RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

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.


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17 thoughts on “It’s Not Just What You Wear, It’s Why You Wear It…

  1. Joanne Sanderson on said:

    Wont do much for your Sperm count !!..but an IED blast to the Testicles wont either!! lol…my other half got issued with his…sound sexy but wouldnt want to go there after 12 to 15 hrs!! keep safe..Jo x

  2. Good that your sense of humour is still there bud, stay safe Per Ardua!

  3. I thought there were some sort of hard plastic things that you could wear in your groin to protect yourself? They look like Skytroopers’ codpieces but they can take a hell of a whomp.

  4. Tarquin Smythe III on said:

    No shreddies? That’s hygenic. What happens when your Oppos go down because everyones been getting sweaty poo particles everywhere?

    • They are anti-microbally treated and you can wash the tier one pants in just the same way as a normal pair of pants. You wouldn’t want to wear any more undernieth! The sweat is bad enough!

      • Tarquin Smythe III on said:

        It’s so hot that most people out here don’t bother with underwear when cutting around camp. You say you don’t wear any? That can’t be good?

      • Well, we already poo into bags, and have a very ridgid hygeine scheme in place. It’s in everybodies interest to be as clean as possible, and we’ve had minimal D&V cases out here this tour – most have been caused by people falling into irrigation ditches and swallowing water. I think we are fairly ok with what we do…

  5. Chris Berry on said:

    Having worked out there in the Role 3 Hospital as an ITU Nursing Officer,I have witnessed first hand what a difference these items of clothing make to the guys. The only piece of advice I can give anyone on the ground is ware the balistic under garments and nappies its a lot less uncomfortable than the injuries sustained by not doing so. Stay safe and take care
    Chris Berry

  6. You are all doing a great job x Keep safe and better to be hot and sweaty than lose your vitals!! lol xx
    Totally respect to you all

  7. Well, you have certainly made me think about things in a different way!! Keep your important little bits protected and bring them home safely!!

  8. Mate – you’re a legend. As, of course, are all your comrades.

    Your tweets and your blog posts do a great job of reminding people that war is bloody grim business, undertaken by people – not faceless individuals, but people with a similar outlook and sense of humour to the rest of us.

    Those of us who are lucky enough never to have to face combat conditions owe you guys a massive debt of gratitude. And the government ought to do more to look after you before, during and after you are in the field.

  9. I love reading your Blog. My Uncle was a gunner in RAF Lancasters in WWII but he died from cancer at 22 so noone (including my father) ever really understood his story or experiences. I’ve been researching in order to write and preserve his memory as part of our family’s chronological life stories (at the website of which I’m Founder http://www.saveeverystep.com).
    One of the things he talked about in letters home in 1943 was the attire. Ties (“How very British to make me wear a tie to fly to my possible death!”) and the heated flight suits. One story describes how his mate put a sandwich in his flight suit pocket and it turned into a toastie mid-flight!!!!
    Best of luck to you out there. Someone may be writing your story one day, and your excellent Blog will give them a very fine insight into your experience that they’re unlikely to get elsewhere.
    I’m on Facebook & Twitter if any of the lads think the site could help them as SaveEveryStep. Happy to chat & advise. Helen Spencer

  10. Lee Puttock on said:

    Reading this really puts the day to day back here deeply in perpective.

    Stay safe and thank you.

  11. Funny isn’t it how so many human decisions come down to sex.

  12. Found this blog from BBC news site, good to know you soldiers have a sense of humour even though you do what you do, I dont usually read blogs but yours gives an insight to what a soldier feels in day to day life serving in afganistan.

    Be safe and well

  13. Joe Powell on said:

    Nothing against the RAF Regiment, but I’m pleased to see that your a “techie” trade (unfortunately not my old trade “ground comm”) and not a rockape. Good move having someone not completely in “gunner/soldier” thinkbox.
    Best regards and good look for future.
    Joe Powell (@noididnot)

  14. I was poking around google and found your site. I just wanted to write a quick comment to say thank you for your service. Those suits sound like a 13 hour sauna!

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