Glen Ferrarotto - Outside the wire
Within about two weeks of being back in Afghanistan, I was outside of my first patrol with Bravo Company and yeah, again, it's one thing to be inside the camp and in that environment but to drive out the gates, it's another level and it was absolutely terrifying, exciting, emotional. I recall it would have been about three o'clock in the morning as we were lined up ready to depart and there's a lot of secrecy before you leave, so only those that are going out on patrol would be involved in the preparation for it.
You'd go and do an O group I think they called it, where you'd get your orders the night before and you'd learn what you were going to go out there to do. And of course, with our commandos and Special Forces, it was all about capture and kill and identify and bring the bad guys back basically, if possible. So it wasn't really hearts and minds stuff. So you'd learn where you were going to go, you'd go to the RAP and you'd get some morphine, you'd get a tourniquet, you'd write your blood group on your shirt.
You'd be given this piece of paper that they used to call the...I can't recall what it was called but it was effectively a piece of paper that was written in about six or seven different languages and you'd keep it in a plastic envelope, stick it in your body armour somewhere very safely. But that effectively said that if you're captured, whatever I offer to my captive, my government will validate or come good with and they'd always say, "Don't offer money, just offer livestock or goats," or whatever it might be.
And we never really knew what was written on that piece of paper. I'm sure there was English in there somewhere but all those things culminated in a very real understanding that this wasn't training anymore, this is the real deal. And I was sitting in what we used to call the mothership, which is a big... It's a Unimog that is all gunned up and has all of our spare parts and ammunition and water and bits and pieces. We'd usually be towards the rear of the convoy and it was an inspiring vision to see a column of Special Forces vehicles ahead of you.
Every car has a Mk 19 grenade launcher or a 50 cal, every car has four or five Australian commandos in it, fully tooled up. The best of the best and to be part of that convoy, it's unbelievable. It's what dreams are made of really, if you think about being a solider when you were a kid. And I saw this figure walking up the convoy and he was moving his hand around and this is a bit strange, not sure what's happening and he moved up and I realized it was the padre and he was blessing all the vehicles and all the crew.
And I don't really have a religious bone in my body but that put the chills down your spine when you go, padre, he knows how dangerous this is going to get. So yeah, emotional, a lot of adrenaline and then off you go and every flash, every time the moon flickers off a rock, every sensory thing that could occur just grabs your attention and that's the way it is for the first few hours and few days and then you just get used to it. Then you just get on with doing your job.