UK riots shock RAF blogger in wartorn Helmand

Oxford Mail: Sgt Alex Ford with Afghan children Sgt Alex Ford with Afghan children

AN RAF Benson blogger serving in Afghanistan has described the “mad world” he has left behind in the UK, hoping loved ones at home stay safe.

Sgt Alex Ford’s blog Rafairman gives people a daily insight into life on the front line.

But when news of the UK riots reached him in Helmand he found himself tweeting: “Unbelievably I have been telling people at home to stay safe. How mad is this world becoming...?”

Sgt Ford’s blog first hit the headlines last September when he marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain by “tweeting” in the style of a 1940s RAF airman for a day. And since March it has had 80,000 hits.

He is in Afghanistan as part of a British military team helping the people of Helmand province with reconstruction and development projects.

In a blog post on Monday, he described the difficulties of patrolling in the heat of an Afghan summer through muddy fields flooded by farmers for irrigation, while wearing heavy body armour: “I can’t think of anything I have ever done that is as hard as this. My energy is just being sapped with each step… My legs burn. Cramp in my calves. Pain in my thighs.”

Finally the command post is in sight: “One last push. One last effort through the field, one step at a time. Head down looking at the mud. But then I am on the road and then stumble in through the gate…and I am pouring water down my throat.”

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Explaining why he blogs and tweets, Sgt Ford wrote: “I love technology and gadgets. And I am a people person.

“I think we’re all looking for connections in life, and the more we have the richer our lives are.”

And amid the tension of venturing into areas where the risk of a Taliban attack is ever-present, there are lighter moments.

A local farmer, who rents land to the British forces for burning rubbish, and was upset that soil from waste pits dug in his field was being used to shore up defences. Sgt Ford, 41, wrote: “‘You’ve stolen my mud!, said Gulam through an interpreter who was already smirking. I was taken aback. What do you say to someone who is complaining that you have stolen his mud? Plead innocence? Admit to the theft? Look astonished that someone would even do such a thing? I chose the latter. The problem was I sort of knew what he meant…”

  • To follow Sgt Ford’s blog and Twitter feed, see rafairman.word press.com and twitter.com/#!/rafairman/ and to see pictures he has taken in Helmand province, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/rafairman/

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