We arrive at FOB Jackson in Sangin in the middle of the night to be greeted by our new REST who very kindly take our bags to our new accommodation. After a short meet and greet we all get our fat heads down. In the morning we are awakened by people moving around in PT kit. Not more bloody exercise.
‘Come on get up, one of the lads says shaking my bed. ‘What’s up, what’s going on?’ ‘We are going swimming, Dan says. ‘Swimming in the desert, shut up.’ ‘Come on there is a river in the camp.’
That gets me moving, sharpish. A quick change later into shorts and we walk down to the river.
The river flows under a brick build bridge with two tunnels then widens out downstream. To the right-hand side, there is a shallow beach area with a submerged bench. Further down left to right is a rope spanning from bank to bank with people hanging on, for dear life, the current is that strong. Beyond this safety line, the steep banks are green with trees, long grasses and a hundred metres or so down is an infantry assault bridge. Just before that is a further rope and HESCO steps for egress. If you miss that and the bridge on the way out, the next thing you will see is the QRF laughing at you in your shorts after they rescue you outside the camp – Followed by a swift interview without coffee from the FOB CSM. Don’t miss in other words!
This slice of heaven is a Godsend after four months of picking dust out of every orifice and the EFI has a slushy machine to boot. This is the way to tour! However, this cannot last and before I know it, it has to come to an end. A Mastiff needs moving to PB Nolay and surprise surprise yours truly is the only available driver.
Once the vehicle is handed over and paraded, myself and the RAF CMD team are briefed that we will move out at 2200 hours that night. My first proper drive in theatre and on cameras to boot. We set out in the middle of three, a Mastiff forward and a Husky rear. On the way, there will be two stops to drop off vital supplies at other PB’s. We are assured that if we are contacted it will be after the last stop and before Nolay. Just as we are preparing to leave our last drop off, the vehicle in front pops a shamooli and opens up with the .50 cal. Watching all of this on camera is amazing, you can see all the rounds and flares almost as if it is in slow motion. Then we are off as soon as the FSG tower at Nolay starts getting rounds down onto the insurgents. Soon we are travelling at breakneck speed. 35mph cross country, over the rough ground while trying and succeeding to stay in the vehicle in front’s tracks. The adrenaline is flowing and we pull into Nolay after what seems an age. Reality is probably truer to 10mins. We park up and get out and I am full of excitement still flying on the juices. The RAF team think I am bonkers and are quick to tell me so, shaking their heads in disbelief at my joy and description of the events. I may have been out here too long!
Then I spot a camel spider skittering across the convoy park, my first full-sized, adult camel spider. So I make chase with my torch to get a good look. This only reinforces the belief for the RAF that I am quite mad!
Written by Marc Woods