Monday, February 9, 2009

Sunday Mail joins our boys on the frontline in Afghanistan

Charles Lavery

FORWARD Operating Base Inkerman lies north of Sangin in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The Sunday Mail's CHARLES LAVERY discovered what life on the frontline is like for marines in some of the world's most inhospitable terrain.

GETTING in and out of Inkerman is a battle in itself with helicopter flights routinely coming under Taliban attack.

Our journey to this outpost was thwarted twice by enemy fire before we were finally dropped off - only to wish we could clamber back inside the departing helicopter.

During my time with Arbroath-based 45 Commando I kept a video diary of Inkerman.

Little did I know as I packed the recorder into my backpack that within days I would be face down in a field holding it up over a ridge to film the Taliban - while they tried to kill us.

Our arrival at Inkerman left us open-mouthed. It was thigh high in mud, with huge puddles everywhere. The grim postapocalyptic look was heightened by the array of freight containers around the camp.

Seven Javelin missiles lay stacked on sandbags ready to be slung up to the men in the tower. The fact they cost s70,000 a pop made it even more surreal.

Toilets are holes in MDF and the waste has been assaulted, but not knocked out, by ammonia.

Showers are never anything but icy cold and washbasins spout the same freezing water.

There is always something to video at Inkerman, not least the courageous Marines who live and fight here for a six-month tour of duty.

They get just two weeks off and earn less than s17,000 a year.

Ryan Gorman, 22, a sniper of East Kilbride, said: " Some of the boys get down but not me, I love what I do. I see it as payback for the people they killed and injured who were friends of mine.

"If I didn't shoot them they would shoot me."

Food at Inkerman is good but the men here lose weight over their six-month tour. They try to stay fit and a makeshift running track inside of the perimeter is hammered by feet from 5am each morning.

Inkerman is a men-only camp - with one exception.

Becky Williams is a 21-year-old Royal Navy medic. She has her own shower but must share tent space with the men.

She said: "It's OK and I tell them not to touch my stuff but it doesn't matter, they steal it anyway."

I made the mistake of asking what kind of stuff they steal.

Suffice to say that when the artillery guys are called to action to man the big guns, they do so to a man wearing various items from Becky's ever-depleting wardrobe.

There has to be some fun.

Click here for the Sunday Mail

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