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BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra live from Camp Bastion: The Big Dawg goes to Afghanistan

Westwood with the Fire and Rescue team at Camp Bastion

BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra decided to bring Tim Westwood to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, because the story of the troops out here is primarily a 19-year-old's story, which is perfect for our audience.

We wanted to hear the troops' stories and give them the opportunity to send messages to family and friends back in the UK.

The 10 hour takeover British Forces Special on Bank Holiday Monday was the set piece of this trip with messages of support coming from the UK and messages going back home.

Radio 1 and 1Xtra worked very closely with BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service) as well as the MOD to make this trip possible.

We have been broadcasting 22 hours of live radio from the BFBS studios here in the middle of the Helmand Province desert and the help and support of the BFBS here in Camp Bastion has been amazing.

There have been a few technical headaches as we are simulcasting on BFBS across Afghanistan and 1Xtra, and triple casting the last hour of each programme on Radio 1 as well. Back timing a go-go.

The production team of two, in addition to Tim, have been sleeping in bunks in a tent in the Media Ops area. Thankfully the tents are air conditioned as the daily temperature reaches 45°C. But it's the dust that is the nightmare, it gets everywhere. We've already experienced one dust storm, where you couldn't see two feet in front of your face and it left a centimetre of dust in our sleeping bags inside the tent.

The first thing that strikes you about Camp Bastion is the sheer scale of the place. We managed to get up in the Air Traffic Control Tower and the camp stretches to the horizon in every direction. The perimeter fence is 26 miles long and the camp is roughly the size of Aldershot.

The strangest thing about being in the camp is sitting down to eat dinner, with US Marines on the next table with M16s and pistols.

It's been an amazing experience, as we've seen a great deal of the camp: the flight line with all the helicopter crews, the hospital, the dog compound, the logistics support groups who supply the FOBs (Forward Operating Bases), the Marines, the Firemen, meeting troops from all three services - the RAF, the Navy and the Army.

I have nothing but admiration for all the people we've met out here working in such tough conditions. I certainly couldn't do it. There is much more to be told from here and I already want to organise coming back with Tim to get out to the FOBs - the real sharp end of operations in Afghanistan (wife and Radio 1 permitting).

Rhys Hughes is executive producer, BBC Radio 1


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