Hagar’s Day Is The Night Shift

My day:

I work mainly nights when on det, it’s the safest time of day out here. The dark is my friend so I embrace it and hopefully, it will look after me. I get up around 4:30pm. It’s still hot outside, low 40s Celcius. You can feel the heat even from inside our 2 man air conditioned room. A shave and a clean of my teeth and I am ready to get dressed into my fire proof Multi Cam combat trousers and shirt. A cotton t-shirt or flame proof long sleeved layer goes underneath, along with cotton underwear. In my right thigh pocket is an escape map, printed on silk, so it is small and yet strong, in my left, some American dollars and a morphine syrette, safely contained inside a plastic ‘coffin’ so it doesn’t auto-inject me by mistake (as has happened to some pilots in the past!). My left hip pocket contains a lip salve and mini leatherman tool, my right a small wallet with my meal card (more on that later) my various compound passes and my ID. My shirt chest pockets hold my work mobile phone and pager. Around my neck goes my dog tags and small head torch that always lives there for when I am in the dark and need to see! I wear desert socks and tough desert boots, with sole that won’t melt in a fire – I often wonder that if I am standing in a fire that is hot enough to melt the soles of my boots I won’t care if they are melt proof or not, as the rest of me will be melting anyway! On my head go my issue ESS sunglasses (going from dark to light is hard on the old peepers) and my Multi cam floppy hat with cut down rim to make it look less like a sombrero……

I walk the 5 minutes to work with some of my crews and we check in to see what’s on the cards for us work wise, sometimes busy straight away, sometimes not. If we are not busy, we have scoff, then gym, then TV, sometimes we go shopping…..

Around 7pm we go for ‘Breakfast’ ie Scoff, but that is evening meal time for most people, so we have pasta or salad or steak or burgers etc. The choice of food is pretty good, as the choice of eating establishments (around 5 at the last count – hence a meal card so we can eat anywhere). If we are busy, it is: in, eat, out, no messing – a habit I always continue for a while after I get home – speed eating (along with Det tourettes). I usually grab a triple coffee at that point with plenty of sugar, to take away, if its going to be a long night. If we are out all night flying we usually get back after it gets light, so we go from day into night into day, which is a bit of a head fuck until you get used to it. When we land, we de-brief the night and then give the aircraft back to our engineers who fix our trusty steeds, make good all the things that re broken, patch any holes the bad guys have made in them, feed and water them, and get them ready to go out to work again later that night. They are bloody good, our engineers, I like them a lot, they look after us – we need them too.

Once we have popped back into work and shut things down for the night, we usually bimble off for brekkie, sometime a full fry if its been a hard night, sometimes fruit salad, always loads to drink. In fact I seem to drink all night when I am flying, endless bottles of water passed forward to me by my crewman and I never need a piss until after I land – that’s what flying in fire proof gear, sitting in an armoured seat, wearing body armour, a frag vest and survival combat jacket, in a glass cockpit with an outside temperature of 35 degrees C at 3 in the morning, does for you. When we get back to the block, its shower and chill time for a wee while then collapse into the lower bunk of my bunk bed (the top bunk holds my junk) and with a fond look at the pics of my kids above my pillow, I fall asleep. The sleep of the tired and the damned, or maybe, just maybe, sometimes the sleep of the righteous. 14 hours per day, 7 days a week, 10 weeks.

That’s was my day. How was yours?

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Home and Away

In Crapistan – news from the frontline:

Hagar writes;

“So, finally back off to war. It’s a strange feeling leaving home, kind of bittersweet; the excitement of heading back to a conflict zone, versus the pain of leaving those you love. Its hardest as you get on the bus from camp to the departure airhead. Everyone sits in silence after the initial banter; deep in their own thoughts of what they are leaving behind and what awaits them in theatre. You get to the airhead and the buzz begins again as you check in. It’s the usual banter about business class seats and fit air hostesses……

Then more waiting and thinking. The flight usually seems to go quite quickly, on the way out. Before you know it you have arrived and then it hits you once again – the heat. 37 degrees in the middle of the night. Walking down the steps from the air conditioned jet you begin to sweat. It takes a few days to get acclimatised so you immediately become aware of how much water you will have to take on every day – we always have a bottle of water to hand when we can, especially on the cab – usually warm!

You get a small adrenaline buzz as you first step back onto Afghan soil. Memories of previous dets come flooding back and a shiver runs up your spine, not knowing what is to come on this one. Mainly though you are glad to have arrived; looking forward to getting stuck in again, doing the job you love. The job I love. The flying here is the best, the most challenging, the scariest and the most fun.

The other thing that hits you is the smell, dry hot smells; aviation fuel, burning fires and human excrement – the smell I miss the least! At first your senses become almost overwhelmed, then quickly you become used to it again and you simply crack on. A different life from the one you have just left begins, you move forward, onwards and upwards. Now is the time to step up to the plate and do what you have training to do for a long time, things may have changed since you were last here, but the job is essentially the same; fly hard, provide support, provide effect get everyone in and get everyone out. Simple.”

Home front:

AMMM writes;

“I am hooked on the News International scandal of the decade. I am gripped by the corruption and subterfuge. It is endemic. I predict that this will be as big as Profumo. Everybody disagrees with me. But I think it could be bring Cameron down. It certainly could fell News International. I keep waiting for Rebekkah Brooks (RB) and James Murdoch to resign and I am astonished that they are still yet to do it.

It’s the best telly we have had for ages. I hear tales of old school tie. Of power elites in London of top media types rubbing each others backs and lining each others interest.

What surprises is me is that everyone is so surprised. Quelle horreur – what is this the biggest news corporation in the world is corrupt and adopts underhand practices to get to the heart of the matter by scurrilous means? Surely not? Non! And it appears that nobody at the top knew about it – really? I put it to you m’lud that they all knew about it! Even Cameron! And they all thought that they could just sweep it under the carpet and put a chair over it. (IMHO – obviously, I am speculating. Please don’t send the chief of wolves out to get me so I can be turned to stone. But c’mon!! Who in Great Britain believes that they didn’t know about it! Seriously!)

The crisis reminds me of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The White Witch is the land’s self-proclaimed queen. She tyrannizes Narnia through her magically imposed rule. Her spell on Narnia has made it “always winter but never Christmas” for a hundred years. When provoked, she turns creatures to stone with her wand.

But who is Aslan in all of this? Please don’t let it be Ed Miliband. What’s Nick Clegg up to? So I watch with baited breath – will this crisis bring down Cameron? I have heard he is very good buddies with RB. He had the whole News International team over for drinky-poos the other day at number 10. I wonder if he hosts a Guardian Media Group drinky poos too. To be impartial, of course. Is this the fall of Rome – are the walls crumbling around them or will they weather the crisis? I am gripped and am just loving watch the drama unfold. Is the collapse of News of the World a house of cards that will bring down the Murdoch empire? You couldn’t make it up and make it more exciting!

This has proved to be a welcome distraction in the face of Hagar’s recent departure. Interestingly, I was interviewed by Heart FM about how I felt about himself going to war for the 7th time. The interviewer made an interesting point, which I didn’t have the heart to jump upon at the time. She said something along the lines of ‘the job of the wife is to’…..Being a wife is a job? I didn’t know that when I said ‘I do’ I had taken on a job. I am naive, I suppose. If I had known that being a wife was a job then I would have negotiated the T&Cs much harder. I would have asked for a better pension, a wage, better working hours. I had never thought about being a wife as a job – or being a husband as a job. If I had known it was a job I would never have signed the contract in the first place!”

Hagar Goes To Afghanistan

Has Hagar gone? Hasn’t he? Fuzzy Duck? Does he? Ducky Fuzz? Maybe he has. Maybe he hasn’t. The exact timings don’t matter. What matters is how we all feel. How does he feel? How do I feel? How do the kids feel?

I thought you might want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. From Hagar himself. I can’t really tell you how he feels. Only he can. Now he can’t be seen so unfortunately you have to watch me in order to listen to him. To find out what Hagar thinks you will have to watch the video below.

Everyone has their way of handling their life and we have ours. Hagar and I have always agreed that there will be no big goodbyes. Just business as usual. To us this is business as usual.

From my perspective. I have one life and I want to live it to the full. I can’t waste energy I can’t spare, on things I can’t control. I can’t control what happens in Afghanistan and I can’t worry about what I can’t control. ‘Que sera sera’, said Doris. Hagar knows his onions. He will be the best he can be. He knows what is at stake. He said to his guys, ‘success to me is that we come back with as many as we go out with’.

The Chinook is an army asset. It is tool used to help the boots on the ground to get the job done. Hagar knows he is there to support the guys on the ground to achieve the task, to mitigate the risk and deliver the unthinkable. This is the job. This is his job.

What do I think? I want him to be vigilant at all times. To come home again. It is tiring though being strong, putting your head down, digging in and pushing through – again and again and again and again and again. I can’t sit still, rocking under the table waiting for him to come home. We all have a life to live. A life to celebrate so I think I am just going to work, dance and drink through it and keep my kids smiling. I’ll tell them that daddy is at work and when they say, “I miss daddy.” I’ll smile and say, “I miss daddy too. It’s fine to miss daddy but he has a job to do so that he can buy you toys.” When you are 8 years old, saying food and keeping a roof over your head, keeping you safe at night, doesn’t have the same meaning as toys. Toys are an 8 year old’s currency. (Before we get into a materialism debate – The Grenade has real sense of kindness, helpfulness, manners and solid values. But he loves toys – what kid doesn’t?)

We don’t make a thing of it to the kids. Daddy is away. They don’t know where he has gone or what he is doing. This is just normal. Daddy’s here sometimes and sometimes he’s not; that’s just the way it is. I have said before there is a lot of away – exercises, night flying, day flying, practising – sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes a few months. Away is just away. My kids deserves a childhood free of anxiety wherever possible. I believe that my job is to protect them from the reality of war and give them a carefree childhood full of love and possibilities. They will have adulthood to contend with eventually.

Tick, tock, tick, tock – the clock ticks. Time passes and the war continues on. To stay or go. If we stay there will be trouble. If we go there will be double.

US declare 33,000 troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan

On Thursday morning at 07.10am I received a phone call from BBC Radio London asking me to comment on Barack Obama’s announcement on the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan. (Alas I wasn’t available at the allotted time frame.)

I was, however, also on the spot. What did I think? I didn’t even know. I waft in and out of knowledge and awareness about the conflict in Afghanistan. I find the whole situation frustrating and annoying. It’s been part of my life for so long now that it’s like an irritating relative, who is part of your blood line and we are stuck with each other.

Somebody told me an apocryphal tale about a conversation between a British Foreign Secretary and a senior member of the Afghanistan Government. The Foreign Secretary asked something along the lines of, “how long after the complete withdrawal of ISAF forces would Karzai’s Government retain power in Helmand.”
His reply, “24 hours, Foreign Secretary. 24 hours.”

Ding Dong, Osama’s dead! Ding Dong!Osama’s dead. Which Osama? The Wicked Osama!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Osama is dead.
Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Osama is dead. He’s gone where the goblins go,
Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Osama is dead!

Barack Obama is a politician, whose power depends on the will of the people who vote for him. He put in 33,000 troops when he came into power because it reflected the will of enough of the US people. Osama Bin Laden was assassinated and the US work was done. The American people don’t care about the stabilisation of Afghanistan, most of them probably don’t even know where it is. They wanted to bounty hunt Osama Bin Laden because of the attrocities of September 11th.

On some level, Afghanistan was the gateway to that outcome. But now the wicked Osama is dead, the appetite for Afghanistan will wain. The US people will go about their business as usual. Move along, nothing to see here.

We can’t make Afghanistan it something it isn’t. It’s a complex place that requires a bespoke, long-term integrated solution and the sad reality is the ISAF nations don’t have the time, inclination or resource to deliver.

More life will be lost. The military who are all about the mission will have the rug pulled from beneath them. They will be irritated and frustrated; but eventually the West will brush Afghanistan under the carpet. There it may stay, or it may rear it’s head again and depending on the economic impact, or the threat to our way of life, will decide the response.

Hagar is back there soon. It will be his seventh time. I will half look. Half hide. Take a big deep breath. Suck it up. Accept that this is part of my life. Part of his life. He is ready to go. He wants to go. To do his job. To serve his country. Play his part. Use his skill. Be the best that he can be. He is good at what he does. He has a certain flair for it. He wears his aircraft well. We were talking about this on the train the other day. He said to me, “when you fly the same aircraft for a set period of time it becomes part of you.” He always greets the cab when he arrives and says goodbye when he departs. I understand on some level what he is talking about. I have sailed for many years. Sometimes every day for months on end and there is a transition when your skills move from learned to instinctive. When you can read your environment; anticipate, predict and react. Hagar’s whiskers are twitching. He is ready to get back in the saddle.

So I don’t know what I think about Obama’s withdrawal. I wish Hagar to be vigilant at all times. I wish the Government’s decisions were made on integrity and valour. I wish they would complete the task they set out to do and give the people of the Afghanistan the democratic freedom to decide for themselves who they want to be.

Restrepo Pipped To The Gong By Inside Job

Alas Restrepo didn’t win the Oscar last night but they didn’t lose either. Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington have made a superb film documenting a harrowing deployment in Afghanistan. They brought a much greater awareness of the conflict to the world. Thank you to them for their sacrifice and commitment. But the war is not over for us, and as the Oscar bus party bus packs up for another year, the families and serving are still on the conveyor belt of war – the battle continues on.

Inside Job won it – a film about the most recent economic crash.

On the Restrepo facebook page they ask for us to write three words which illustrate how the film made you feel:

Make It Stop

Peace And Love

Can’t Take Anymore

Find A Solution

Daddy Is Sad

Stop The Killing

Please Help Us

Enough Is Enough

I need the war to end. The burden is too heavy. I am very tired and I am not alone. I would like to get off the bus please but alas for us that is not to be because the bus leaves again this year and we will be firmly on it…

http://restrepothemovie.com/

The Reduced History Of Afghanistan

History has had a massive effect on Afghanistan. It is the crossroads of Central Asia and it connects the pre-Soviet Russian empire, with the Indian Empire. It was created as a country by the Russians and the British in order to keep their two interests apart.

It was designed and allowed, in what was known as The Great Game, as part of the buying influence and winning influence off the great Princes of this region from the Russian Empire versus British India. There was an un-officiated agreement between these two countries that as long as they didn’t encroach into the area of Afghanistan the Russians would never get to the Indian border and subsequently the British Empire would never expand into Russia. Afghanistan was therefore created in order to be unstable and that pervades every part of Afghanistan’s existence, which consequently means that even in the present as a country it remains to be wholly unstable.

[The Great Game was a term used for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a second, less intensive phase followed.

The term “The Great Game” is usually attributed to Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British East India Company’s Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry.[1] It was introduced into mainstream consciousness by British novelist Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim (1901).]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Game

Peter Hopkirk. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia, Kodansha International, 1992, ISBN 4-7700-1703-0, 565p.

[1] – ^ Hopkirk p. 1

Ultimately, it continues to be in the interest of many that Afghanistan is perpetually de-stablized. It is in the interest of Pakistan to have an unstable Afghanistan on it’s border, it is in the interest of Iran to have an unstable country on it’s border and remains reasonably within what control the Russians do have to have an unstable Afghanistan because it keeps a lid on some of the underlining problems that exist.

If they had a stable Afghanistan then it would spill over into all the other issues within Pakistan, within East Iran and neighbouring territories. During the time of The Great Game the region was kept unstable by each side paying the Princes of particular areas for loyalty, to fight each other and to accept trade and influence from one side or the other.

Furthermore, spanning back to as far as Alexandra the Great, Afghanistan has been invaded by ‘every man and his dog’. The British have been there several times, most notably the Russians have been there and the Mongols were the only people that have subjugated Afghanistan.

More recently, and with direct affect on the present, in 1978 a Soviet backed communist Government deposed the king and came to power in Afghanistan.

http://www.applet-magic.com/afghancom.htm

[Mohammad Zahir Shah was the king of Afghanistan until July 17th, 1973. He was overthrown by his cousin, who was also his brother-in-law, General Mohammad Daoud Khan. General Daoud proclaimed the end of the monarchy and the formation of the Republic of Afghanistan.

General Daoud governed Afghanistan for five years.

In 1979 a prominent leftist, Mir Akbar Khyber, was killed by the government and his associates, Nur Mohammad Taraki, Barbrak Karmal and Hafizullah Amin, fearing that a similar fate lay in store for them, organized a coup d’etat.

After the coup succeeded Taraki became President and Hafizullah Amin became prime minister. Barbrak Karmal went into exile in Moscow.

Taraki and Amin imposed extreme reforms to be carried out in a short period time with little concern for the Afghan culture. Some measures such as the emancipation of women were desirable but, given the cultural setting, were imposed too rapidly. These measures provoked resistance which spread throughout the country.

Taraki as president of Afghanistan attended a conference of so-called non aligned nations in Havana, Cuba. On his way back stopped in Moscow to meet with Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev advised Taraki to ease up on the drastic social reforms and to seek broader support for his regime. Brezhnev also advised Taraki to get rid of his prime minister, Hafizullah Amin. Unbeknownst to Taraki his body guard was an agent for Amin. The bodyguard reported to Amin the intention of Taraki to strip him of his power.

Afer Taraki returned to Kabul he requested that Amin meet with him. Amin agreed to the meeting only if his safety was guaranteed by the Soviet ambassador. Such assurances were provided, but not in good faith. Amin knew however what Taraki’s intentions were and the demand for his safety being guaranteed by the Soviet ambassador was probably a shrewd ploy on the part of Amin to mislead Taraki. Being forewarned, Amin used the palace guard to take Taraki prisoner. Amin then took control of the government. A few days later Amin’s government announced that Taraki died of an “undisclosed illness”. The “undisclosed illness” was that of being held down by the Palace Guard while he was strangled and smothered with a pillow. Taraki’s “illness” only lasted ten or fifteen minutes.

The Soviets accepted Amin’s acquisition of power and tried to work with him. But Amin was, of course, very wary of the Soviets. The Soviets wanted to put troops in Afghanistan because they feared there would be an American invasion of Iran as a result of the hostage crisis. Amin feared the Soviet troops would be used to depose him.

Amin fearing for his survival and uncertain of whom he could trust started putting his relatives into positions of power. Amin put one of his nephews in charge of the secret police, but that nephew was assassinated. Amin moved his headquarters out of Kabul in concern for his own safety.

The Soviets decided to invade Afghanistan. They sent paratroops to capture and execute Amin. After Amin was taken care of, a bogus call was make for Soviet troops to enter the country. According to the Soviet’s cover story they were only responding to a call for assistance from the Afghan Revolutionary Central Committee. According to them they were only complying with the 1978 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighbourliness. The execution of Hafizullah Amin was, according to the Soviets, the action of the Afghan Revolutionary Central Committee.

That committee then elected as head of government Barbrak Karmal, who was in exile in Moscow. Karmal returned to Afghanistan in a Soviet transport plane. He presided over the occupation of Afghanistan by 115,000 Soviet troops.]

The Russians had forced an insurgency in the same way as the British did, but by doing so were instrumental in enabling the rapid growth of the ‘Mujahadeen’ (soldier of God), which was a loose alliance of every faction that opposed the Soviet invasion. Within this alliance were 7 principle commanders and the reason they rose to prominence is because they were the ones that Pakistan, with Western agreement and finance, chose to back.

A lot of the Mujahideen key people that you see now, Googadin Helmateeya, Najah Bulla, Achmed Sharmasoo were backed by the Pakistanis and were heavily involved in the Soviet defeat. One or two of the groups, Googadin Helmateeya and a few of the others were very hardcore Islamic groups and religiously motivated. The majority however were not and were simply anti-invaders or anti-foreigners.

The Russians had invaded Afghanistan in order to promote Communism throughout the region. In order to counter the Russian invasion the Mujahideen were heavily financed by the West and at the same time significantly influenced by extreme Islamic groups, funded in part by nations such as Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden himself, with his mentor moved their setup Al Q’eada (meaning The Base) into Pakistan, which in turn also became the base for the Mujihadeen who were fighting the Soviet insurgents. The West had surreptitiously backed the Mujihadeen, Bin Laden and the Al Q’eada movement, funded them, trained them and given them the equipment and skills, which ultimately later were used against them/us following the attacks on the World Trade Centre on the ill fated September 11th 2001.

The Mujahadeen were a collective of the various Afghanistan tribes; the Tariqs, the Hazara and the Pashtoo. The best-known Mujahideen, various loosely-aligned Afghan opposition groups, initially fought against the incumbent pro-Soviet Afghan government during the late 1970s. At the Afghan government’s request, the Soviet Union became involved in the war. The Mujahideen insurgency then fought against the Soviet and Afghan government troops during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union pulled out of the conflict in the late 1980s the mujahideen fought each other in the subsequent Afghan Civil War.

The Mujahideen were significantly financed and armed (and are alleged to have been trained) by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Carter[3] and Reagan administrations and the governments of Saudi Arabia, the People’s Republic of China, several Western European countries, Iran, and Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime in Pakistan. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was the interagent used in the majority of these activities to disguise the sources of support for the resistance.

The main base station of Mujahideen in Pakistan was the town Badaber, 24 km from Peshawar. Afghanistan Mujahideen were trained in the Badaber base under supervision by military instructors from U.S.A., Pakistan, Republic of China .The base served as the concentration camp for Soviet and DRA captives as well. In 1985, the uprising of captives destroyed the base, but the incident was concealed by Pakistani and Soviet governments until the dissolution of the USSR.

Ronald Reagan praised Mujahideen as “freedom fighters”, and three mainstream Western films, the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights, the 1988 action film Rambo III and the 2007 biographical movie Charlie Wilson’s War, portrayed them as heroic.

Afghanistan’s resistance movement was born in chaos and, at first, virtually all of its war was waged locally by regional warlords. As warfare became more sophisticated, outside support and regional coordination grew. Even so, the basic units of mujahideen organization and action continued to reflect the highly segmented nature of Afghan society.[4] Eventually, the seven main mujahideen parties allied themselves into the political bloc called Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen.

Many Muslims from other countries volunteered to assist various Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan, and gained significant experience in guerrilla warfare. Some groups of these veterans have been significant factors in more recent conflicts in and around the Muslim world. A wealthy Saudi named Osama bin Laden was a prominent organizer and financier of an all Arab islamist group of foreign volunteers; his Maktab al-Khadamat funnelled money, arms, and Muslim fighters from around the muslim world into Afghanistan, with the assistance and support of the Saudi and Pakistani governments.[5] These foreign fighters became known as “Afghan Arabs” and their efforts were coordinated by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.

The Mujahideen won when the Soviet Union pulled troops out of Afghanistan in 1989, followed by the fall of the Mohammad Najibullah regime in 1992. However, the mujahideen did not establish a united government, and many of the larger mujahideen groups began to fight each other over the power in Kabul. After several years of devastating infighting, a village mullah organized a new armed movement with the backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban, meaning “students”, and referring to the Saudi-backed religious schools known for producing extremism. Veteran Mujahideen were confronted by this radical splinter group in 1996.

By 2001, the Taliban, with backing from the Pakistani ISI (military intelligence) and possibly even the regular Pakistan Army, as well as al-Qaeda which found a refuge in Afghanistan, had largely defeated the militias and controlled most of the country. The opposition factions allied themselves together again and became known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (Northern Alliance). In 2001 with U.S. help and international military aid, they ousted the Taliban from power and formed the new government, and gradually militias were either incorporated into the new national army and police forces or demobilized.

At present the term “Mujahideen” is sometimes used to describe insurgents, including the Taliban/Al Qaeda, fighting NATO troops and the security forces of the US-backed government of Hamid Karzai and allied militias in Afghanistan, although most of the Mujahideen leaders who fought the Soviet Union later fought against the Taliban.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mujahideen

3. ^ Freedom Next Time, by John Pilger, p. 275

With Hagar’s departure to the Afghan beach pending. Every day I ask myself. What does success look like in Afghanistan? ISAF won the war and over threw the Taliban and are now in the midst of a combative stabilisation campaign as determined under the Bonn Agreement.

I would be grateful to understand what is the ISAF vision of success and stability we have for the nation of Afghanistan. Anyone…….Bueller……anyone?

This rhetoric is not being clearly articulated by any of the ISAF Governments.

NB: I cobbled this together from various sources a few years back and so if you see your own work in here and it’s not acknowledged then please drop me a line and I will duly reference it.

email: amodernmilitarymother@gmail.com

Do Women Watch War Films?

Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger were embedded for 10 months, with the US Army; but I feel like I have been embedded with the RAF for the last 10 years. An anthropological observer, trying to understand, and navigate the plethora of unwritten codes of conduct and expectation. Up until last year, when Hagar was deployed, I would bury my head in the sand, crack open the wine, count up to the middle and down again until he came home, whilst avoiding the news as much as possible. I didn’t even want to look at the war. In the 12 years we have been together he has been to Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Iraq (approx 4 times) and Afghanistan (approx 4 times) – to be honest I lose count. I would say that probably over 50% of our relationship has been apart. At one point, he was doing 8 weeks on and 8 weeks off, so ‘going to war’ just became part of our every day life.

The tempo of ops for all the Chinook guys and gals is high. In fact, Hagar was awarded a Mention-In-Despatches after one deployment for some daring do. It was difficult to know what to say, how to support him because his ‘away journey’ was one I could never understand. There wasn’t a break for either of us. It’s hard to explain it, but this bouncing apart and coming together, with profound life changing experiences happening in an unknown country, with ramifications, and meaning, that aren’t everyday dinner conversations, are hard to put into words, and so, often, he didn’t. He just brooded, and found his own way back to us, whilst I watched, and waited in the eaves of his darkness, for the unraveling to occur.

In September 2008, I began researching, and writing, a battlefield memoir about the role of the Chinooks, in Afghanistan, and in the British Armed Forces. Suddenly, I was forced to confront face-on a subject matter that I had been purposefully ignoring. I was very lucky to be surrounded by experts that helped, and supported me, on my journey, starting at The Great Game; to the fall of the Northern Alliance; to September 11th; to the Bonn Agreement. I had always buffered my fears, with the certain comfort that the Chinook is the best defended aircraft, and the aviation best bet, for my own warrior-class serviceman. The whole tempo of the memoir was centred around the notion that the Taliban had identified the CH47 (Chinook) as a glory target. They called it the cow. It was the ultimate prize to down one, and dance around it, showcasing their majesty to the world. Never in the history of the British Chinook force had an aircraft been shot down in combat.

I laid down the 100,000 word manuscript in 10 weeks in an intensive, marathon writing session, where I became unnaturally immersed in a conflict I had never visited, flying an aircraft I had never flown, as a person I would never be. One month after the book, hit the bookshelves, the worst happened. Hagar got a call at midnight, summoning him to work. I knew before the story broke in the media. A British Chinook had been shot down in Afghanistan. The first ever in it’s history. I knew the pilot. I knew the pilot that picked them up. It felt very up, close and very personal, and I had a huge disproportionate reaction to it and freaked out. This cushion of safety, of vigilance, of aircraft redundancy, of training and being the best they could be shattered around me and all over of a sudden I was hit with the under-deniable reality of the true danger of Afghanistan. A danger, that I had been blissfully, and ignorantly, ignoring as a coping mechanism for the endless churn of ops that I was enduring from the domestic frontline.

Since the book was published, I now bravely look the ‘war machine’ in the eye, and try to make sense of the conflict. All the research and understanding hasn’t made me any wiser. I am just frustrated by the complexity of the problem. I am a problem solver. I am a fixer and Afghanistan is an intricate, layered, very tricky puzzle indeed.

So as a wife of a service man do I watch war films? The answer is yes, I do. I have done since before I met Hagar. The first war film I loved was ‘Sink the Bizmarck’. Hagar and I watched Band of Brothers and Pacific religiously. They are brilliant depictions of combat. In fact, I think Restrepo is the documentary that Band of Brothers would have been if it had been recorded in real time; in the same way Tim and Sebastian recorded Restrepo. The notion of brotherhood at the heart of the war machine, that Tim discusses in our interview, is not new but it has never been so acutely and accurately captured as in the making of Restrepo.

The wives and families of Restrepo troops watched the film, and gleaned an understanding of what their loved ones had experienced at the outpost. One wife said, “I wish I had seen RESTREPO before my divorce, it’d given me an understanding of my ex-husband’s experience that I wish I had had while I was with him. He never shared.”

When I spoke with Dan Kearney he told me he had stopped feeling. He had buried his emotions, deep inside his soul and thrown away the key. Men are not sharers. Sharing is a sign of weakness. The men of Restrepo are warriors; they are Spartans. They write tattoos shouting “Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself”. The military men want you to understand by osmosis what they have experienced, and then instinctively know how to empathise, love and support them as they internalise their pain and emotions. At the sharp end of combat, tattoed in war paint, armed and braced for battle the young Spartan is an adrenaline charged, fighting, macho machine. But in the aftermath, in the comedown of combat, in the bosum of home, when the adrenaline surges out of his body; he is a boy again, with skin, bones, and feelings that he would rather not have.

As a wife of a military pliot, and the mother of a young son, there is a lot to be gained from watching Restrepo. It’s a brave watch, with a window into battle. It shows that “war is not the glorious adventure depicted on films; it’s cruel, destructive and worst of all, indiscriminate in the slaughter and maiming of women and children and non-combatants who play no part in the conflict.”

But it is a film of great energy and spirit. It will show you into the soul of the soldier and help you understand the highs and lows, the strength and the vulnerabilities, and the intensity of war. Sometimes, you need to look at things you don’t want to see to understand the things you can’t see.

What’s interesting for me is that two, very serious, aging social observers and recorders, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, went into the edge of Armageddon and got so much more then they had ever bargained for. They became esconced; enchanted by the brotherhood and joined them. I suspect that was not what they forsaw at all.

At the launch of Infidel, Tim Hetherington’s latest book, he stood before the room and he looked exposed and vulnerable like a Ninja Turtle without his shell. But, I can imagine embedded in battle, with his flack jacket and camera, he is shooting his own weapon, and is in a warrior-class of his own.

The creation of his book, the film, Restrepo, and Sebastian Junger’s book, War have a created an incredible insight to the psyche of the soldier. Infidel, the leather bound, black, stunning, book of creativity is an homage to the Spartan Warrior, from the outpost Restrepo. A collection of moving, beautiful, tragic and uplifting images, recording and illustrating, the feral, adrenaline charged pack of brothers that fought on the edge of a mountain, trying to build a road, fighting an enemy they couldn’t see and didn’t really understand but knew hated them; the Infidel.

Restrepo open’s today to see it: click here

To buy Tim’s book click here

To buy Sebastian’s book click here

You know if you want to get your man the ultimate box set for Christmas – there is the Restrepo trilogy, if you add in the DVD, which is out at the end of November. Then, if you are a wife like me you can watch it behind a pillow. It’s worth look see.

The Tim Hetherington Exhibition is being hosted by Host Gallery, click here

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I just wondered ladies is this a film for you? If not, why not? Please share.