Sweating It Out

Major Mark Suddaby, a Company Commander with 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) is commanding an Adviser team charged with developing the 1st Kandak, or Battalion, of the Afghan National Army. Here, Advizer 10A – as he is known, writes about the summer fighting season and the challenges of the working in the Afghan heat.

The summer fighting season has arrived.  We talked about it as if we knew what it meant.  The insurgents would up the tempo of their attacks, but it would be okay because we would up ours to compensate.  We planned operations to take the fight to them and away from the populated areas; to protect the locals, which is our principal job.  But we didn’t appreciate the strength-sapping intensity of the heat.  Nor the weight of the equipment and protective armour that we carry or the complexity of the terrain we have to cover.  Finishing every patrol is a victory over here.

The lush but wild vegetation of the Green Zone, mixed with compounds and the deep irrigation ditches that criss-cross the Nad-e’Ali District make movement across the ground hazardous and there isn’t a point in the day or night when we’re not sweating.  Well, there is: five minutes.  Five minutes after a shower; we are sweat free then.

So when an operation requires elements of my Company to operate in this environment all day, and often into the night, it’s a miracle that they cope at all.  Add in harassing fire by the insurgents and I am unable to do justice to what they endure.  These men and women, of my Company and others in Helmand – British, Afghan, American – are true warriors, who ply this difficult trade in the most inhospitable environment on the planet.  They work in inhumane conditions of searing heat and cloying dust to bring security to a people involuntarily caught up in the most difficult of all small wars – a counter-insurgency campaign.

Why do I mention this?  To hint at a soldier’s life out here in Afghanistan.  To attempt to express the challenges and the truly herculean efforts that they go to, to achieve the tasks set for them.  They say that the three month point is like hitting a psychological wall.

They are right.