Rolling my sleeves up for a 15-hour working day

4th Article from Kabul
4th Article from Kabul

This week, The Southern’s special Afghanistan columnist, Union Jack, describes office accommodation with a difference ...

Much of my work environment would be familiar to office workers across the Borders – sitting for hours in front of a computer screen, for example.

The only difficulty I encounter on my way to work is being awake enough to salute general officers.

I no longer wear a suit or have to worry about my choice of cufflinks and tie, but instead am dressed everyday in my multi-terrain pattern uniform with sleeves rolled up as per Royal Navy regulations.

My Borders upbringing means I feel far more comfortable in short sleeves at 6,000ft in Kabul than I did in a suit on the London Underground in summer.

Aside from limited dangers from winter weather, we do have to be far more cautious about personal security. Such is the current security situation, I am armed at all times. This can prove a little awkward when sat at one’s desk, however, this is a trivial issue compared to the discomforts endured by those courageously out on operations across Afghanistan.

Our office was described by my predecessor as a large garden shed, with its wooden walls and metal roof. Officially it is referred to as a South West Asia (SWA) hut as built by the US Army. But, unlike garden sheds, our SWA hut has no windows and a sophisticated security door to restrict access.

And since we have a complete suite of computer equipment, it is also fully air-conditioned.

However, living under florescent lighting at a constant temperature means that it is always a surprise to open the door and discover what the weather is like outside.

Fortunately, it is usually bright sunshine as Kabul enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year.

The weapons I use to ‘fight’ are rather less warlike than those portrayed in the movies or TV reports: a desk, computer system and phones.

Like most staff officers here, I work rather more than 48 hour per week. I am normally at my desk before 8am and often still here after 11pm.

Although as an operational HQ we work 24 hours a day, there are no meetings on Friday and Sunday mornings: Friday being the Muslim holy day.

This gives us a chance to attend to personal matters and catch up on some sleep, before starting work.

However, as a military environment where fitness can save your life, I try to escape to the gym most days.

So until my next update, it’s time for another coffee, fortunately supplied by the US Army chaplain, although for reasons I have yet to understand.

The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.