4th March 2002 What a relief, a proper airplane rather than a hercules.
Lads on Tour
Despite being shipped off to kill people with a variety of modern personal weapons, and being transported by an organisation responsible for a massive amount of firepower, due to the 'panic' regulations introduced to airlines following 9/11, we couldn't take on board such things as nail files, pointed scissors, etc.
We arrived in the dark, to huge tented cities stretching away into hazy dust beneath harsh electric spotlights and the smell of damp dust. We were fed Bacon Rolls and eggs, and ferried quite efficiently from holding area to holding area.
We had with us our immediate personal kit and weapons; the vehicles were being shipped out, and we had put our bulkier but inexpensive items in them. Nevertheless there was a fair amount to cart about.
Our first "GAS GAS GAS" in a holding area, how exciting. A rather embarressing display of "We don't know what we're doing" by the management. Everyone else had taken their masks off (including me) and were going about their business, but our officers were still masked up and talking about following the drill properly. Which I think involves waiting for an all clear from brigade. Instead of looking about the biggest sniff test available; all these people behaving in a I'm-not-being-gassed manner.
We were reasonably quickly shipped out to a camp in 'Camp Eagle', a vast holding area of small groups of tents surrounded by 'berms', an wall of sand raised by bulldozer. Quiet speach from JNBCR colonel ("you're not on exercise now"), no mobiles, no satphones, no email aaargh!
Our first camp was shared with some of JNBCR (not sure which bits), quite crowded with 26 of us in a tent 10m x7.. The vehicles having been shipped long before we left, arrived a few days after we did. We ran some decon exercises to demonstrate our ability to JNBCR management. Initially both sides came away with a firm belief in the others incompetence, but this softened after a few days contact.
The beginning of the end of the mess tent. It collapsed entirely in a storm on the 6th
The Vehicles Arrive
Me posing warry-like. Or just scruffy.
Drops Practicing at Night
After the end of the end of the Ablutions Tent.
NBC gear. Warm.
On the Decon Line - Warmer
6th March Rain storms and the mess tent collapsed. Back into furniture removal mode to get stuff into the dry tents. Evening ended with a session to assemble some maps; with no sellotape, no lighting and no flat surfaces. There appears to be no supply mechanism for troop level materials, such as batteries, light bulbs, pens, etc. We're self-supplying we are....
Good things: hot breakfast, fresh fruit, hot water to wash in (little gas/diesel heaters in oil drums). The ablution tent blew down...
Change of ORBAT; I'm now MIB signaller with Conn (commander) and Brook (driver) as command vehicle #2. Same vehicle though, I would have been very upset to be pulled off that after all that work.
Fri 7th Prepped vehicles, more decon practice. Went to respray landie; very quick job, nice custard colour. Wrote first bluey home while waiting. By the time we left it was dark, and alongside us Challenger 2 tanks, soon to be yellow, rumbled in.
Sat 8th More decon tewts. Unfortunately the pattern seems to be that a presentation is made to us, we ask some questions that reveal quite major holes in the planning, the presenters get all defensive and insist it's perfect, and force the session closed. We are left not only with a management that don't know much about what they're doing, but seem blind to working out a process, maybe even including people who've done these things before. We could do with someone in there with real management experience to do a simple time and motion study on the sites!
Out 'in the field' for the evenings, just behind the berms, getting used to living off the vehicles. I can hear artillary in the background.
Tues 11th GAS GAS GAS this morning; apparently the sentries heard the sound of metal on metal and raised the alarm. We were putting up cam nets and hammering in the pegs... So now we deaden the sound with hessian sacks!
Int briefing last night, very funny stuff from Cpn B, but very hot and muggy in the tent. Looks like 1 Section (Sgt T) with my vehicle as command are going to support 16 Air Assault. Ouch... Also looks like there won't be much Op decon, as 16AA are going to 'releive in place' the Americans and there's unlikely to be more than platoon-sized Iraqis left.
We're all wearing gasmask bags all the time, er 'Respirator Haversacks'. Everyone's bum looks big.
Wed 12th In the middle of the night, 1 Tp and ourselves as Tp HQ were detached and assigned to G Sqn JNBCR. More respect to Harry Flash who turned up to say good luck; the only RY officer to do so. Several minus responsibility points to the rest who decided they'd rather kip.
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