Tuesday, February 2, 2010
A former Swansea City player and now a Royal Welsh soldier has escaped unharmed after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Lt Stephen Healey, 27, played for the Championship club before injury cut short his career on the pitch.
The soldier, from Cardiff, was in an armoured vehicle with nine others when it was struck in Helmand province by an improvised explosive device (IED).
Lt Healey said the blast's force was incredible, but nobody was hurt.
The soldier, from The 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh (The Royal Welch Fusiliers), was commanding a convoy from the turret of the lead vehicle when it was hit last month.
He said: "We were driving along and then suddenly I felt a massive explosion and got thrown up into the air by the blast.
"I fell back into the turret and then all the debris and dirt from the explosion rained down on my head.
"My first thought was for the blokes in the vehicle and I felt sick thinking what I would find below me.
"There were eight of my soldiers and an interpreter down there."
Describing the force of the explosion, he said: "The pressure wave actually snapped a couple of the machine guns in half. We had taken a direct hit under the belly of the Mastiff.
"The wagon was completely undriveable but it had done its job and saved us - it was damaged but we weren't."
After the explosion the team went through their drills to protect each other from any secondary attack and so that they could get the damaged vehicle back out to safety.
Lt Healey, who joined the Army in 2007, said: "I know it is a cliche and everyone says it, but in situations like this you really feel the training kick in.
"The soldiers' reaction and courage does allow you to step back and make the right decisions and everyone slots in and does their job naturally."
The former centre-back was a Swansea City apprentice for two years before signing a two-year contract.
But after a succession of injuries he quit the game in 2001 before going on first to Swansea University, where he did a sports science degree, and then the Army.
Lt Healey, who has since recovered from his sporting injuries, said: "I was absolutely gutted at the time as all I had ever done was play football but I just had to pick myself up and look forward," he said.
"Being a professional footballer wasn't all glamour, although it did have its moments and there were some great parties," he said
Lt Healey still plays football, and turns out for the full Army team.
But now his main commitment is looking after his platoon and he went out to Afghanistan in December as part of the fresh contingent of 500 British troops.
"Obviously working really long hours and living in harsh conditions out here is a very different life, but I really do love the Army life.
"Being a platoon commander operating on the front line is the best job."
A Swansea City spokesman said: "It is great to hear that Stephen has made his mark in the Army and forged a new career for himself.
"We were all really relieved to hear that he was ok after the explosion and wish him all the best for the rest of his tour."