I’m back working in one of the troubled states to our north.
Not the one with the miraa chewing pirates, nope, not the one with sallow skinned beauties sipping coffee, no I get the one that is always at bloody war.
I shouldn’t complain, that’s the reason I’m here, I work protecting the nice fluffy caring people while they deliver humanitarian aid. But recently the war and the fluffiness came to blows in a quite dramatic manner. On Monday a United Nations helicopter was downed just outside the town of Bentiu in one of the troubled northern states.
Remember the massacres of April, yep that’s the same happy place. Now it’s not been determined if we do have another Black Hawk Down situation, where the chopper was shot down or in fact if it was Russian pilot error but one thing is for sure, it will raise the tensions here.
I am lucky or unlucky enough to have been in a situation similar to the former.
Helmand Province, Afghanistan June 2012. 4am…
I sat with my weapon, between my legs, facing down. Now if it went off for any reason it wouldn’t shoot into the blades whirring above me. I was sitting at the back of a British Army chinook helicopter, my adrenalin level on high, my mouth dry and breath rapid. I was part of a strike ops operation and we were circling high about 4kms away from our intended target. I looked at the eyes of my colleagues, all showed the same concentration, the same self-control. Waiting is always the worst. I looked out of the open back at the landscape far far below, just mud huts, sand and more sand.
The airman sitting at the back with the 50 caliber machine gun gets up, he holds his open hand out towards me and signals “5 Minutes”. I don’t care how cool you are, at this point you know, like I did, that I’m about to get in a big fight. No one sends my regiment to anything but nasty situations. Now adrenalin floods through my veins, any aches or tiredness vanishes, I check my equipment from head to toe, weapon, ammo, armour, med kit, secondary weapon…I’m good to go. The chopper changes from its circling to attack, we swoop low, clipping trees, 30 tonnes of helicopter carrying 20 heavily armed soldiers to a firefight.
The eyes in my friends change, we now have to “turn on”, turn from the normal guys that our loved ones know into the well trained, lethal, professional soldiers that our country demands. I get the “30 second” sign and pass it along the line. I’m at the front, so I will have to disembark quickly, I’m just about to unbuckle my seat strap to gain an extra second..
The chopper banks heavily to the right to avoid any incoming fire we all bounce around like kids at a fairground. The familiar sound of small arms fire cracks into my ears as the awaiting enemy prepares our welcoming committee. The chopper lands heavily, but the right way up, all ok? Yep. The airman stops firing his weapon and indicates which way is North so we can work out where we are on the map once we disembark. I know where I am…I’m in a firefight.
Now I protect caring, fluffy people…let’s hope that chopper was pilot error…