance to cover the day successfully. If only the military was that easy but as some one of a more senior rank than me has planned the days activity’s I don’t have a cat in hell’s chance so the only thing that is getting changed is my plan of attack. Inevitably there will be some things I can’t film as I’m somewhere filming something else or we’ve got the next  5 mins sprung on us to do an interview with the commanding officer, which also means I’m going to miss another key part of the day. I’ve found that I have to keep a mental note of what I have filmed and what’s left to shoot, if I imagine the news story in my head using the footage I have I will either be happy or start panicking!

In reality, news stations don’t need clips of ‘everything’ as they only have 20-30 seconds to fill with the story anyway, I just need to make sure what I do film is strong and tells the story, No pressure then. The technology side of this is the BGAN satellite link we use to send the rushes (video footage) back to the news and this dictates the other time issue. It will take me about an hour to take all the footage off the camera and cut it down to rushes, then we have to allow at least another hour to upload and if we’re aiming to get this on the evening news we really need to get it over to the news stations by 13.00 – 14.00 which is 17.30 Afghan time… So I need to stop shooting at around 15.00 and if they’ve got anything really interesting planned after that time I have to be really strict and not film it as we’d rather get what we have on the news than none at all because it went over to late. Both pieces were used by Scottish TV, which is great for us but more importantly it’s great for the guys we’ve filmed and their friends and family back home.

Freezing in the desert

It was my birthday last month. Another year older! But luckily it seems the might of the British Armed Forces came through and organised a CSE show for my birthday, although it seems they invited the rest of Camp Bastion as well. Combined Services Entertainment are part of the same organisation as BFBS and they travel the world as well as the UK and provide much needed entertainment to troops serving away from home. Normally in a period of six months they will visit Afghanistan twice hopefully giving a large portion of the troops out here a chance to relax for the evening and enjoy the show. You can see a video I put together of the night here:

Me filming the CSS show. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)CSS show. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)

Me filming the CSS show. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)CSS show. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)

Me filming the CSS show. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)CSS show. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)

Me filming the CSS show. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)CSS show. Cpl Jamie Peters (Army Photographer)

Me filming the CSE show. Cpl Mike oNeill (Army Photographer)

Me filming the CSE show. Cpl Mike oNeill (Army Photographer)

We’ve also spent some time putting together a video message from Afghanistan to be played at the British Military Tournament this month, so that’s quite exciting as it’s a high profile event, so keep your eyes out for that!

Also a continuation from my last post, the bridge-build by 21 Engineer Regiment ‘Gurkhas celebrate with watermelon’ the footage I shot got used on BFBS you can see the story here: BFBS link

I’ll leave it at that I could keep going but fear you may fall asleep! One final thought, we’re in the desert and its freezing!

Don’t forget if you’re on Twitter you can follow our progress on a more regular basis via our Twitter feed @CombatCameraH17