Day-to-day, Kirsty’s role involved organising supplies and logistics, personnel flights, and also driving armoured vehicles – one of the few females in the NZDF to do so.
She’d be fully kitted out in body armour in the driver’s seat, a pistol at her side, grenades within easy reach and plenty of ammo - Afghanistan can be a hostile place.
The traffic, too, was hostile - Kirsty had to always be alert, and always be on guard.
She compared Kabul roads, in places, to Auckland’s “Royal Oak roundabout, on steroids” - with “four lanes of traffic going in both directions around it, donkeys, carts and beggars” to contend with.
The busy, unpredictable atmosphere led to a “prolonged, heightened sense of fear”, with anything and anyone being a possible threat.
“I remember vividly that we would get an intelligence report that told us a suspected vehicle-borne IED - so a vehicle carrying a bomb – is in a white Toyota Corolla – now, you drive out the camp’s gate and every second vehicle is a Corolla.
“Another one was fruit carts – they were using fruit carts to put bombs in and then activating them when a vehicle went by – and every 50 metres there was a fruit cart.
“One of their other preferred ways was to use magnetic IEDS ... now, when you’re stuck at the roundabout, and there are beggars tapping on your windows and you don’t have sight of that person, they could be slapping on a bomb – you just don’t know.”
Asked when she felt most valued during her military career – it was when she dropped off baking, building relationships along the way.
That’s right – amid the artillery attacks and road-side bombs, Kirsty found equipment and supplies to bake a range of foods, and handed them around the different international military contingents to improve relations.
“It really did gain us a lot of respect – that whole networking thing, where we needed to lean on other forces – it was invaluable really,” she says.
On one occasion, her contingent's pickup truck had “blown up” just days before a crucial relief shipment of supplies and personnel were due.
As luck would have it, a large American truck had just rolled into their disposals yard with a bad alternator.
Kirsty sweet–talked them, quite literally, into exchanging the truck for something the Americans had come to value highly – one of her famous banana cakes.