Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Taliban bullets were whizzing past my head

By Lucy Tatchell

CORPORAL Lee Hodson was part of a convoy driving an armoured open-top Wmik along a dusty track in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when Taliban fighters started firing at them.

He was pinned down by a stream on his right and enemy fire to his left.

Then soldiers from the Afghan National Army jumped out of the truck in front and started firing rocket-propelled grenades, meaning that Cpl Hodson was boxed in and could not drive forward.

“It was two or three Taliban firing from about 150m away,” said the Worcester Warriors fan.

“All I could hear was the whizzing of bullets past my head. I was screaming at the Afghan army blokes to get back in the vehicle. I was just trying to get the vehicle out. It lasted about three minutes but it was too close for comfort.

“I’ll probably get a few more like that before I leave.”

The former Elgar Technology College pupil, of Blackpole, Worcester, is nearly three months into a six-month tour of duty with the 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters).

Part of their role is to train and mentor the Afghans so eventually they can provide army protection to their country, which has been at war for more than 30 years.

A company of Afghan soldiers is then partnered with soldiers from the Mercians and together they go out on patrol and carry out operations.

Speaking from the Mercian’s base in Camp Shorabak, 36-year-old Cpl Hodson said working with the Afghan army has its challenges but he enjoyed watching how it operated.

“They just pick their weapons up and they are gone,” he said.

“We have to sort out water and ammunition but they just go to the local town and buy it there.

“When we have contacts they will just get up and run straight for the gun position and go straight for it.

“Sometimes they just want to do it their own way and we cannot tell them, we have to advise. For them it is just the journey to their afterlife.”

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