RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Mud mud inglorious mud…

We move off from the Shura I have just been having with locals. It wasn’t particularly successful as the people we really needed to talk to in that village weren’t there that day. We’d found out who were the main power brokers and who made the decisions in the village, but little else.  Frustrating, but part of the  job. 

The temperature starts to rise. We move back in the same method as we’d moved across the countryside to the village, each of the two multiples out on the ground providing depth support to the other, leapfrogging along the route, but along a route that is different to the one we went out on.

It’s hard going. It’s hot. The fields have been well irrigated. In fact they have been flooded with water to soften the soil in readiness for them to be ploughed and sown with the next crop. Quickly fields turn to quagmires. Deep, thick, black mud clogs at my boots. Each step becomes more difficult than the last. I start to struggle though the mud and water, trying to pick out a route that is the least muddy. It’s energy sapping and the sun burns the one bit of skin at the back of my neck, between my body armour shirt and my helmet, that is bare.

Each step is a chore; lifting boots that suddenly weigh twice as much as they should due to the water soaking inside them and the mud sticking to the outside. The fields stink. The mud stinks.

My breathing gets hard and I am starting to pant. I can see the Check Point that is home, only 200m away, but its also another wet, muddy field away. I can go no further, and take a knee. I put my fist to the floor, trying to prop myself up, but it disappears into the mud, my glove soaking up the mud like a sponge.

I take a sip of water from the drinking tube that goes to the camel-bak inside my day-sack, but I’m sucking on the dregs of the 3l of water I had taken out with me.

I look up and see the gates of the CP open and welcoming. I can’t stay here. I can’t stay in this field. But all I want to do is just sit. Sit and take off all this kit. The helmet, gloves, goggles, body armour and day sack…I want to just sit there and cool down, but it isn’t an option.

The effort…just the thought of slogging through another field crushes me. But I just can’t stay there, out in the field like that. I need to get up and get to the safety of the base before I de-kit.

I force myself to stand and take another few steps, plodding in an erratic line through the muddy field. My feet disappearing into a mud that had almost the consistency of soggy wet clay.

I can’t think of anything I have ever done that is as hard as this. My energy I just being sapped with each step…My legs burn. Cramp in my calves. Pain in my thighs.

‘You okay, Serge?’ says one of the lads behind me. ‘Not far now…’

‘Yeah,’ I pant. ‘Just finding it hard going in this mud.’

‘It’s a bugger innit!’ But his slight conversation has brought me out of my own thoughts. I look up and see there is only 50m to go, a small wall and then a dry field…and then the dusty road…and then the fridge! Inside the CP we have a fridge stocked with cold water and I can see the guard at the gate already giving out bottles of cold water to the patrol who are already inside.

One last push. One last effort through the field, one step at a time. Head down looking at the mud. But then I am on the road and then stumble in through the gate…and I am pouring water down my throat.

‘Do you need to see the doc?’ Asks the patrol commander.

‘Nah. I’m fine. It was just hard going.’

‘Yeah. Those last two fields were a hard slog. We won’t be going that way again, not until they have dried the fields out a bit anyway. Too much bloody hard work.’

‘A good walk out though, even though we didn’t get a location for the well, at least we got a bit of information about the politics of that village.’ I nodded, and stripped my kit off, drinking more ice cold water – welcome ice cold water…

‘I’m getting to old for this,’ I say, to no-one in particular.

‘How old are you Sarge?’ asks the lad behind me.

’41. Patrolling is a young mans game.’

‘Fair play. I hope I’m still able to go through fields like that when I am 41…’

‘I hope you are too… But I tell you what, I won’t be doing it at 42…Well, I’d better get kit sorted and washed, do a quick patrol de-brief and report and then I am having a cool shower! And then this afternoon, I will be having an old man’s snooze!’

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17 thoughts on “Mud mud inglorious mud…

  1. Reading your blog I don’t feel so bad about my crappy job

  2. Mud is the worst, it really is; I always got really paranoid whenever I had to go through a muddy patch in the countryside since I’m constantly afraid of getting stuck.
    At one point I was out on an expedition in Snowdonia when the path disappeared; taking my group through a small patch of green. Looked like grass to me- until I was waist- deep in water and sinking. Quite possibly the most terrifying moment of my life. I sure do hope that if I’m ever to get deployed I won’t have to do a mud-march.
    Too much bloody hard work INDEED!

  3. Jenny Beck on said:

    I think you’re absolutely ace!

    Keep smiling 🙂

  4. I got cramp in my legs just reading it…

  5. I know exactly how you feel and I am 15 years younger! No longer will I assume that every person in the RAF has it easy! I’m not on the ground anymore and I certainly don’t miss the days that I was, happily office based now but still have much respect for those who are out all the time.

  6. I did 24 years in the RAF, including Cyprus and the Falklands. I was out before the Middle East started. I admire and recognise your spirit. Your writing is good, punchy, hard.

    I hope the spineless yobs at home are dealt with by the spineless government we have in power so that the job you are doing, has value and worth. I don’t want you all to come home to another war zone.

    Stag on.

  7. Helen Cooksley on said:

    Well done Alex. Its nice to hear you are safe if not tired. If the poppies were out, I’m sure you’d be very comouflaged by your usual dress.
    Keep Safe

  8. Your writing style is fantastic, I can almost, almost imagine what it must be like (though, of course, I really can’t!) trying to slog through such heavy mud in a roasting heat, with half the world on your back!

    I’m really enjoying reading your blogs, though it does make my dull office life just that bit more boring in comparison!

    Looking forward to the next one..

  9. ATC Padré Nick Rutter on said:

    Mud has always been the military’s worst nightmare – just think of those gallant gentlemen who fought and died in the trenches of Flanders Field, God bless ’em! But I’m full of admiration for the job that you and all your comrades are doing out there, in what I always thought of as “the Dusty Place!”

  10. Mollsmum on said:

    Alex, reading your blog makes me think that we could be doing a bit more back home to help. Is there anything practical that can be do by us to make the lives of guys like you on the ground easier? I have convinced my workmates to make H4H our charity this year (over £2k raised so far) but it doesn’t seem like enough?

  11. Can’t imagine what its like to have to walk with your full kit on in that heat!..Phew!…

  12. bobtyph on said:

    Alex, I am loving your blogs!
    I am off to chiwell in three months to do the same rotation as you next year, yes I too volunteered to slog through the Mud! I have back read your blogs and it’s nice to know you went through the same trepidation, excitment and anxiety that I’m currently feeling (I’m waitng on an ankle upgrade). If you have spare time, any tips, items you’d recommend purchasing or just want to laugh at the daft WRAF who’s decided to swap her shiney Typhoons for Helmands summer I’d love to hear from you, I think you have access to my e-mail address? Anyway massive respect, keep safe.

    Jane.

    • Jane, I will Email you, but I strongly advise, stronger than strongly, to be as fit as you can be…get used to carrying very heavy weights over long distances t oget ready for it, or else get yourserlf a running machine in a sauna…!

      Will email you shortly!

      Alex

  13. john glanville on said:

    wow fordy just read about you in uttoxetters online paper good to see getting about from john from davies drive many years ago

  14. Morag mcgough on said:

    Sounds like really hard work!

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