Friday, July 24, 2009
Taliban were firing at me and I just thought of my little girl, says Army's only female Jackal driver - Daily Mail
The only British woman soldier driving combat vehicles on patrol in Afghanistan has told how thinking of her daughter got her through the terror of an ambush.
Staff Sergeant Claire Griffiths, 33, was driving a Jackal armoured patrol vehicle guarding a supply convoy when rocket-propelled grenades exploded just yards away from her.
She said: 'We came under small-arms fire from several directions. As we forced our way through the hail of bullets, the insurgents began to fire RPGs at us.
"My heart was thumping with the adrenaline. All I could think about was my three-year-old daughter back home.'
Little Nicole is being looked after by her father, Sergeant Simon Griffiths, at the family's home in Wantage, Oxfordshire, while her mother completes her six-month tour in Afghanistan, for which she volunteered.
S/Sgt Griffith's patrol managed to escape the ambush in Helmand province with the help of covering fire from another coalition patrol.
They then worked through the night, filling up sandbags until 1am the following morning.
After just a few hours' sleep, the patrol set off again, leaving the checkpoint just as dawn broke on May 16.
As they reached an Afghan National Police (ANP) checkpoint, officers rushed out to warn them that the Taliban had just planted an improvised explosive device ahead on the road, which was not much wider than the Jackal itself.
The bomb exploded before troops had time to make it safe.
'It was a massive explosion but thankfully no one was injured,' said S/Sgt Griffiths, who has previously served in Iraq, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Bosnia.
'After the explosion my survival instincts kicked in and I just began to laugh. I guess it was nervous laughter. The device could have killed any one of us.'
Warned that the enemy was planning to fire on their position, the patrol moved away quickly, cutting a new route through the desert.
S/Sgt Griffiths added: 'We always knew... that we would eventually come under some sort of contact but it was the not knowing when, where or how.
'That patrol was our first real test and we know it won't be our last within Helmand.'
S/Sgt Griffiths, who is originally from Fulham, South-West London, is part of 31 Close Support Squadron based in Abingdon, Oxford.
She is half-way through her tour, attached to the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment - there to provide 'mentoring' to the Afghan National Army by taking part in joint patrols and operations.
'I'm really enjoying my time here. It's exciting and a bit of an adventure every day,' she said.
'Our role is vital to make sure supplies continue to reach the people who really need them, so it's rewarding work.'