EXCLUSIVE Afghanistan blog - Sensitive to holy month customs

Hattie
Hattie

NEWLY promoted Lieutenant Hattie Haslam-Greene from Storrington talks about her experiences in Afghanistan in another instalment in our exclusive blog series.

Lieutenant Haslam-Greene, 24, is serving with 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Based at the Battlegroup’s headquarters in Lashkar Gah, she is part of the Female Engagement Team whose role is to build better relationships with the female population of Afghanistan.

Here, she explains the highs and lows of being on tour as well as what it’s like to be in Afghanistan during Ramadan:

“This week has been pretty exciting because I was promoted to Lieutenant! This is particularly good news when you’re working in a Headquarters and being a 2nd Lieutenant makes you the most junior person for miles around.

“So it’s quite nice to have the second pip on my rank slide and now the new 4 SCOTS subalterns have just arrived, I’ve officially handed over role of one pip wonder to someone else. Next stop from here is Captain, although that still feels a long way off at times.

“August has been very different because of the holy month of Ramadan. During the religious festival, Muslims are not allowed to let anything pass their lips during daylight hours.

“Given it’s currently averaging 40 degrees here, not taking on any food or water all day means that anyone adhering to this is at pretty limited capacity for most of the day. Generally, people change their routine so they can sleep all day and eat and drink at night.

“We’ve had to take this into account in our dealings with Afghan locals and the Afghan National Police; for example, we have had to be sensitive to the situation when arranging patrols, shuras (meetings) and visiting compounds and local people.

“Ramadan has severely limited my interactions with local women too, as most of them are confined to their compounds, preparing for all the feasts that are held during the night time.

“Even though we still have a couple of months to go before we officially hand over to the Battlegroup for HERRICK 15, preparations for handover/takeover are already underway.

“New people are already starting to arrive to begin their tours. I leave quite late in what is called the RiP (relief in place during which the units and Brigade change over) so by the time I go, the entire of the incoming Headquarters should already be in place but that’s important because continuity is absolutely critical with everything we do out here.

“All the information we’ve gathered has to be collated efficiently and handed over, so that the next team can familiarise themselves with the areas and developed a decent situational awareness as quickly as possible.

“Obviously, this is a work in progress throughout the duration of tour, but it does mean that the handover requires a lot of organisation and overseeing. As with everything in the military, there is a process that needs to be stuck to.

“It is a constant source of amazement to me how the more senior staff officers keep on top of everything that’s going on, without even breaking a sweat.

“The Colonel is the same, always one step ahead of everyone no matter what job they’re doing, even though everyone else finds it hard enough to keep on top of their own job! It’s like he’s got about three brains all working at once.

“I’m approaching the two month countdown to my end of tour now, so I’m starting to think about post-tour leave and planning to go away, which I hadn’t really allowed myself to do before.

“The time is going really fast now and I’ve got so used to being away that I don’t even notice it any more.

“You develop such strong friendships with people on tour but that’s the Army all over, you get really close to people very quickly, develop a good friendship and then people move on again. It’s the nature of a job that moves you around on a constant basis.

“But it’s great fun. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and what they might bring, I’m going out to another control point soon and there are more training shuras planned for women once the Ramadan and Eid festivals are over.

“The best bit about the next few weeks is that it should be getting cooler out here. The last month has been unbearably hot so the temperature dip really can’t come soon enough. I’m almost envious of the guys who’ll come out on Herrick 15 for the winter tour. Almost, but not quite!”