OP Herrick 14
Raising The Torch
I served as an administrator on Op Herrick 14 in the Joint Theatre Education Centre (JTEC) at Camp Bastion. The long journey via Minhad was one of mixed emotions as it was my first desert tour & I didn’t know what to expect.
When I stepped off the C-17 at Bastion, the heat and sand made me realise where I actually was, it was a surreal feeling and one I’ve never felt before. I completed the mandatory 2 day RSOI package of PowerPoint briefs & a day on the range & then moved into my permanent room, in the Tier 2 hardened accommodation. My room was very nice with air-conditioning & Wi-Fi. The beds were not the most comfortable as they had the little green mattress’ but it took me back to basic training! After I had unpacked I went to the JTEC and met the people who I would be spending the next 4 months working alongside.
The JTEC offered mandatory education for soldiers such as Command, Leadership & Management (which they need for promotion), & courses for Officers & Defence Instructional Techniques, as well as key skills in literacy & numeracy. The courses were mainly for the Army & not much was offered to the RAF or Royal Navy. I worked in an all-Officer environment which was a first for me but I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside the Army & even though I was the only junior rank, I felt a valued member of the team. My working hours were 0830-1630 and then 1900-2030 Mon-Sat and 1000-1600 on a Sunday, the Sunday lie-in was very much needed! I was responsible for loading courses, entering bid forms onto the database & the Army system called PROMIS. Other tasks included registering personnel for ECDL, handing out language packs, processing Enhanced & Standard Learning Credits & other tasks. I helped the ETS Officers take people through basic skills papers & I went to Forward Operating Bases (FOB) with them. This was an amazing experience & quite daunting, but I was able to see what conditions the soldiers lived in outside of Bastion, some didn’t have showers & used a drip bag to wash, they also lived on ration packs, I felt very lucky that I was able to go back to the comforts of Camp Bastion.
I was surprised at how busy the education centre was & at how many people want to better themselves whilst on Operations. I feel that this is a testament to the type of people we have in the forces, as in the small amount of down time the soldiers have, they still want to learn. In the little down time that I got I went to the gym or played volleyball, oh & there was always time for a little sunbathing!
On the welfare front, we had 2 coffee shops, a NAFFi & a small Pizza Hut, which I frequented quite a lot, but as the gym was less than a minute away there was no excuse not to burn off extra calories! There was also a row of shops, ran by the Afghans which sold everything from DVD’s to gem stones. In conclusion, life in Camp Bastion was pretty comfortable, the food was very good & time passed quickly. I’ve met some amazing & inspirational people especially the soldiers out in the FOBs & Patrol Bases who had some interesting stories to tell. I enjoyed my time out there, but I looked forward to going home.