Air Force Afghanistan Review: Casualty of War Reporting

June 11, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

AIR FORCE AFGHANISTAN, Friday 12th June, Channel 5, 8.00pm ALERT ME

There’s no way you’d get me going over to Afghanistan, and probably not for the reasons you’d expect.

Sure, it’s one of the most dangerous places on the planet at the moment and the constant heat is an unrelenting drain on mind and body; but what has really put me off is what I’ve just seen on TV: Air Force Afghanistan.

The Kandahar Airbase is home to around 10,000 soldiers from around the world who are all on the front line in the war in Afghanistan.

Regiments from the UK are regularly deployed for a six month tour of duty where they are charged with patrolling the villages around the airbase, deterring insurgent activities and keeping their comrades safe from attack.

From the first use of boring lad-rockers Hard Fi’s Suburban Knights as the theme tune to the club 18 -30 feel of the base, it becomes quickly apparent that this is proper lads’ fare.

And to quite literally illustrate the point that this fly-on-the-wall documentary about the day-to-day lives of soldiers on the front line is aimed at armchair soldiers of fortune, every so often we are treated to a rundown of the weaponry capabilities of the various vehicles employed out there.

In an armoury porn slideshow of computer generated imagery, the firepower of each bomb, rocket and mounted machine gun is analysed as if their primary function was to excite rather than take lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the troops in Afghanistan are doing an almost impossibly difficult job. And judging by this show they’re doing it well with typical British good grace and humour.

It’s the tone of the show I’m taking issue with, not the subject matter. With the right interviews and a little patience this could be a very revealing portrait of what it must be like to live in the middle of a desert, knowing each day could be your last, separated from your family and friends by thousands of miles.

Maybe I’m asking too much but the superficial Ibiza Uncovered style left me unsatisfied and fairly uninterested.

In the first episode we meet Sgt Benet ‘Jonesy’ Jones who is about to take his regiment on their first six month tour of Kandahar. Back home Jonesy’s pregnant girlfriend will give birth to their daughter while he is away from home. For the lads in his regiment Afghanistan will be a completely new experience that will test them in their profession.

It would have been of much more interest to probe a little deeper into the thoughts and feeling of these young soldiers about the war they are about to enter.

Instead we get to see them discover that the Kandahar Airbase has a Pizza Hut, Subway and Burger King. Thrilling.

Jack McKay