Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The view from Bee House 5

Camp Shank
September 29th 2008

The view from Bee House 5 is a bunker; then again view is a wrong word to use, as there are no windows in barracks in Afghanistan. You live in a dark cocoon where day and night are realized by either opening the door to whether it is dark (thus night) or light (thus daytime), or you can look at your watch.

Most of the bases in the East of Afghanistan come under regular attacks from rockets of the Insurgents on a regular basis, there is no witching hour the rockets can come at any time and soldiers do get injured or killed again on a regular basis.

Whilst you can easily ignore a stewardess on a plane trip with disdain about what to do in the event of an emergency when the soldier introduced us to Bee house 5.

The first and foremost information parted was not where the closet latrine is or what hours the Dfac (Dining facility) opens for meals. But what to do in the event of a rocket attack.

Calmly it was explained that there is usually sixty to ninety seconds between the first strike and following rockets so if you are not hit in the initial attack make your way as fast as you can to the bunker.

The bunker outside our beehouse was about ten feet long made of two concrete U shaped bocks turned upside down and covered with sandbags. Inside there was a stretcher, two sandbags to sit on and 31 bottles of water. Blocked at each end apart for a squeeze entrance to get in and out off.

The next question, we faced was whether to sleep with your boots on or off. Whilst it may sound like a silly thing to consider before going to bed, the reality is that in the event of an attack, could I in the dark find my boots, tie the laces and get safely to the bunker. Then again I would also have to have my camera on and be filming at the same time using night vision scopes which are the hardest things to use whilst not in a panic and having your heart race at 150 beats a minute.

In situations like this the camera never leaves my side, if I go to the latrine the camera goes with me, brush your teeth or go for a meal the camera comes with you. Because at any stage an attack can happen and running across a rocky parade ground a couple of hundred meters to get the camera is not an option. If it's not with me then I do not get the pictures, bunker or camera – the bunker will win.

I finally went to sleep last night at around ten thirty, late by isolated Forward Operating Bases standard, fully clothed with my boots on. The local wisdom is that if you have not been rocketed by midnight then it is a good bet that the night will pass quietly. I had practiced counting my steps down the stairs to the bunker three times before lying down. Two normal steps then a small half step and a drop to the ground three steps to the right and into the bunker.

In the early hours in the dark I finally took my boots off in the dark, reached across and checked my camera with night vision was at arms reach before falling asleep.

Just another day (or night) on the frontline in Eastern Afghanistan, a clear night sky crystal clear with stars and luckily no rockets rained down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Only makes it more important to us to get some politicians who are worthy of our Military into office, reading your blogs. How some can go on living like this war doesn't exist, ignoring reality, I don't know. Thanks for focusing us in so we get a clear picture, Mr. James. Can't wait to see some of your film footage and thanks for the photos you post.