Afghanistan diary - day 1

  • 11 December 2009
  • From the section Politics
Sima Kotecha with soldiers in Afghanistan
Sima is back in Camp Bastion six months after her last trip

"I just want to do my time and come home" - that's what the soldier sitting next to me on the RAF Tristar jet said.

He wiped sleep out of his eye and sniffed. His face looked grey from exhaustion.

As we made our way to Afghanistan, he told me his girlfriend was beautiful and that he planned to marry her once he returned from his tour.

It was another long flight to Helmand Province six months on from my last trip. The ride was just as bumpy and spontaneous.

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Cold weather

In June we were stranded in Dubai for six hours in the blazing heat. This time round, we flew around in circles above Kandahar while the pilot dealt with signal problems on the ground, and an air defence failure on-board.

The lights went off, the body armour and helmet went on, and we sat in the pitch black darkness waiting to land. It took a while and I found myself dozing off on Pete's (my producer) shoulder.

Kandahar is open to indirect fire (IDF) from the Taliban so we were told to leave our armour on as we stepped off the plane.

The sharp cold hit me unexpectedly hard. I began shivering and my hands felt numb so I pulled on my heavy bomber jacket.

It had been raining heavily and there were large and very muddy puddles everywhere.

The bottoms of my black trousers were soon wet and covered in muck.

The journey from Kandahar to Camp Bastion is short but it felt a lot longer.

It was around 3am local time, and I felt bad for the staff at Kandahar who had stayed up to make sure we got on the flight and took off safely.

Sima Kotecha
Sima flew from Kandahar to Camp Bastion

A soldier from the Mechanical Engineers was sat beside me. He helped me do up my seat belt and chatted away about his wife and kids back home.

I'm always impressed by these people who are so brave to leave their loved ones for months at a time. He said: "A job's a job and someone's got to do it."

The red tower lights twinkled brightly from the runway at Bastion.

We grabbed our luggage and headed to the media operations tent.

I was shattered and as I yawned, my eyes watered.

I crawled into my sleeping bag and felt a sense of satisfaction that I had made it back here again.