This week, The Southern’s columnist in Afghanistan, Union Jack, tells of his long-awaited final journey home to the Borders and family.
“Despite a strong desire by all returning UK forces to travel home as fast as possible, everyone undergoes decompression in the Mediterranean.
Decompression is designed as a half-way house between the dangers of an operational tour and returning to domestic life.
On arrival, we changed into civilian clothes and handed our uniforms in to be laundered.
After lectures and briefings, including from the psychiatric nurse and padre, we were able to buy up to four beer or wine tokens.
The only alcohol available in theatre [Afghanistan] is communion wine on a Sunday, so this limit is designed to encourage sensible consumption.
Dinner was a barbecue, followed by a show with comedians and a music duo.
The following morning, we were off to the beach where we were offered a variety of activities – once we had passed a swimming test. I chose to paddle a sea kayak and afterwards, suitably darkened by the sun, we returned to camp after lunch.
The next morning it was back in uniform and off to the airport. After several hours’ flying and a few more waiting, I arrived back to the embrace of my wife. Given the long journey home, we decided to break the journey north and so it wasn’t until six days after leaving Kabul that my kids could finally show me their banner: ‘Welcome home Daddy! We love you!’