As I sit and wait for my flight home for my R and R, I realise that 6 months ago I was meeting my new platoon for the first time. Since first meeting my Platoon Serjeant, my Section Commanders and the Rifleman it has been a roller-coaster ride planning and training for an unknown role in Afghanistan and eventually deploying out here to an unknown entity. 20 months since starting my training I am in Afghanistan leading thirty men through the ups and down. Afghanistan, a mixture of the excitement of deploying on a patrol and for the majority wondering what the future holds.
The majority of the work is not easily definable and is not measurable on any scale. I feel responsible for the morale of the platoon, when they are down I try and think of ways to bring them up. When they are frustrated I try and understand why they are frustrated and how we can change it. When they make mistakes I feel responsible and try and work out how to fix it. It is something you are not trained for and is very much trial and error, never knowing whether you are really achieving anything especially when the majority of your solutions are just talking to the riflemen.
The patrols are the other part of the job and you wonder how much of a difference you can actually make to this fascinating country. Deployed on the ground you have the constant feeling that you cannot achieve anything measurable but then have glimmers of hope as you speak to a local who is onside and understands about what his government is trying to achieve. Or you go to a Local Police Station who understand their role far more extensively then they are often given credit for. While at the same time you are waiting for the, at some point inevitable, contact or IED. The ultimate test for you as platoon commander; the one you want to know you can do well but never want the implied consequences of failing or of possible casualties.
I have been lucky that I have had the opportunity to come here and there is nothing else that I would rather do. The thrill of directing a platoon with so much experience to do my part for the country. As I await my flight back home I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends but there is a part of me that wants to stay here, continue to guide, lead and protect my platoon and do the job I signed up to do.
2Lt O Wootton