Zac describes his first deployment, to East Timor on three hours’ notice, as ‘a good test of the waters for a soldier’. He learnt about the practicalities of soldiering and embraced the opportunity to learn a new language and develop his communication skills.
His training stood him in good stead in Afghanistan. His initial reaction was stunned:
…you land on the ground in Tarin Kowt and you’re in a valley surrounded by mountains that look like something out of Mordor in Lord of the Rings… and think ‘no-one’s letting us out of here easily’. And yeah, it was a solid effort to come home.
With fraught local interactions, vehicle checks became a source of ongoing tension and patrols through the local villages could be deadly. You never knew who might be trying to kill you.
…there always the threat of rockets, and IEDs were the worst thing…because there’s nothing you can do about them. So, I think it’s always in the back of your mind, especially as a scout, just waiting to step on the wrong part of the ground and disappear.
Zac again worked hard at learning the local languages. He came to admire the resilience of the Afghani people and their ingenuity. Their ability to ‘make water run uphill’ through their aqueduct system particularly impressed him.
He also remembers Piyaraja. A young Afghani girl who, at risk of severe punishment, brought them naan bread ‘real food’ when they were on checkpoint duty.
Reviewed 19 May 2021