Monday 20 August 2012, 10:30
Despite the years of training and experience nothing can prepare you for the realities of modern warfare: the huge logistic support involved, the proximity to death or serious injury and, above all, the way extreme violence becomes mundane.
The environment of Afghanistan, both physical and human, was always a source of a strange mix of wonder and dread.
From a physical point of view the variation between extreme cold in the winter and extreme heat in the summer made flying in an unpressurised, un-air conditioned cockpit interesting.
Added to this was the helicopter pilot's nemesis: the Afghan dust.
Dust storms, sometimes lasting days, would make flying almost impossible as the visibility was reduced to a few hundred metres, akin to driving down the motorway in thick fog.
Jonathan Singh's daring helicopter mission
Everyone had an opportunity to say they weren't happy to go, in which case I would have had to convince them otherwise or scrub the mission.
No one voiced any concerns although I'm certain everyone harboured some doubt as to whether we were doing the right thing.
Strangely at the time I felt no such reservations. It was only later that I would be racked with self-doubt, questioning whether I had taken unnecessary risks and worse... whether I had enjoyed the danger a little too much.
I remember feeling hyper-alert but calm and clear headed right through the mission. I wasn't scared at all as I was purely focused on the task in hand.
For me that state of mind was normal flying in Afghanistan. The fear and emotional release would come months later while back in the UK.
As you see unfold in the programme, flying the mission was broken into a series of tasks: finding the troops in the dust, avoiding the enemy, landing, taking off again and finally returning and landing back at the airfield.
As soon as each stage was completed I focused on the next. When we landed back at Bastion we were elated, we thought we had saved a soldier's life.
I was overwhelmed by the collective skill and composure of my crew, the Apache crew and the medical team in the back who without hesitation had trusted their lives to our judgement.
Tragically both Captain Griffiths, who we rescued during the dust storm, and Kingsman Deady, who we'd flown back to Bastion 24 hours earlier, were to later die of their injuries in a British hospital.
We never knew any of the soldiers we picked up personally. I think it would have been even harder to be objective in analysing the risks of a mission if we had.
When informed that the two soldiers had passed away (I still did not know their names and wouldn't find out till this series was made) it was a devastating blow. But I had to put it to the back of my mind... sadly there were always more casualties that needed rescuing and I wanted to stay focused.
Looking back I feel a deep sadness that we weren't able to save their lives but I hope the families can take comfort in knowing that a lot of people, of all ranks and backgrounds, gave their utmost to try and save the lives of their loved ones.
I hope they can take some comfort that they were able to see their family member before he passed away.
Sadly the events of that day on the IRT reflects the war in Afghanistan in microcosm for me: A huge effort in the face of an incredibly hostile environment against an unseen, vicious enemy where success and failure hang in the balance.
Jonathan Singh is a former RAF pilot who appears in Our War. Jonathan has since left the RAF and is now a full-time student.
Listen to an audio blog with Our War executive producer Colin Barr about the making of the programme.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
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