RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Here, I’ve seen…

Being out here inAfghanistan has meant I have seen some amazing things.  Some sad, some funny, some downright tragic. And now I am approaching my time to go home, it’s good to look back on all I’ve seen.

From the power of a Chinook bringing in an Under Slung Load right over my head, I’ve seen the advancement of technology…and then I’ve seen a poor disabled boy – aged about 10 – crawl on his hands and knees around a filthy compound where his parents were squatting. I’ve watched as a farmer has been evicted from his compound by me so that we can take it over as a Check Point.  I’ve felt sick as I watched him take his wife and brand new baby – less than two weeks old – go off to who-knows where. 

I’ve seen a girl, aged about 15 or 16 steal looks from the doorway of a compound as she hid behind the cowl of her head scarf.  Not fully covered, she was spying on us and when I saw her face through the crack of the door, she held my gaze for 3-4 seconds before being seen by her father and pulling herself away.  Her eyes were dark and stared at mine.  The only face of an Afghan female over 13 and under 50 that I have seen out here. 

I’ve seen great generosity when a local mistook my description of what my drinking tube was for a request for water and brought me a cup from his well…and I’ve seen the very worst of what humans can do to each other – an IED blast, and a rocket flying into an enemy position and exploding.

I’ve been lucky to see a medic stitch up a lad’s foot – watched as the needle passed through the skin and then pulled the folds of the cut tight with the thread. I’ve been unlucky enough to see a bullet hole in a man – to see the entry wound tight and small and then the exit wound on his back a mass of red flesh; ripped and torn.

I’ve seen the beauty of fields and fields of poppy flowers stretching almost out of sight in one direction and I’ve seen people disappear into massive fields of 10 foot high corn – whole patrols swallowed in a single gulp inside a green version of a burning hell which saps your strength with every step.

I’ve seen friendship when a local offered me his bread and I’ve seen anger and disappointment when I’ve had to turn down projects for a village.  I’ve felt the handshake of gratitude and the feel of a hand on my shoulder to try to pull me back into a room to discuss further a project that a local wants, but just can’t have.

I’ve seen happiness when a couple of the Riflemen had a water fight outside their tent, and rolled with laughter watching myself and others fall into irrigation ditches. I’ve seen dreadful sadness and misplaced guilt when the same Riflemen lost a friend killed in action.  I’ve seen new friends and colleagues disappear because of life changing injuries.  I’ve seen the strength of people hurt but already recovering from amputations.

I’ve seen fear when I held the hand of a lad who had been in an IED blast, and I’ve also seen the relief on his face when he realised he hadn’t lost his foot.

I’ve seen disgust first hand when I had to wrap up my first ‘wag-bag’ full of my own crap.  And I’ve seen my own disappointment in my own fitness when I returned from R&R and failed whilst out on a routine patrol.

I’ve seen greed when a local national pocketed cash that was meant to build a school, but I’ve seen the selflessness of another who came forward, in the face of insurgent intimidation, to tell us about IED locations.

I’ve seen banter.  I’ve seen humour.  I’ve seen friendship.  I’ve seen comradeship.  I’ve seen loneliness.  I’ve seen beauty and I’ve seen evil.

And all these things I’ve tried to bring you, so that you could be able to see them too – after a fashion. Thank you for taking the time to share in them with me.  I’ve tried my best to share them as best as I could. 

They are all experiences that I will take away with me from this country.  But here’s the rub.  An experience isn’t something you have – it’s something that you use, and each one of the things I have seen, I will lock away until I need to use it.  When I need inspiration, when I need strength, when I need guidance for a decision, I will look back to all the things I have seen out here and use them.  That way, being out here won’t just be something I will have done…it will be something that has changed me and will hopefully have made me a better person. 

God knows, out here I have seen so many people that have been stronger than me, braver than me, cleverer than me, wiser than me…better than me…and each one of them is an inspiration to me.  It has been a privilege to work and fight alongside the very best.  I have been blown away by the guys I have had the honour to share this tour with. Thank you for your patience, your understanding and your comradeship.  Every one of you there has taught me something.

This blog is dedicated to the Officers and Men of B Company, 1 Rifles, and their attached Fire Support Team, medics and other personnel.  Swift and Bold.

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41 thoughts on “Here, I’ve seen…

  1. ripvanrey on said:

    Thank you for sharing the flavours that we cannot taste. For your blog has brought us closer to you & them & an understanding so difficult to grasp from the safety of our UK beds. Thank you. They will add to our ref library of life too.
    Best wishes Rip

  2. Downright awesome. Well done that man! When is the book out?

  3. Nicholas Rutter on said:

    Thank YOu for your regular posts, your insights into life in that “dusty place,” your humour and grace. Thank YOU for putting YOUR life on the line on behalf of the rest of us.

    May God preserve your going out and your coming in, now and henceforth. Come home safe to your colleagues and family.

  4. thank you. for everything you do and have done.

  5. mike kissinger on said:

    I was touched by your openness of your tour. May you stay true to the fight of Freedom,take this back to your Mother country, and never forget ii, God Bless you,

  6. Catherine Briers on said:

    Thanks for sharing your blog with us. Wishing you a safe journey home and happy times with your family on POTL.

  7. Thank you for the blogs!

    Through you we’ve seen the good that is being done by our forces in Afghanistan. We’ve seen the “other side” to the war not what is just presented by the media.

    Through you I hope that we have a better understanding & though we may not have been personally there your blogs have highlighted the strength & courage that you & others have.

    Your blogs have certainly made me think about myself, how lucky I am despite my own ill health, and for that I thank you.

  8. Thanks for taking the time to keep this going, its been an amazing and emotional insight into what really happens on the ground.

  9. David Copeman on said:

    A fascinating series of blogs…thank you.
    It’s difficult, even impossible to imagine what it is really like out in Afghanistan.
    You have made it easier, entertaining and informative.
    Good luck in the future.

  10. thankyou

  11. Safe journey home fellah. Enjoy that first long cold one. Hope there’s not too much Military Waiting on the trip back.

  12. Thank you so much for your incredible stories. I don’t often comment but each one I’ve read has impressed me. We are so lucky to have people like you looking out for people like me. Saying thanks just doesn’t seem enough.

  13. Sue Mitchell on said:

    Really moving blog. Thanks Alex. Safe journey home.

  14. You made me cry, in the middle of the day, in a room full of people! It’s been so good reading your blog and I will keep coming back to it to re-read. I’m from Gloucestershire and we are all so proud of the Rifles being out there and devastated by the losses they’ve suffered. They’ve got the whole county behind them, just as you have the whole country behind you. it’s been a huge pleasure hearing about your tour and you’ve helped us understand a little of how it feels to serve. Good luck with everything – I look forward to the bookdeal!???

  15. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to follow along on your journey. Thank you for taking the time share the experience with all of us and thank you to you and your brothers in arms for your tremendous service.

  16. Ken Martin (Ex RAF) on said:

    I hope your next posting is not too boring after your experiences on this one.
    Cheers mate.

  17. I’ve never commented before, but that post brought a tear to my eye so felt it was appropriate.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences out there, both the good and the bad. I wish you all the best, and as another post said… whens the book out!

    All the best and god speed.

  18. Well done mate, I use my experiences to make me stronger and found I am a changed person.
    Enjoy that first beer and time with the family

    Per Ardua

  19. Fantastic blog Alex, truly humbling to read.

  20. And now you have made me cry!! I admire you and everyone like you so much, I do not have the words. Whatever you do after this, I wish you all the love and luck in the world. Thank you for sharing.

  21. A truly inspiring blog – well done to you all and enjoy your return home
    Sally

  22. I read your last post and remembered some of the experiences I felt when serving in Oman in the 1970’s. The pleasures, the pains. The joy of the end of a day and the sorrow and release of getting on the plane home. In those days we did not have blogs or the internet. We had letters and our only communication with home was by paper. It is no easer today and the reality is the same. You are one of the best and I will remember you for bringing to me and many others the reality of the front line at a time of modern war. It is never good – it is never fun. It is the reality of life in the service of others.

  23. Going to miss you and your updates! Good luck upon returning home. Let us all know when you are on twitter. Would love to keep following you Suzieg01 xx

  24. these memories will remain with you, Sarge. Good luck.

    Sgt Rao

  25. Thank you, you write so beautifully, I really hope you Will write a book. The glimpses you have given us help us back home to try to imagine what it’s like to be out there at the moment. Safe trip home to your loved ones.

  26. Good luck for the future, I hope you will keep blogging when in Blighty or other locations, its been interesting, entertaining, and mind-blowing…Thank you!

  27. Barbara Suzuki on said:

    Thank you for describing so openly and eloquently your tour of duty. One of my sons has served twice in Afghanistan, and your account has enabled me to add details to his brief accounts, so that I can better picture and understand his experiences.
    I admire your sympathetic accounts of the local people, who have suffered so much for so long, and I am humbled by the courage and commitment to duty from our Forces operating in such dangerous and challenging conditions.
    You are a gifted writer with an important message. I hope I might read of your work.

  28. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and I would like to wish you well.

  29. I can’t possibly do your blog justice by writing the perfectly formed description that it deserves! I have enjoyed reading every insight into your lives out there and think you have amazing talent as a writer and an airman! Safe trip back & enjoy your first pint!

  30. Thank you for giving such a personal, honest and moving account of life for you all in Afghanistan. Stay safe, try to keep blogging and enjoy being back with the family.

    Wishing you every success & happiness in the future.

    Per Ardua

  31. chris andrews on said:

    Outstanding blog, I have enjoyed following your experiences over the last few months.

    Take care and best of wished

    Chris
    ex Royal Signals British Army

  32. you made me cry again. i have friends about to deploy, i will miss them. i can’t go with them as i have to care for my son.
    you have given me an insight to their living conditions. they won’t be on patrols as civvies, but life inside the compound won’t be easy either.

    i have really enjoyed reading these. i laugh and i cry.

    safe trip home xx

  33. Bill Cooper (Coops1002) on said:

    Top Blog. Stay safe

  34. I work in Development and relief, and I appreciated someone from the military taking the broader perspective of what you do. At least when I work in difficult countries I don’t have to reach out past the military hardware to make a connection – all the more impressive that you did try and told so much more interesting stories as a consequence. I also am so sorry that so many young men and women get injuries for a fight they didn’t really start. Safe travels on your way home.

  35. That certainly brought the tide in! A mixture of intense pride and humility for what you and all our people in Afghanistan do. I believe we are all changed by the people we meet and now I have to consider that we are maybe even changed by some of the people we may never meet. Thank you!

  36. I have enjoyed reading your blogs, but have been scared stiff the next one may have been written your OC telling us you had been medivacc’d.

    Come home safe m8.

    KS

  37. Stewart Charman on said:

    As a civvie frustrated by the lack of in-depth coverage Afghanistan receives in the UK your blogs have been insightful, informative, inspirational and invaluable.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and putting into words sights, sounds and emotions most of us could never conceive.

    Your blogs have served to distill everything that is good and just about our UK Armed Forces: professional, versatile, thick skinned and often sensitive to a much wider picture. To you and the colleagues you leave behind to continue the work, I salute you.

    Stay safe.

  38. Sam Bennett on said:

    Thank you for your honesty and insight but more importantly, thank you for doing what you do. Thank you to Officers and Men of B Company, 1 Rifles, and their attached Fire Support Team, medics and other personnel.

  39. Well done and thank you

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