Challenges of Romero Base, Afghanistan
Mon, 20 Aug 2012 6:14p.m.
By Mike McRoberts
Romero Base has now featured fatally twice in a fortnight for the New Zealand Army.
It even takes its name from an earlier tragedy – an American Special Forces soldier, Daniel Romero, was killed there at the start of the war.
Located northeast of the Kiwi base in Bamiyan, it's considered the most challenging assignment of the New Zealand deployment.
I got a first-hand look five years ago when I stayed there with Kiwi Two patrol.
Along the day-long journey to Romero Base we found constant reminders of the regions conflict-ridden past.
It barely needs to be said, but the steep terrain is ideally suited to insurgent attacks.
"There's not really much you can do about it apart from understanding what's on the other side of the hills because that's really got the most to do with where they're going to ambush you next," said Lieutenant Sean McCulloch of Kiwi Two patrol.
Patrol commander Lt McCulloch's vehicle was struck by a roadside improvised explosive device on his second day of deployment.
"It took out the vehicle's electronics and stopped the motor and we essentially had to get out the vehicle in a hurry and head for cover"
The young lieutenant will look back on the incident now and thank his lucky stars. He came away from the attack with barely a few cuts to his face.
“I've had far worse playing rugby.” He said it didn’t even make him think twice about being in Afghanistan.
“And it hasn't for any of the guys in my team. I know that they're committed to not only being here and completing the role that we're here for but helping the Afghan people.”
But even then it was clear not all Afghan people wanted the New Zealanders there. I particularly felt that in the village of Duabe, recently described by one injured soldier as a cross between the Star Wars bar and the Wild West.
"Sometimes they're not that friendly, but they're friendly on the inside, smiling on the inside."
Patrolling Romero was a tough assignment back then and it must be truly awful now.
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