Cpl. Jeroen Roskam - From Dust To Desk
Cpl. Jeroen Roskam, NLD-A, in Afghanistan in 2007
As I'm writing this I'm sitting behind my comfortable desk and enjoying the company of my very international team of colleagues. We enjoy the thrills of an international HQ. Drinking coffee, discussing the best brand of chocolate, the new stapler and cracking the occasional bad joke. From time to time however the conversation changes to life outside of the SHAPE perimeter to places that colleagues have been before SHAPE. It's interesting to hear stories from different perspectives that in the end tell the same thing: "We're in it together”.
Despite an economic crisis and some insecurities about military life after SHAPE most colleagues feel that they are truly fortunate. Most of us have seen the flipside of life while operating a rescue barge in the Indian Ocean or while manning the registration desk at a role 2 hospital in Afghanistan.
Personally I've been on operations in Afghanistan a couple of years ago and was absolutely thrilled about the experience. It's always interesting to share those stories with colleagues. They kind of understand what it all means. It strikes me each time that despite our varied backgrounds we all speak the same ‘military' language and seem to be working together quite smoothly. Apparently there's no need within SHAPE for a NATO course teaching us how to share a coffee machine with an Italian or how to address a French officer.
So what does this natural cooperation between us all tell us? Is it a naturally evolved thing? Did the founding nations of NATO come up with a system that ensured this? Is it genuine or do we secretly resent each other? Or is it due to all the missions we are acting in? I believe the latter is the main reason.
We share beliefs which we protect together. In doing this we all gain a lot of respect for each other. In a recent article in my army's magazine I read an article about Camp Holland, the main ISAF base in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. Despite the fact that there are no Dutch left working on the base, the name stays as a sign of respect to those who lived, worked and sadly to say, also died there between 2006 and 2010. I really liked seeing some of the famous Dutch signs and relics still there to be admired by all those working there today.
It's not always the actions we undertake together that makes our alliance what it is. It's the way we treat each other as well. With mutual respect and understanding. Knowing that we're in it together and that the other has been through the same ordeals. From the dust of Afghanistan to the desk of the European HQ, you'll always find an ally along side.