The Afghanistan journey begins…

 

‘Children: The sounds of progress’

“I was sat at Lashkar Gah waiting for a helicopter, it was about 10am and the sun was out, it felt like a nice summer morning you get in the UK (sometimes!), the camp at Lash  is surrounded by high walls and on the other side of those walls is the hustle bustle of life, people living in the provincial capital going about their daily business, these are sounds you get used too but then came the sound of children, lots of them laughing, screaming and playing, the noises that are all too familiar with a playground during break time in any country around the world but not here. It’s a sound I’ve never heard here before, during my last tour 3 years ago we were involved in projects building schools in this area but we never got to see the schools full let alone hear all the kids playing and laughing outside.. For me the sounds I heard washing over the walls brought on a moment of contemplation.. it was the sound of progress..”

First of all here’s a quick video, this was from the Brigade’s final training exercise before we deployed. This was filmed and edited by me:

We’ve arrived! It was a long journey, it took about 18 hours in total so we grabbed sleep where we could! We’ve been here for just over 3 weeks now, after an overlap of about a week with the outgoing CCT (Combat Camera Team) we’re finally in the driving seat.

 

Catching some sleep in between transport…

The Herrick 16 team handing over to us the Herrick 17 team with layers of cheese!

Train the trainer

Our second week was spent at Lashkar Gah where the brigade HQ is located and the other half of the AMOC (Afghanistan Media Operations Cell) team. We were tasked to cover a story with the PMAG (Police Mentoring Advisory Group). They were handing over and officially opening up a new wing at the police training school, which has been built and developed by PMAG. The wing was being taken over by Afghan trainers who had only recently attended a ‘train the trainer’s course’. The new class being enrolled was the first co-ed mixed male and female class to be held, so this was a great mile stone in the history of Afghan Police Force training and a real sign of change.

Here are a couple of images, these were taken by our boss, Captain Booth.  Being an officer he may be mighty with the pen but he’s not professionally trained in photography. I’ve left out the all the shots with feet cut off and there were a few! Hopefully by the end of the tour, between Jamie and I, we will have brought an end to his feet chopping!

Dougal picked up great audio

As part of this story we interviewed one of the Afghan female police officers, now this gave me something to think about as we had to use an interpreter as well, so the format of the interview needed to change. I needed to get an end result where the female was framed like a normal interviewee and looking in the right direction with good audio. We had a dougal mic (a big mic that looks like a wee scotty dog with a pole stuck up its..) and I also had radio mics (small and clip on your shirt collar), my preferred method is to radio mic the person we’re interviewing but as there are real sensitivities around females in Afghanistan, I don’t think getting her to start stuffing wires up her top with me guiding them through would be appropriate. So we went with the dougal and positioned the boss and the interpreter where the female we were interviewing wouldn’t be bobbing her head from one place to the next when they were asking questions and interpreting. The interview went really well! We got some great quotes and she was funny. Once I got back to start the edit, I found as we had been focused on the interviewee the dougal picked up great audio from her but we could hardly hear the interpreter and we needed the audio from them … So lesson learnt, next time I’ll set the interview up exactly the same but I’ll put the radio mic on the interpreter and dougal on the interviewee so we get both sets of audio and on different channels. The output from this job, is a set of rushes that we make available to the media, rushes are an un-edited collection of clips and interviews put together with a press release, this gives a news team all the parts they need to run their own story during a news broadcast.

My footage from this job was picked up by BFBS and used in a story they broadcast, you can view the piece here: http://www.bfbs.com/news/afghanistan/women-see-role-grow-afghan-police-61270.html all the footage after the MOD indicater half way through was shot by me.

More technical and mentally demanding

Once we got to Lash, the jobs started sprouting out of nowhere.  In the first two days we ended up with five jobs and I’m not moaning as a like to be busy. To give you an idea, these were our tasks for that week:  The police training story, Kings Royal Hussars coming home story for their local news, Brigadier’s end of tour piece to camera, collecting stock footage of Lash, collecting video messages for a charity event ‘Ride to the Wall’. Fingers crossed, this is a sign of things to come as I want to get as much material out of my tour as possible and really develop my video skills and to do that we need lots of work!

Although when I say we were busy, the one thing that has hit me is the difference in activity. All my previous tours have been with a formed infantry company with 100 other blokes. You normally hit the ground running and life is pretty hectic, long hours and hard work of a totally different type, whether it’s standing in a guard tower for hours on end, driving vehicles on long patrols or humping kit on foot patrols. Every day you’re rolling from one job to the next without much of a break, if any, in between. So far, what I’ve seen from this job, which to be fair isn’t much yet, it’s more like my civilian job where the work-load is more technical and mentally demanding with long hours in front of a computer. Yes we’ll be getting out on the ground for weeks in a row so I’ll get my boots muddy, but we’ll always be heading back into Bastion too get the footage edited and sent off to where ever it needs to be. It has felt a bit weird sometimes, I keep feeling like I should be leaping onto a vehicle and heading out on a 12 hour patrol or getting stuck in a sanger for a couple of days instead of being sat in an office. Although we are now on a sanger rotation at Bastion, so I can treat myself to a bit of guard! Another lesson learnt, be careful what you wish for!

Another similarity with my civilian job is that a large part of this job is finding and developing relationships. For BT as an account manager I have to find the right person within a government organisation at a high and low level to talk to and then develop that relationship, leading to new business for BT etc. With the CCT we have to find all the right people to talk to within all the units out here and develop those relationships, which will then lead to stories. And it’s much the same with the media. We want to get the stories out so we have to find the right people to talk to and more or less sell them the story. Another great way of finding stories is just talking to random people and its surprising what you can dig up!

Here’s one last video, these were the video messages we recorded to be played at the Ride To The Wall event at the national arboretum, a great event raising money for the up keep of the memorial. http://www.ridetothewall.org.uk/ 

 

Well it looks like we’ll be getting out on the ground shortly so I’ll make sure I have some good footage to share on my next update…

 

You can also view this blog via the British Army official blog site: http://britisharmy.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/a-new-combat-camera-team-arrives-in-afghanistan/

And you can now follow me and the CCT on Twitter via @CombatCameraH17

 

 

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