Home > Personal > It’s the little things…

It’s the little things…

The intention was to post to this blog each Sunday evening while I’m away. For many reasons that hasn’t happened;  long nights, trips away, nothing to say, too much to say, too tired, too busy, the reasons go on. The primary reason however is the lack of control over whether or not there will be internet access available.

All over Afghanistan there are pockets of British personnel and, in most cases, wherever they are there is the provision of welfare internet, both user terminals and WiFi hotspots for using with your own laptop, netbook or other internet enabled device. This service is a double-edged sword, both a welcome capability and a security threat. It is also a liability.

Every time there is an incident in theatre involving a British soldier (and some other coalition nationalities) the internet is turned off. It is done for many reasons but the primary one is that of protecting the relatives of whomever is involved in the incident from hearing rumours or gossip about what may, or may not, have happened. It allows the correct procedures to be followed and people to be contacted in the proper manner to advise them of the situation over here. Sometimes that contact could be a phone call from a son letting his Mother know that he really is fine, others may be a member of the unit advising parents of their child’s injury or, in the worst cases, a Casualty Notification Officer advising someone that their son, daughter, husband or wife has regrettably been killed in action while serving on operations in Afghanistan.A brass shell cross and stone cairn in memory of those fallen on operations in Afghanistan

The process is called Op Minimise and, for much of the two plus months I’ve been in theatre, it has been in force.

Yesterday, last night and this morning we were again in the grips of Op Minimise and something I heard discussed gave me pause for thought. There is much said of the British ‘squaddie’ and not all of it is favourable, we are maligned as drunken boors, womanisers and bullies (among other things not all of which I might add are as negative). And yet last night I heard something that epitomised man’s compassion for his fellow man or, in this case, his fallen brethren.*

A couple of young soldiers were chatting outside their accommodation and I heard the conversation turn to Op Minimise and the reason for the current imposition.

It’s terrible, don’t you think, that we know what’s happened and yet we also know that it’s taking so long for the relatives to be informed. It must be so hard for them to find out like that.

I’m ashamed to admit I was quite taken aback by this, and also impressed. I know the soldiers in question and despite my knowing their characters I hadn’t expected this train of thought from a young man in his situation. Especially when  most of his peers were simply feeling hard done to due to the lack of internet capability in the accommodation due to this inconvenience.

To say I was impressed by this would be an understatement, it made me proud and reminded me (not that I needed reminding) that there is far more to our soldiers than people give them credit for.

It also made me look at myself and wonder how many times I’d felt hard done to when I hadn’t been able to ring home or jump on Facebook or WordPress because some poor soul had found himself joining the ever growing list of casualties in this conflict.

And it made me count my blessings.

* The brass cross in the photograph had 3 plates of names when I was last here in 2007, it has now been moved and stands on a larger, two levelled stone cairn with 13 plates on it. Over 100 of those names have been added in the last year.

(I did have a lyric to post with this, but on second reading I think it’s better to wait.)

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