Well it arrived yesterday.
My ‘Joining Instructions’ (JI’s) for the whole of my deployment to The ‘Stan.
This is a 23 page document that lists everything I need to know about preparing for both the training and the deployment itself. It gives me a timeline for the training and shows me what I should be doing, when and where – giving me a better idea of what is going on. It also details when I am to have leave over the next 6 months to ensure that (a) I get my leave in and it’s not wasted and (b) that I get some family time in before I go. In this way the deployment doesn’t become a 9-10month long one (given jetting about for training courses) and is much more manageable. In effect it’s managed my life for the next year or so…well it will do for the year from 1st November when my training course starts.
I can’t – as yet – tell you what I am doing on the training course, but it looks firstly very intensive, and secondly it looks like it has been designed to get me really ready for being out there, and for what I’ll be doing.
And it brought home to me just what I will be doing out there.
And just to clarify, I will be going ‘outside the wire’. I will be attached to an Infantry unit and spend a lot of time living in Patrol Bases, going on patrols with the troops on the ground, meeting the locals, getting involved. It is not the run of the mill stuff a normal airman would be doing out there. Normally an Avionics Techy would spend pretty much all his time nice and safe back in Bastion or at Kandahar, but that is not for me (and it was the subject of a little argument with the Civvie in clothing stores yesterday when I went over with my kitting list requirements – ‘This is the kit list’ she kept saying. ‘No’ I kept insisting, ‘THIS is MY kit list…’ showing her the three pages from the JI’s…)
Either way the JI’s were also clear on the fitness requirements for the whole of the deployment. And the weapons training requirements. I basically have to bring myself up to being an infantryman in the next two months. Infantry fitness, infantry weapons skills. There is a lot of difference between my normal day job of sitting in an office and being an infantryman. I have had training to handle weapons and I used to run a weekly exercise which involved living in the field, but it was a couple of years ago…we simply do not do all that stuff on a regular basis, so it is still a bit of a steep learning curve.
But I have had a chat to the chaps in the RAF Regiment section who are very keen to help me out as much as they can – inviting me along to go on range days and there’s a training exercise for the Merlin guys who are off out to Afghan next year in October that they have invited me along on. And the PTI’s in the gym have been helpful in advising about training – particularly for the Combat Fitness Tests that I will be doing during the courses.
Whilst I feel daunted by the whole thing now the actual paperwork has turned up. It’s gone from me volunteering one Tuesday afternoon in work after reading an ‘advert’ for it on the RAF Intranet site to being something that is really going to happen.
It’s really real now, with actual dates for things to be completed by, with pre-course reading to do, dates when I will be going here, there and of course dates when I will be going in to theatre all listed in black and white…well actually I feel a little calmer because a lot of the questions I had have been answered. Not all, though, and I still have a few.
But the biggest and most important question has also been answered by it all. And that is the date for me to come back – and how much leave I will get off when I do. And I am already looking forward to next October – when I get a whole month off and the deployment is all over.