Trooper James Campbell is a member of the Headquarters Squadron of The King’s Royal Hussars (KRH). He is based in the Combined Force Lashkar Gah (CF LKG) Main Operating Base (MOB). The KRH are the lead unit for the Lashkar Gah area.
Today is the 2nd May and I have almost been in Afghanistan for a whole month. The training we first conducted when we flew into Camp Bastion seems like last year, as my time here so far has flown by.
We arrived into Bastion in the early hours of the morning on 4th April, so I didn’t see much of the camp but we were informed that it is a similar size to Reading. We were shipped to our accommodation, which consisted of 70 man tents with bunk beds, an experience in itself! Especially as the travelling from England to Bastion had been pretty hot so showers were needed for many!
In the morning we woke to begin our training. As soon as I stepped out of the tent I was blasted with the temperatures outside that were around 30 degrees and these will continue to rise as it is not even the middle of the summer. Looking back at our time in Bastion I can now understand why we had a couple of weeks in theatre at a slightly slower pace to acclimatise. The training in Bastion lasted just over a week and taught us the most up-to-date techniques needed to operate safely in theatre. The training was good as it gave me a bit of time to adjust as it would have been difficult to go straight out onto the ground.
A week later we flew to Lashkar Gah also known as ‘Lash Vegas’ – not because of the alcohol as there is none in theatre but because of the good living conditions provided at the camp. This would be where I would be spending my next six months. My mates and I, who are in the same team known as a Patrol, moved into a large room together and straight away we started to make it a bit more like home. Some of us bought rugs and posters went up quickly. I am part of the Commanding Officer’s force protection team called the CO’s TAC group. This ‘elite’ team, as I like it to be known as, provides the CO with protection when he has to go out to visit local public officials. We are a really close-knit bunch of lads and we all get on really well together.
Thriving with business
Since being in Lashkar Gah we have been on many patrols. I normally provide all round protection from my vehicle with a 50 calibre machine gun that is mounted on top of it. My job is to protect our patrol from any attack that may happen, so I act as more of a deterrent but it is quite a responsibility and I really enjoy it. The first patrol was pretty daunting to be honest which we did on our second day in Lashkar Gah. I would be lying if I said I was not nervous but shortly into the patrol into the centre of Lashkar Gah (the capital of the Helmand province) the environment seemed very relaxed. There were many locals who were waving and seemed happy to see us. However, one child had the accuracy of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor with a stone landing very close to me. Overall though, I was surprised to see how much the centre was thriving with business.
In our spare time when we are not working we do get some time to chill out and as we have our own welfare facilities we can spend time on the PlayStation and watch DVDs and plays darts. We have even got competitions going on the PlayStation which is great fun!
Outside of patrolling our daily routine tends to consist of maintaining the vehicles that we use and also building a few extra comfort areas where we can relax at the end of the day. Yesterday we spent some of the day building a gazebo like structure; admittedly it was not quite a Homebase piece of work but it was close enough. To be honest I think we could do our own Ground Force programme.
I have now been out on a number of patrols and it is really interesting to explore the local area and meet many of the locals. Sometimes being inside the base it feels as though you are away from the real environment outside. The time on the ground with the Afghan Forces doing some patrolling has surprised me as I was not expecting them to be so professional. I am looking forward to working with them more and I hope over the next few months when I write my other blogs to tell you all about it.