'It'd been a long morning. Up at about 03:00, dressed and a smidge of breakfast, and then leaving the CP at about 04:00. Still dark and quite cool, we moved off. This was the start of Operation Omid Haft. Our company was to move north and establish a new check point right up at the top of the Area of Operations bordered by the NEB Canal. The Helmand Green Zone of Afghanistan is essentially bordered by two bodies of water - to the north the NEB, to the south, the River Helmand. To move there, in force, we needed to be set out before the enemy were aware that we were coming and catch them unprepared.
So off we went....But progress...was particularly slow. The Quad-bike that was following us was overloaded with kit, spares, ammo, food and water. And the multiple following us was finding it difficult to get across the ditches, even though it had bridging equipment and 16 guys to assist it. This was slowing us down....
All of a sudden it was about 11am. Out for 7 hours, making slow progress, the heat of the day was rising. We should have been in the village where the check point was to be by 10am, and it was still over a kilometre away. And then we were hoping to meet the local elders before we started on the check point...it was going to be a long day...
...We found ourselves on the edge of a village. The sun baking. The ground totally open and dry....I took slurps from my CamelBak - a bladder of about 3L of water inside my day sack with a drinking tube coming from it. I had been expecting it to be a long trip and had filled the bladder and brought an extra litre of water in bottles. Thinking wisely I had used the bottles first, one 500cl bottle in each of my trouser pockets which I drank from as we moved along. Once these were emptied I stuck them in my day sack and started on the bladder. Sucking on the drinking tube as we went along to try and shake my thirst....and then the worst thing....I opened the sack and looked. Of course, the bladder was empty...
..."You got any spare water...mate?" I asked a [nearby] medic. "Nope. I ran out 20 minutes ago." I asked over the multiple radio system - the PRR - and no one had any spare. This was a bad thing. We still had a long way to go until we were certain of getting fresh clean water.
I looked down at the irrigation ditch. It was filled with stinky, filthy, muddy water. Not a good idea to drink. Then I saw the quad-bike. Spare water.
"Boss, I am going to get some water off the quad-bike." I shouted, and he nodded. I walked over to the bike and asked for a jerrycan of water for our multiple. The driver shook his head.
"What? Have you run out too?" I asked...."Here you go Alex. The multiple 2ic (second in command) tossed me a flask-like bottle. Blue with a drinking spout at one end and a screwcap at the other. "I've got a LIFESAVER bottle."
And it was a lifesaver. This was a special bit of kit that was just coming into wide usage. It was a water filter that allowed you to turn any water [excluding sea water] into drinking water. They claimed that any muddy puddle could be put through the device and become pure drinking water - with no nasty bugs that would make us ill and send us down with the dreaded D & V.
I undid the screw top and moved down to the muddy water, putting the bottle into the dirty puddle. The flask filled and I returned to my day sack. I followed the instructions and pumped away at the bottle - almost like a plunger in a coffee pot, but pumping over and over and over. This built up pressure in the flask and when it was not possible to pump anymore I opened up my water bladder in the day sack and then opened the other end of the LIFESAVER.
Fresh, clean water poured into the reservoir. I repeated the process again and again and again. My reservoir bladder filled with water. I tossed the flask to the next guy who did the same, and eventually the multiple replenished their water supplies. The filthy nature of the ditch was gone and the water in the bladder on my back was now fresh, clean and drinkable, and most miraculous of all, it was relatively cool...I made a vow there and then - to get hold of a LIFESAVER bottle of my own to sit in my own day sack. This would weigh a lot less than carrying spare water and would be invaluable.
....That LIFESAVER bottle was going to be used again I felt...and it really would live up to its name. It really would save lives.
Taken from an extract written by an RAF Airman entitled 'It's a Lifesaver'