Friday, June 12, 2009

BBC Radio 1 : Afghanistan diary: Day Four

By Sima Kotecha
Newsbeat US reporter in Afghanistan

All week Newsbeat is with British troops in Afghanistan for a series of special reports on life in one of the world's most dangerous countries. In the fourth instalment of her diary, Sima Kotecha finds out what it's like out on patrol with British and American soldiers.

Wow, what a day. In the scorching heat, we spent 10 hours in the desert on patrol with American and British soldiers. We were part of an eight vehicle convoy. There were Vixens, Vectors and Humvees. Impressive stuff if you're into your army gear.

The goal of the patrol was to check out areas around Camp Bastion, making sure they're safe and secure. The 4th Mercians introduced the US Marine Expeditionary Brigade to the key check points which they'll be taking over in the next few weeks.

They also wanted the local Afghans to meet the Americans so they know who they are when they go out alone.

It was fascinating watching the two sides work together. The Brits led the exercise and the Americans gracefully took orders. They were eager to learn about the area.

Operation Commander from the Mercians Chris Carter told Newsbeat: "What's actually happened is the US Marine Corps have assumed responsibility for the area around and outside Camp Bastion."

I asked the US troops whether there are differences in the way the teams operate. Marine Sergeant Hurley said: "In all honesty, it's great working with them [the Brits]. A lot of things that we do are similar if not the same. It's a real pleasure to have this opportunity."

Driving through the desert was surreal. For miles and miles there was nothing but sand. The sun sparkled and the sky was a bed of blue. There wasn't a cloud in sight. I took a deep breath and appreciated its beauty.

During the patrol, we stopped several times. We got out of our vehicles and walked around. At one point we heard a couple of loud explosions. My heart skipped a beat. The OC told me it was probably enemy fire. I saw a puff of smoke in the distance.

It's hard not to feel sympathy for the Afghans who live in this conflict. We passed many tents which were erected in the middle of nowhere. The Afghan Bedouins came out to say hello.

One middle-aged man couldn't stop smiling. He stood next to me and grinned at the camera as Pete (my producer) took pictures. His children watched carefully with their piercing green eyes, and laughed with excitement.

Being in the heart of a war zone is terrifying but it won't let you escape the reality of ordinary life.

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