Posted by: TheAuthor | 15/07/2011

Life on the Mountain

Life on the crest of the mountain, dominating the landscape above the dam in Kajaki, Afghanistan, was as harsh as it was beautiful – just forget the razor wire is in the foreground of the picture.

Admittedly having to walk between the marked white lines on a path (a few feet wide at best) to avoid treading on a live mine, left over from the Russians, is initially daunting – however you quickly become accustomed to the concept. This, aside from the razor wire and Claymores laid out, brings you back to the reality of your location if you forgot during a thirty minute walk between the peaks of the mountain. Forgetting is easy to do, as you gaze across the war zone walking atop the mountain, with a full Jerry can on your back or another commodity required by fighting troops located in the observation posts (OP) at the peaks. Daily treks are made between the OP’s to transfer personnel, supplies or equipment. Most of the 10 men manning the OP would volunteer on the resupply run, simply to break up the daily routine of life on the mountain.

Daily life would consist of sentry duty, two hours on with eight off shift. In between would consist of possibly a shower; reading; talking; killing giant hornets; cooking a meal for one and all; clearing up after the meal; or calling home. The phone would pass across the OP’s every other day or so, hopefully with workable batteries, so you could get in touch with loved ones. The only issue with being in an active war zone and being able to use a phone (note for everyone, Camp Bastion is not located in the war zone and has never fired a shot in anger) is the possibility of being attacked whilst on the phone, which happened to me on one such occasion. Mortars were fired and landed as I was talking to home, resulting in us returning fire whilst I was still on the phone – not for long. No internet was available what-so-ever.

Showers were rare indeed, resulting in very sweaty and dusty skin and clothes. Hair became matted and blond, however fun to style. Life was feral for all concerned, even still everyone socialised and sought out each others company to listen in on what was going on back home. The food eaten consisted of tinned peas or carrots, spaghetti and something else around that we could boil.

Reading this may seem like life was harsh for everyone there, however it was one of the easiest periods of the time spent in Helmand. Supporting patrols with fire missions from the 0.50cal machine guns or responding to attacks was the hardest things became.

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