'They try and make us neat and tidy'

Hilary Andersson, in the Kuwaiti desert for BBC News, is no stranger to war conditions, writes Wale Azeez. She reported from Bagram where the US forces set up an airbase during the conflict in Afghanistan.

But the sense of a “culture clash” between journalist and military was still palpable as soon as she arrived at the UK Military Armoured Division HQ, Forward Transmission Unit, last week.

“As soon as we arrived at the camp, in the midday heat, this soldier came up to us and said, ‘I’m effectively your troop commander. Here, put these on.'”

“These” were heavy, charcoal-lined, bio-chemical warfare suits. “He told us, ‘You’ve arrived in the middle of a chemical warfare exercise and I can’t have you walking around the camp in T-shirts and shorts while my men are in bio-suits.’ That was a real hassle, because all we wanted to do was to get working. That was our priority,” said Andersson.

“There is clearly a cultural difference. They try to make us neat and tidy and impose a bit of discipline. But they are friendly. It’s always strange to be under any kind of restrictions and, of course, we don’t like working with other organisations. But they recognise this about us and they respect it.”

Wale Azeez

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