A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

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Camps in Afghanistan are interesting places. They’re essentially small cities, more or less entirely self-contained, and designed to provide space for residents to live, work, play, and generally enjoy a comfortable existence during their residency.

Camps are run by the Mayor’s Cell. There is an actual Mayor, though he’s appointed by virtue of his job, rather than elected. He employs a number of officers who look after everything from housing (billeting) to food services, to contracting services, to managing classroom/office space, to discipline on certain matters like water consumption. There’s a fire department, a post office, shops, a telephone exchange. There’s a small army of local nationals (Afghans) who do maintenance work, run the DFAC, and so on. It is a very busy place at times.

As far as water consumption goes, the hope I have is that the massive snowfall Afghanistan has “enjoyed” this winter will make sure that the aquifers are well replenished and hopefully we won’t have any issues with water supplies. Right now there are none, but with the summer coming and some movements into my camp on the horizon that may change. Problems have happened before, there are posters about rationing to be found in some places, for now mostly common sense prevails. Note that this is water for washing and so on. Drinking water is all bottled water, which is abundant. There are “kiosks” literally everywhere piled high with bottled water – mostly from Uzbekistan, some from a plant in Bagram that is as I understand it Afghan-owned.

That’s actually one of the interesting things in the DFAC – stuff comes from all over. Pepsi products from Germany. Coke from the UAE. Orange juice from Uzbekistan. Milk from Bahrain. It’s a little bizarre to think about how out supply chain works.

Of course, for all the cozy atmosphere here, and it really is, there is no escaping the reality of the place. The camp is ringed with Hesco Bastion walls, topped with barbed wire. Observation towers surround it. The entrance point has a complex system of controls for anyone entering, manned by armed guards with no sense of humour. Bunkers are situated around the camp in case of an indirect fire attack. This is, after all, a military encampment in the heart of a country with an active, dangerous insurgency.

Part of inclearance is a series of boring briefings – don’t play with feral animals lest you get rabies, reviews of ROEs and other policies, and even a trip to the clearing bay to prove you can safely handle

your weapons and understand the rules about what’s carried and how. This step gets a little interesting when you have various countries present. We all use different weapons with different drills, and sometimes we have to remind our partners that we are directed to use the drills we are taught at home, not try to adopt American or other ones. The differences are generally minor, but can cause concern to those unaware. For example, Americans are taught to cock their rifles after clearing and set the selector switch to Safe, then load a magazine. This puts the weapon in what we call loaded not readied state. There is no round chambered so pulling the trigger will do nothing. Canadians do not cock first, and because of the way that our rifles are designed it is physically impossible to put them on safe if the hammer isn’t cocked. Our logic for doing this is to keep the springs from being compressed unnecessarily I’m told.

Someone could, however, spot that my rifle would have magazine loaded and the selector on fire and be justifiably concerned. To us it’s normal but to our peers it’s worth an explanation.

This task complete we then got a brief on the defensive plan, and a conveniently timed exercise/rehearsal for the whole camp. There’s a lot that happens in the event of any incident, as such it’s important that all the key people know what they are supposed to do. Everyone has a job to do in such a situation, and practice makes perfect. Each rehearsal allows for reviews and improvements based on lessons learned. We hope we never have any need of the plans, but they exist for a reason.

With all that now out of the way we actually now are mostly focused on the handover process, which is getting a handle on how things will work – who does what, where, and when. As our group is in the middle of transitioning it’s not really a simple one for one exchange of people and duties, either. We are basically restructuring our organization to fit what we need to do as we move forward.

The good thing is that my initial worries about having my tour cut short are now dealt with, we have seen what the plan is to work ourselves out of jobs, and it looks reasonable. All I need now is my leave dates locked in and things are golden.

Written by Nick

March 2, 2012 at 4:09 am

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