Lieutenant Kathryn Hill
1 November 2012
Postcard from Afghanistan
by Lieutenant Kathryn Hill
Kia ora from Afghanistan! I am a member of the New Zealand National Support Element based at Bagram Airbase, which is a 90-minute drive north of Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Our mission is to provide logistical and administrative support for the New Zealand Defence Force’s operations in Afghanistan, whether these be in Kabul, Bamyan or elsewhere in this South Asian country. This support includes everything from procuring supplies and equipment, booking flights and other transport, and arranging accommodation and finance. No two days are the same!
LT Hill inspects US Army vehicles.
I spend most of my time interacting with the Americans and the foreign contractors on base to ensure we get the support we need and to keep things running smoothly. After spending some time at HQ Joint Forces in Trentham Military Camp, my current role is a logical progression for me. It also means I already know a little Army speak. Now I just have to learn how to talk like an American!
With around 40,000 American and international personnel living here at Bagram, our relatively small group of Kiwis gets a fair bit of attention. US personnel are keen to work with the Kiwis and are very interested in our country. They ask us so many questions we sometimes feel like we are working in a travel agency. Thankfully, our friends and family ply us with care packages, enabling us to share with them New Zealand delicacies such as Jet Planes, onion soup dip and Twisties.
Bagram is a hive of activity 24/7. After a few weeks here, we’ve all grown used to the deafening roar of the C-17 transport aircraft, the A-10 straight-wing jet aircraft and the AC-130 Spectre gunships taking off at night. We have a few luxuries, I must admit. There is the Base Exchange (which sells food and basic clothes), Pizza Hut and Burger King outlets, and a Green Bean café. I have no doubt they will help us endure the portaloos, the lukewarm showers, the ever-present dust and the odd rocket attack (usually at 5.30am) over the next six months. I had braced myself for this before coming here. And on the plus side, my present office does not rock from side to side, like it would be if I were at sea.
One of my memorable tasks so far saw me going to the bank, armed to the teeth and in full armour. When I get back to New Zealand, I will have to get used again to not carrying arms all the time and driving on the right side of the road at speeds of over 25kph.
We’ve got a busy time ahead as the New Zealand Defence Force’s mission in Bamyan winds down. We’re all looking forward to the challenge and the clean-up. As I write this postcard, there are 57 more sleeps to Christmas (the Base Exchange has already put up its Christmas tree). Our welfare parcels from the RSA have just arrived and I can almost smell the Pineapple Lumps.