Captain Mau Gris began this blog when he was team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1st Mechanized Brigade on Op Herrick 18. He tells his Afghan story up until 27 September 13.
Mau returned to the UK at the end of September 2013. The rest of his blog will focus on leaving the Army and going back to the life of a civilian. For Mau, this includes going back to university – trading his helmet and combats for a mortar board and gown.
Hello, I’m Captain Mauricio Gris. The son of a Mexican father and Irish mother, I started my career in the Household Cavalry. I am the team leader and also principle writer/interviewer, so all the spelling mistakes, howling grammar and boring questions are mine!
Returning to civilian life: Back to basic
My first Army DS was a 6ft 4 Yorkshire man with a shorn head, who’d deliver ‘instructions’ and ‘encouragement’ like enemy machine gun fire and with similar effect. Often peppering the platoon with wisdom when we were up to our webbing in water in some godforsaken Welsh ditch.
Bitter-sweet return: Helmand to home, soldier to student
Our new team had arrived, our kit was handed over and the requisite briefs were completed. Our job here was over. For me it is the last post I will hold as a British Army officer. It’s weird even writing it. Believe it or not I have even delayed writing this, because it feels that once I do it is real.
50 Shades of Green
You cannot beat the first time you lay eyes on the UK countryside after a prolonged time in the desert. Everything is so green and lush; the smells so familiar and comforting. The taste of that first beer.
The all-seeing eye
You could hear the pressure of the situation in the voice of the person on the other end of the radio, hear the background noise, which fills the quiet composed room you are controlling in, giving life and urgency to what would initially look like bland, aerial images.
Chaos and the creative mind
I have worked with numerous Army photographers and not one of them is alike style-wise or work-wise. It is amazing to see the difference in their creative eyes, you could put ten of them in the same room with a photography brief and get ten completely different sets of photos.
Filming a gun fight at night in 3D
The night came. I was carrying the big 3D camera initially as Lloydie was running about filming with the night vision camera. Unsurprisingly It’s flipping hard to get through irrigation ditches, waist high crops with a massive camera in one hand and rifle in the other, and with your depth perception shot to bits because you only have night vision on one eye!
In the midst of the fight
We take the same risk to show people what our fellow soldier goes through. We were in danger anyway and if you don’t get it, you might as well not be there in the first place. Lloydie and His Holiness were straight up there.
The edge of the fight
Then the first rounds were exchanged. The enemy had reorganized and were fighting back after seeing what the troops were doing. It’s a strange thing; immediately looking to get somewhere more exposed when the shooting starts; but as a team we have to get the footage or stills of the action as it happens, to get the story.
War dances and the nomadic life
Now imagine if you’d told me I would be filming a Maori war dance. Sure enough, I found myself in a small tent confronted with 60 Tongan soldiers who were going to show me how it was well and truly done.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
Large events like this pose their own problems for the guys – both Lloydie and his Holiness (Sgt Pope) have to contend with the crowd, who don’t like people pushing past them to get closer to the stage. Also moving around a venue that is much larger takes time and can make cutting a bit trickier. Lloyd and his Holiness nailed it – working like madmen to get the shots they needed.
3 May 2013
Herrick 18 Stories: Filming close quarters combat in the third dimension
Lloydy and his Holiness (Sgt Pope) were really earning their pay on this shoot. As the producer I had to concentrate on holding my tongue and getting them the time they needed to do the job, as well as not ruining their shots by accidentally walking into them, which I have done more than once. Don’t ask me how, it just happens.
25 April 2013
Herrick 18 Stories: The meaning of CCT becomes clear
With a real-time deadline of 12.30pm for 1pm News to get the material back to the UK in time, we had a real rush. The satellite decided it didn’t want to work. Great! So we had to rush around like mad men trying to hop on a computer anywhere we could. We managed it by the skin of our teeth and got to see our images on the news for the first time!
16 April 2013
Herrick 18 Stories: Military Dogs homeward bound
When you’re stumbling around in the dark surrounded by MWDs, it is a useful fact to know that the dogs you have to be careful of are not the protection dogs, who tend to be bigger and louder than the rest, it’s the hyper-focused search dogs that will have a little nibble on you if you get too close.
4 April 2013
Op Herrick 18 Stories Part 1: Chefs, Cherry Bakewells and the Combat Granny
This is the first blog for the combat camera team out here in Helmand, Afghanistan. We are here to get the stories of our service personnel back to the UK. That can be words, photos, radio and video. It’s that simple.