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In theory each mentoring team would have had two interpreters, the same two interpreters to get used to working with. indd 49 25/05/12 8:55 PM ’terp’, would get dicked for the job in hand. We quickly realized that unless a ’terp was in his good books, or more likely making sure he took a cut of his pay, he would get disproportionately picked on for the dangerous, uncomfortable missions. Our first ’terp was a nice, scruffy kid called Shabir, which was too easy for the Guardsmen and immediately became Shabi.

Mohaiyadin cut a pretty fearsome figure whether in camp or out on the ground. Whip-smart, either shaven* The motto of the United States Military Academy is ‘Duty – Honor – Country’. No prizes for guessing where the NATO staff officer who came up with the motto of the Afghan National Army which is ‘Allah – Honour – Country’ studied. † The finest leadership course in the world, so we were told. I guess that was because they didn’t do log-races at Harvard Business School. indd 36 25/05/12 8:55 PM headed or bald (you wouldn’t have asked), he looked like an Afghan Patrick Stewart but with a thick moustache and a glare that would have silenced the bridge of the Starship Enterprise even if it had been crewed by squabbling, mutinous Pashtuns.

The Gurkhas could have stuck their underpants on their head, two pencils up their noses and answered every question ‘wibble’ and it wouldn’t have made a difference. When it mattered, they were still professional infanteers, still moved instinctively through the dead ground, spaced themselves out and at the first crack of simulated enemy fire got rounds down in the other direction and hit the deck. If we’d thought training with the ‘Yorkshire ANA’ was surreal, it had nothing on seeing a squad of Gurkhas getting bollocked time and time again for doing their job too well.

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