Santa finds Afghanistan

By Nicole Baxter


While most New Zealanders were enjoying Christmas festivities with family and friends, Nicole Baxter spoke to a local man serving in the NZ Army in Afghanistan.

3Instead of a sunny Kiwi Christmas, Carterton's Trent Morrell spent a white Christmas with the New Zealand Army deployed on operation in Afghanistan.

Mr Morrell, aged 22, has been serving in Afghanistan since September last year as a Royal New Zealand Engineer, Plant Operator. Originally from Auckland, he moved to Carterton with his family in 2004 and attended Rathkeale College.

After leaving school in 2007 he worked in the building industry before joining the army in mid 2008.

He is now part of the New Zealand Provincial Construction Team (NZ PRT) within the Engineer section of the PRT with five other men of different trades.

"We specialise in our job and are trusted to complete any to a high standard."

Last Christmas was his first away from home, but he said that it was not much different.

"The way everyone is treated over here, it's just a new home with a much larger family everyone looks out for each other. I personally think it's more challenging for the families that are left at home without a mother, father, son or daughter to spend cherished time on Christmas Day with."

Even the chefs did their best and put on a meal similar to one served at a New Zealand Christmas.

There was some fun sport activities conducted to make the day more enjoyable. The weather has played a big part in the lifestyle conditions in Afghanistan, as most people are used to a nice summer Christmas. Mr Morrell experienced his first white one.

``Currently being in the heart of the Afghan winter, during the day we are lucky to get above zero degrees the coldest temperature during the night so far has been in the high minus 20s.''

He faces various challenges from everyday ones to some more out of the ordinary. ``Where we are you're only as safe as you feel, anything can change. That's just something you're prepared for.''

He said everyone accepts that sometimes their feelings have to be put aside, but support is available for them. ``The support is there with open arms for anyone in need.''

As an engineer Mr Morrell works with six Locally Employed Contractors (Lecs). He manages with daily tasks and other jobs around Kiwi Base and the Bamyan Province, a small area less than 200km from Afghanistan's capital.

While Mr Morrell said the work is satisfying and lots of opportunities arise. He finds it very rewarding with the jobs he has completed though the tour thus far, helping the Afghan National Police (ANP) and National Director of Security (NDS) with Force protection tasks so they will be able to look after the province themselves once International Security Afghanistan Forces (ISAF) leaves. He also said ``just like any job, it does have its dull moments but the experience and life skills that are learnt become once in a life time opportunities''.

Mr Morrell emphasises a lot of thanks and gratitude to his six Lecs. ``They make the job I do easier that what it should be, as they have been working with the NZ PRT in Kiwi Base for over 10years, most since the beginning of Crib 1 having experience in there jobs from constructing all the Bases and Check Points for the NZ PRT in the Bamayn Province.''

Mr Morrell's parents still live locally, his mother working at a vineyard in Martinborough and his father working in Trentham.

While his mum was not too happy to begin with ``and possibly still isn't'', his father was excited having served 39 years in the Royal New Zealand Navy and knowing what it's like deploying on operations for the New Zealand Defence Force.

Lance Corporal Trent Morrell is due to return to New Zealand between April and May this year.


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