The sweets are getting through!

Sergeant Taz Taylor, on attachment to 34 Field Hospital (34 Fd Hosp), writes about his role on Operation HERRICK 12.

We are always on the go. We even read emails standing up!

We are always on the go. We even read emails standing up!

My name is Taz Taylor. I have been assigned to 34 Field Hospital since December 2008 and I am currently deployed on Operation HERRICK 12 for a six-month tour.  I’m employed in the Medical and Dental Servicing Section (MDSS) and we have a total of three technicians who have been brought together in order to deliver the required equipment support.  One of my colleagues is an RAF MDSS technician, and also working along side us is an American Biomedical Equipment Technician.  Our main job is the maintenance of over 2500 electro-medical equipment items held by the UK troops in Afghanistan.

We have all been out here for just over a month and are fully acclimatised and getting in to the swing of things.  Work at the moment is routine servicing, but we have had the odd ‘tricky’ fault to contend with.

Morale in the section is currently very high especially now the mail is getting through, thanks to British airspace being fully open. In other words – the sweets are getting through!  Next week I’ll give you an insight into the rest of the team, where they’re from etc…

Happy Birthday to me!

Corporal Claire Moses of 34 Field Hospital (34 Fd Hosp) writes about her week at Bastion Hospital.

Day 35 in Camp Bastion.

Only 840 hours or 50,400 minutes since arriving, but the big question is how long do we have left? Nobody has worked it out yet.

Highlight of the week: Receiving 8 parcels in one day (Thanks to my Moomin, Margarita Prakatan and Winnie).

Not as good as home but at least there was a cake and a present

Not as good as home but at least there was a cake and a present

So what’s been happening this week?  Well, The A Team is still going strong, however rumour has it that we’re losing our American colleagues who are off to pastures new.  They will be missed and Matt (our eye candy for the tour) has promised a picture in hot pants for the girls before he departs.  It gets busier every day on the ward especially now that  Evans has found her audit file!  We are faced with new challenges every day.

We had our first birthday on tour this week. Unfortunately it was mine and I am starting to feel my age.

But who says you can’t make the most of it on tour? We celebrated by getting up, having a shower, a deluxe meal in the cookhouse, off to work for a 12 hour nightshift and a piece of cake!  Thanks to all the guys and girls on the team for making it so special.

I can’t contain myself that our t-shirt design for the tour is nearly completed. I should have it by end of the tour!

“Military Mary” in Afghanistan

Corporal Claire Moses of the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, currently attached to 34 Field Hospital (34 Fd Hosp) writes about language and cultural  difficulties working in a field hospital in Afghanistan.

My friends know me as “Military Mary” because I transferred into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps to be a registered nurse in 2005, originally joining the Army as a military policewoman.  My parent unit in the UK is MDHU (Northallerton) where I work on a busy medical assessment unit.  Out here in Afghanistan I am employed on the intermediate care ward, with a secondary role as an aphaeresis (pathology) nurse.

So, day 26 in the “big brother house” which  is the wards of Camp Bastion. The handover is now well and truly over and we finally know what’s in the hundreds of containers stacked all over camp.

The multinational tri-service team seems to be working very well, which is a good thing seeing as though no one knew each other before we deployed.  The workload is high but sporadic.  Things seem, to be running very smoothly at present and I am confident it will remain that way.  Patient care has been challenging at times, particularly with regards to differing cultures, customs and language, but we’re managing to admit and discharge people in a timely manner.  The most common topic is how the NHS doesn’t prepare you for this environment; it’s unique and challenging to say the least.  Not even an enormous sand storm could stop us treating people, but after all the motto is “Join the Army. Be the best”.

The numerous dubious moustaches and beards are increasing on a daily basis.  Should we have a sweepstake or will we save that for the World Cup?  I haven’t heard any complaints or grumbles from the staff (or at least none that I can put in this blog)!  What more could we want, apart from effective air conditioning and a swimming pool!  Life just doesn’t get better than this.

Round Two in Afghanistan

Corporal Caroline Storm, from 34 Field Hospital (34 Fd Hosp), has returned to work in Bastion and explains her role on Operation HERRICK 12.

Me at work at the hospital

Me at work at the hospital

Hello. Let me introduce myself formally as Corporal Caroline Storm. Everyone knows me as Storm or Stormy (like the weather).  I’m here in Afghanistan for round two, as I deployed here back in 2006 on Operation HERRICK 4. Things have altered significantly since then!

The Role 3 Hospital has been transformed from a tented camp to a fully-functioning medical treatment facility, providing assessment, stabilisation and aeromedical evacuation back to the UK.

As a registered nurse in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps I am very proud to contribute to this multinational mission in support of the Afghan government and the people in order to facilitate a stable and peaceful country.

Back in the UK I am part of 3 Medical Regiment, where we are tasked to provide medical support to military exercises and on deployed operations.  I am currently working in the Emergency Department (ED) in the Bastion Hospital and it is certainly a dynamic and rewarding working environment. We see everything from minor ailments to major combat trauma.  It is truly unique, and with our US Navy contingent we operate like a well-oiled machine and are so proud to be part of it.

Do read my blog in the coming weeks to see what happens during my time in Afghanistan.

The life of a Nurse in FOB Inkerman

Sergeant Mal Dick is a Combat Nurse from the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, based in FOB Inkerman in Sangin for the duration of Operation HERRICK 12.

Bergen packed and goodbyes said, I trundled off towards the airhead and a much trained for trip into the southern part of the green zone of Afghanistan. Having completed the training package the previous day I mulled over all that I had learned and hoped would not have to put to use, such as the soldiering skills of weapons handling, ie using a general purpose machine gun, or the grenade machine gun,  and compound clearing (could you imagine!) I had a little chuckle to myself whilst sat in the “departure lounge” waiting to be called forward for the flight out on a Chinook helicopter. To be honest it was more of a nervous laugh as I had watched a program called “Chicks at war” (I think that’s what it was called) along with my wife, the Thursday prior to deploying.  The program followed the trials and tribulations of a female Corporal Gunner who was serving at Forward operating base (FOB) Inkerman, which she nicknamed FOB Incoming because of the amount of contacts it was having. I remember my wife looking at me rather wide eyed stating: “You won’t be going there will you?”

“Of course not” I had replied. At that point I believed I was working in Bastion. You can imagine her face when I came home the next day and said: “You’ll never guess where I’m going!”

With reality looming I checked I had all my kit, Bergen and day sack, body armour on, weapon attached, helmet and goggles. Check complete I couldn’t help wonder that despite shedding all the extra kit  why I was feeling too heavy.  Nothing I could do about it now as I was heading up the ramp of the helicopter. I’ve flown on a Chinook before but this flight made me a little nervous, not because I was flying out to a Forward Operating Base but because there were no seats left and I would be perched on the boxes of cargo which to my mind were too near the open end of the drop doors. I gave a nervous glance to the cargo master and his positive thumbs up did not quell the thought that this journey would be a bit like a roller coaster ride with no safety harness.

My misgivings had been unfounded and I realised that I probably had the best seat, as I watched the desert swiftly pass by a couple of hundred metres below. The vastness of the landscape was remarkable with the contrast of the view of the Green Zone even more so as we circled and landed at the helicopter landing site outside FOB Inkerman.  I stumbled down the ramp with bags on back,  met by a barrage of shouts instructing me in that age-old squaddy language of profanity to get in behind the wall ASAP! Once through the gates the pace was a lot calmer as I was met by Lance Corporal  Jodie Hill who cheerfully stated “Welcome to stinky Inky”. I have to admit being met by this bubbly Welsh blonde was far removed from what I had imagined would greet me in the middle of the desert.

The Medical Centre after the tidy up!

The Medical Centre after the tidy up!

Having booked in at the Ops room I headed off with Jodie to the Medical Centre and met up with the Medical Officer, Major Demontes. As we approached the Medical Centre  ‘the Doc’ was outside to greet  me with a warning that the medical centre needed ‘a little work ‘as it had been recently moved from its original ‘building’ into a more central location. Probably just needs a little squaring away I thought, as I pushed through the vinyl curtain door into the Hesco building. To say I was off the mark would be a bit of an understatement. I don’t mind telling you I had a bit of a moment, with more than a hint of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, seeing boxes of medication, team medic packs, etc etc etc, strewn around. The container being used as the med store didn’t look any better and I am sure I wailed that it would take me weeks to sort it all out. In the end it took a couple of days of concerted effort and it is, I am pleased to say, a fully functioning medical centre complete with a reception area, a primary health care bay and 2 bedded trauma bay with all the kit and equipment laid out neatly.

Drama out of the way it was time settle into camp routine. The day starts at 0700-ish when I get up from my mosquito net covered cot bed and try not to bump into anything in my 1 metre x 3 metre ‘room’. I don my shorts and t-shirt and head off around camp on my morning run, 10 laps is about 7 kilometres so this tells you how big it is. Despite its size the camp holds a fair amount of buildings, equipment and soldiers, including contingents of marines, engineers, gunners and various other attached personnel. Run finished, I head to the showers, or should I say to a cold hosing, for my early morning wake-up call (ablution containers are not plumbed in yet). There’s nothing like cold water to make you have a ship (read fast) shower and conserve water, whether you want to or not. Off to breakfast in the cookhouse and as with all meals thus far they have been generally excellent. We’ve not had ration packs too often and have a pudding of some sort most evenings (of course I save these for Sundays as a treat).

Work day then starts at 0800 when we have sick parade and start all the administration for the day (equipment care checks, mopping to keep the dust down etc). Sick parade is meant to finish at 1000 however it tends to run all day as people come in off the ground. As with any medical centre we see a range of common ailments, ie athletes foot, dodgy tummies, aches and pains, however we have had the out-of-the-ordinary that have required treatment at the field hospital in Bastion. I hadn’t given this a moment’s thought that these wouldn’t always be for battlefield injuries. All of this may sound almost mundane. However the environment (sandstorms, high temperature) the austere conditions (Hesco buildings, temperamental electricity supply) and of course the occasional incoming small arms fire and the odd explosion (a war story for another day) ensures that it is anything but.

My role as front line nurse does not see me confined to FOB Inkerman alone. It also includes other duties such as trips down the 611 Highway to provide medical cover and to  touch base with the patrol bases (the Mastiff really is a great piece of kit); a 3 day stint at the most forward PB in the Inkerman area of operations, providing medical cover whilst other assets were re-assigned. A taste of PB life  put into perspective the relative luxury of FOB life:  no electricity, no fresh food, and Sanger (watchtower) guards 3 times daily (thank goodness for the weapon familiarisation). This is where I learned what ground signs are really like and eyeballed copious ‘murder holes’ from which the insurgents operated.

As you can see the role of the nurse within a FOB is a multi-faceted one that daily provides challenges on many different levels. It gives an opportunity to see a side of military life not often visited by the ‘Grey Mafia’ and a chance to utilise the skills learned. It is a rewarding role that despite some of the perceived hardships I continue to look forward to fulfilling and developing for the remainder of this tour.