Chris Cully – The Dust From The Planes

Chris Cully,- Managing Director of risk & security management company, Dilitas
Chris Cully,- Managing Director of risk & security management company, Dilitas

Chris Cully, the Managing Director of risk & security management company, Dilitas writes exclusively for about Kandahar Air Force Base. Chris writes: “Well, dear reader, it is a letter from Afghanistan, from where your correspondent is penning this report.

“I arrived at Kandahar Air Force base from Dubai a week ago. After being shepherded from the plane, we moved into the old Kandahar hanger where the Taliban made their last and terminal stand (no pun intended), as the myriad of bullet holes in the surrounding masonry providing a lasting & eerie testament.

“After being suitably yelled at by someone with an American that we shall not bring forth alcohol, pornography nor pornographic impedimenta (my word not his) we trooped up to a little window and swapped our passports for a green lanyard and visitors tag. From there, we collected bags from the hard standing outside climbed into a dusty Toyota Land Cruiser. Then I was whisked away at a lightning 20Km/H, which is pretty much the standard speed limit round here, to the offices and a well needed cup of tea.

“Thus I had arrived at KAF. The rest of the day was taken up with Health and Safety briefs security briefs, completion of more forms, production of my CRB form and then off to recover my passport, which was swopped for the aforementioned paperwork. Then to another office for a rather fetching photo of yours truly for the security pass, which from thereon stays with me at all times. Back to the office to be provided with body armour and Kevlar helmet.

“”Am I really going to need this?” I enquire of the friendly South African lady.
“Unlikely, but if it all goes to rats, get it on”, she replied breezily.
“Goes to rats?”, I enquired
“You’ll know”.

“With that comforting piece of advice, I dragged said body armour to the ubiquitous Toyota Land Cruiser and back to the office to start the work for which I had been brought in.

“En route, my driver explained there had been no air raid warnings or rocket attacks for weeks. I was about to reply when alarms erupted everywhere and a disembodied female voice, with the clarity of London Transport’s tube system, announced a rocket attack was imminent.

“As per the security briefing, I leapt from the now stopped Toyota and threw myself on the floor with the best of them. We remained in this casual position for the standard two minutes and then jogged to the nearest bunker comprised of big slabs of re-informed concrete, where we stood for the next 40 minutes until the same disembodied voice announced the attack was over.

“Back to the car and on to the office.

“Kandahar Air Force base is huge and covers about the same area as Reading. The only way to describe the place is a cross between a massive council estate, combined with an industrial estate, all constructed out of large reinforced concrete slabs, a la the Berlin wall, with razor wire, shipping containers and dust everywhere. Combined with this is a large runway in the very middle from which F16s’, Tornados, C160s’, several different civilian planes, drones which are quite fascinating up close and a multiplicity of helicopters both civilian and military fly in and fly out.

“The air traffic never stops and a week into my residence, I am still fascinated by the screaming roar of fighters taking off in pairs to provide air support to ground troops.

“Although briefed to bring warm clothing, the weather is sunny and warm. The night, which appears like a flick of a switch, brings cooler temperatures. At this point everybody is wearing reflective belts to prevent getting run over, as street lights are in very short supply. Woe betide those who don’t wear their belts, as the Military Police will appear from nowhere and fines liberally dispensed.

“The vehicle traffic is immense and Toyota Land Cruisers pretty much reign supreme. Naturally there is a vast supply of military vehicles of every shape and size, which are either for combat purpose or logistical services. All vehicles move at a standard 20 K/H, apart from certain sections of the perimeter road where, a massive 40 K/H is permitted.

“As with their civilian counterparts in the U.S., the American Military Police have the Vogon cloaking device allowing them to appear from nowhere behind those miscreants doing 25 or 25 K/H, for which you get the obligatory ticket and points on your licence. The roads are liberally covered with “STOP” signs at all junctions and the driving community has the “every other vehicle” movement through the junctions down pat.

“Travelling along the perimeter road and looking through the fence into the great and endless Afghan plains, can be seen little piles of soil with either a rock or some yellow dust on top. It creates an impression of a massive set of molehills all in line and similarly decorated with stone or dust. My driver explains that the piles of soil are where the locals have been out doing the “Blue Peter EOD thing” and identifying the presence of coalition mines. Occasionally there is a loud bang when the prodding in the ground does not quite go to plan.

“Kandahar is a multiplicity of nations. Naturally we have the Americans, the Brits, Aussies, Slovaks, Dutch, Belgium’s, Canadians and Danes, all in their own fetchingly designed battle dress and everybody carrying a weapon. Naturally, nobody of French extraction has been spotted. Add to this the civilians, who range across all the continents, and it has to be one of the biggest ethnic mixes I have ever seen.

“The Forward Refuelling Point is a thing to behold. Here, the helicopters re-fuel. They come in fast, land and with rotors still running, the small but highly experienced team of Fuelers move in and re-fuel, with the efficiency and competency of an F1 pit team.

“Naturally the process is not as fast and the fact that a member of the helicopter crew gets out, hands a fuel card to the man in charge, who swipes the card & produces a receipt and gets it signed by the crew member adds an interesting perspective to the whole process.

“The card is recovered, crew member jumps back in chopper, Fuelers withdraw and off soars the gun ship back into the sky. All very Pythonesque but hugely impressive in every way.

“Naturally, I have bumped into chums who are here on the circuit and have the obligatory 9mm strapped to a leg. Invariably, they ask where my gun is and, with a flourish, I produce my Parker ballpoint and announce the pen is always mightier than the sword. I suppose their response of “Twat” sums it up.

“So, a brief taste of the frenzied, never ceasing, activity that is Kandahar Air Force Base. The Gods willing, normal service will be resumed next month. TTFN.”

Dilitas Website

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