‘An unusual state of affairs for an RAF Officer!’
“I leave this tour with some pride at the small part I have played in bringing peace to this corner of the globe, but also a great sense of humility at the dangerous and difficult conditions that the young soldiers are working in every day.”
Flight Lieutenant Paul Winnister is a Hercules pilot, currently serving as a Staff Officer in HQ Task Force Helmand (TFH) in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand Province. Shortly before leaving theatre, Paul wrote a personal and moving account of his thoughts and reflections from his time on Op HERRICK. A section of this account is reproduced here and you can read his full story by clicking on either of the images below.
The routine activities of Lashkar Gar pass slowly before me, mundane to most Afghans but peculiarly interesting to a Westerner. Why has that man got huge bundles of sticks tied to the back of his bicycle? How can so many people travel on one motorbike? Where are such a large group of burqa clad women and marginally more exposed children going? Yet despite these Helmandi idiosyncrasies, the pervading sense is one of normality. And it is this normality that is so encouraging.
Like all military personnel working at the Lashkar Gar Main Operating Base, I have had to do my share of guard duty, or ‘stag’ as the troops call it. An unusual state of affairs for an RAF officer, particularly a pilot, more used viewing the towns and villages of Helmand from 20,000 ft. Yet these brief insights of life beyond the wire are hugely revealing. The familiar Helmand images of the British Press, fire fights and war damage, seem very far removed from the day to day activities of the Afghans taking place before my eyes. The occasional sound of gun fire breaks the silence, but it is the therapeutic intonations of the muezzin’s call to prayer that is most commonly heard here.
When I was approached to be an Air Staff Officer for 16 Air Assault Brigade, I didn’t mull over the decision for long. As a Hercules pilot I had taken part in operations in Afghanistan before, as well as other far flung trouble spots across the globe. Yet as I unloaded troops, equipment and humanitarian aid in these locations, and prepared to depart back to the main airbase, I was always nagged at by a sense of guilt mixed with envy for those I had just delivered to the front line. Consequently the knowledge of a six month deployment to the heart of Helmand felt like an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. After several months of intensive pre-deployment training, most of the Brigade felt relieved to be finally heading out to the winter tour that lay in wait.
Click on either of the images to read the full article, or click HERE.