It’s 0430 in the morning, it’s dark with a very bright full moon, the temperature is hovering around freezing, my lips have gone blue and it takes every ounce of dedication to move my shivering body out of the relative warmth of my sleeping bag on Patrol Base Nahidullah.
Before long, we’re all loaded up in the back of Mastiffs and on our way to a nearby Check Point where we’ll dismount and head off into a local village on a foot patrol – what the 2 SCOTS OC Major Piers Strudwick calls an ‘advance to Shura’.
The idea is to arrive in the village and coax locals out to talk about what they need, what ISAF troops are doing in the area and beat the Taliban at their ‘information operations’ game.
We’re walking straight into a Taliban stronghold and the 2 SCOTS soldiers are expecting trouble. Everyone is focused.
The patrol gets off to a great start when we arrive at the Check Point and all inadvertently disembark from the back of the Mastiff right into the ‘burns pit’.
The driver had (he says not intentionally but the smirk gave him away) reverse-parked into the very spot where the lads on the Check Point disposed of their, erm, waste.
Cue a broad Glasgow accent out of the darkness….“I expected we’d get into the s*** on this patrol, but we haven’t even left the check-point yet”.
As it happened, bar the odd river crossing and a couple of insurgents who came close but then must have decided it was far too cold for a full-on firefight, it was a very successful patrol with a number of locals engaging with the commander and discussing how to bring more security to the area.
A good result overall then, but my boots will, I fear, never be the same again.