Monday, 20 October 2008

15 hours on the prairie

Last night I was out on the exercise training area here at BATUS for the Spouses Prairie Trip. It was an evening devoid of glamour but rich in experience!

We left Ralston village at 10pm, weighed down with collapsible chairs, blankets, thermos flasks, sleeping bags and cameras. A coach took us 3km along the road to Range Control where we had a short prairie brief and then we were transferred into our extremely basic transport. Myself and the other 16 wives were to spend the next 15 hours being shuttled round the dirt tracks of the prairie in something called a Man SV.

Man SV's are those huge open backed trucks you often see transporting troops around in the UK. They have a row of rollercoaster-like plastic seats down the middle and no windows. Your only protection from the elements are the canvas sides. Although they no doubt have a very useful role in the army, they are cold and dusty and you get thrown around in the back of them like a sack of potatoes.

After a second briefing at Exercise Control and a fair bit of time just hanging around (a reoccurring theme of the night!) we were loaded back into the truck at 3am and driven to the area where the next assualt was due to take place. We spent 3 hours in that location, sitting on our garden chairs, wrapped in sleeping bags and with at least 5 layers of clothing on - it was extremely chilly! The forecast had been for lows of +1c, but I think it must have been below freezing for most of the night!

At 7am we moved with the exercise vehicles to a second location to watch another assualt and from there to our last stop, an appointment to view the largest, most expensive explosion on the prairie - The python rocket-propelled mine-clearing system. The python is launched by one of these and should have been a rather spectacular end to the night, if high winds hadn't scuppered any chance of launching it!

So 15 hours later, covered in dust, very tired and rather desperate to be reunited with a proper loo, the wives returned to the village. You can see some photos of our trip here.

There is also a short video of some of the night-time fighting. The big white blobs on the screen are illumes, flares sent up to light up a target.

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