So, here I was in the Erbil Rotana, itching to get started on our documentary. But before we were headed anywhere, we had to do all the basic kit check and preparation required, as well as get the most up-to-date briefing on the situation on the ground. There was plenty to do. First was a trip into downtown Erbil to get the team’s armoured SUV seen to. The one we were using had been parked up in the hotel car park for a few weeks and needed a complete check-up. So Andy and I volunteered for carpool duty.

We drove into Erbil to a trusted Kurdish garage, where the mechanic gave the SUV a full check-over—tyres, oil, brakes, the lot. While they were doing their stuff, I sat in the office reading the manual that came with the vehicle. I was familiar with these types of vehicles from deployment as a private military contractor all over the Middle East, but as you all know, the letter P features very prominently in Phil’s alphabet. Not only does it stand for plenty, it also stands for preparation. As the old saying goes, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” I wasn’t taking anything for granted.

According to the manual, the armour and the windows were thick enough to take direct hits from any calibre up to 7.62mm, and could sustain the odd grenade blast or two. All standard issue, really, although I have to say that, although I was glad of the protection afforded, there is a case for saying that these vehicles have their disadvantages, too.

On the one hand, they can stop a few dozen rounds from close up. On the other hand, they do stick out like a holy man in a Hamburg whorehouse. Sometimes it makes sense to downgrade to something a little less flash that blends in with the local vehicles. It may not stop a bullet, but if you play your cards right and look the part, you are not going to attract one either.