It’s Not Just What You Wear, It’s Why You Wear It…
The heat out here is something else. It’s hard to express how hot it gets. And how hot you get as an individual in it. When the ambient air temperature is greater than body temp…that’s wrong. It means that at times it’s physically impossible to get cool. I have seen people purposefully jump into an irrigation just to get some relief from the heat. It’s not advisable to do so…the smell alone can often put you off and you never know WHAT might be in there…remember we are in a countryside without sewers…
Most of the time though, we are NOT on a patrol. People in the PBs and CPs can relax and try and find a way of getting cool. People sit outside their tents in shorts. Some of the more enterprising ones have had paddling pools sent out from home which they fill up with water from the well. Most of the time you wear shorts and a tee-shirt.
The other day we had a visit from a General. And because Generals can’t see people in shorts for some reason, our relaxed dress of wearing the issued Multi-cam shorts and sandals with some sort of military tee-shirt was stiffened up to mean we had to wear trousers, socks and boots. Thankfully we could still wear our normal tee-shirts, but the difference in the comfort level when in long trousers to when in shorts is amazing.
Here’s a bit of a secret. It’s so hot that most people out here don’t bother with underwear when cutting around camp. It just gets hot and sweaty…But of course, once you go out of the gates on a patrol things change. Obviously you can’t bomb around Afghanistan in a pair of flip-flops and some beech shorts. As soon as you go out, you are fully dressed up in all the gear you need to keep you safe. All that kit has a dramatic effect on you in the heat and the level of effort you have to put in to move about. It raises the very serious risk of heat injuries. Whilst in the base you are safe to get your flesh out. You go out almost virtually covered. Helmet and body armour is the obvious. But then there are the gloves you need to wear. The eye-protection. Hearing protection. A big pair of boots. Bomb pants.
Whoa…Bomb Pants? What? I hear you ask. Well. One of the sad truths from out here is, of course, the injuries caused by IEDs. It’s well documented that these cowardly home-made bombs take lives and when they don’t they take legs and arms of the guys and girls out in the fields. What is less well documented is the fact that they also cause far more horrendous injuries to men (and women) from the blast. Obviously the blast caused by stepping on a bomb goes upwards, and when you are taking a stride forward this means that the inside of your thighs and your groin are open and will take a hit from the explosion. So what is not often spoken about – and for obviously personal reasons, is that when people are hit by an IED blast, they often get life changing injuries in the groin area too.
So in an effort to minimise these injuries and to try to help people keep at least some dignity if they are unlucky to step on an IED we wear bomb pants under our trousers.
And the level of protection we get is doubled by a set of special body armour that forms a protective layer over the top of our trousers.
The bomb pants themselves are a pair of long tight shorts that have lycra sides, but a padded silk area that covers the inner thighs and groin. They are heavy. It can get very sweaty in them, but well, nobody cares. Everyone who goes through the pre-deployment training out here gets to see some pictures of people who have been in IED blasts. They show the level of injuries of those people who weren’t wearing the pants against those who were. And the difference is incredible. And made even more so when the Bomb-Nappy is worn over the top.
Again you get hot and sweaty wearing them. They take a bit of getting used to. But, when I wore them for nearly 13 hours out on an Op, I actually forgot I was wearing them. It’s funny, as they say, what you get used to.
But you do get used to it. Indeed, eventually you start to get used…ok…accustomed to the heat. You accept that it’s more than likely going to hit 40+degrees each day. And the sun will beat down remorselessly as you slog your way through the fields. And once to realise that everyone here, as soon as they put their protective kit on will start to sweat and eventually smell. You accept that you will stink, and you accept that wearing a pair of thick silk boxer shorts and a bit more body armour is a better thing than running the risk that you’ll step on an IED, get injured, survive, but never, ever have sex again.
For me, and everyone else out here, it’s a no brainer. You have to wear the kit. You can’t get away from it. It’s just part of the job that goes along with being out here.