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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Dalton soldier injured in Afghan gun battle

BULLETS flew within inches of a soldier moments before he was injured in combat in Afghanistan.

Private Marc Smith, 19, was caught in a hail of Taliban gunfire as he patrolled with his unit close to Lashkar Gah.

As he dived for cover the 19-year-old from Dalton s napped the tibia and fibula bones in his leg and was rescued by colleagues and airlifted to safety.

Now back home in Dalton where he is recovering from his ordeal Pte Smith described the incident as ‘an adrenaline rush.’

The former Dowdales School pupil had only been in Afghanistan for three weeks on his first tour when the attack was launched.

He described how the Taliban surrounded him and nine fellow soldiers.

He said: “They were 180 degrees around us, they were coming round the sides of the compound. The Taliban started flanking us both left and right, so we carried on engaging.

“We just hit the deck and returned fire.

“They were shooting just in between me and another lad. The bullets were coming just in between us.”

He said the patrol on October 24 around Lashkar Gah city, the capital of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, was a daily routine task with Ten Platoon, Carunna Company.

Pte Smith continued: “Before the contact, we could see a family moving around.

“We could see people moving around on the roofs and looking at us, looking at our movements.

“When we came under contact in open ground we were pushed back into cover. There were about six of them shooting, though they were well hidden.

“There were a few of our lads in front and a few behind me. We were pushing back to cover. The medic was a bit behind me.”

Pt Smith, of 1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, described the moment when he came under fire as an “adrenaline rush.”

During combat, Pte Smith said that he “snapped” his leg when he jumped over a ditch to take cover from the bullets being fired at him: “My colleague radioed to the Fire Support Group and they just came. They have bigger weapons and more fire power. Three or four of the Jackal vehicles came to help.” He explained how his colleagues treated him at the scene as the gun battle died down.

“The Section Commander jabbed me with morphine while the medic was treating me. The medic was splinting my leg together to make sure it didn’t wobble.

“I was taken to the helicopter landing site 200 metres away. It took five minutes to get there. I was carried back to the Pedro, an American helicopter, on a stretcher and taken back to the Bastion hospital. It was all so quick. It was about 20 minutes altogether.”

Pte Smith said that while the attack came as a surprise, he felt his training helped keep him calm. “I wasn’t scared. It was more just adrenaline. It’s exciting,” he said. Pte Smith said his extensive training before he was dispatched to Afghanistan gave him a sense of security. He said: “We all knew what we were doing. It was like carrying out all the drills.”

When he arrived back at Bastion, his combats were ripped off from his leg. He said: “A charity called Troop Aid gave me new clothes, socks and wash bag. They really help you. They give you everything really. I really appreciate them helping me.”

Late on the night of November 2, Pte Smith was flown back to Birmingham Queen Elizabeth’s hospital for surgery. He had 15 stitches, 18 staples and two plates put into his leg to hold the bones together.

He said that although the stitches and staples will come out next week, the plates are there forever.

Pte Smith returned home to Dalton to continue his recovery on Tuesday.

He said he was thankful the attack was not a lot worse: “It was a lucky injury to only hurt my leg. In the hospital in Birmingham there were lots of amputees.”

Pte Smith, saddened by having to leave his fellow soldiers so early into his army career, said: “I miss it. It’s annoying that I did all the training and I was only there for three weeks.”

The soldier said he was hoping to not let this injury stop him in the future. He said: “In nine months time I will be able to walk again properly.”

For the moment however, the teenager said that he is enjoying life back at home in Dalton and seeing his family and girlfriend, Brogan Morrison.

Sharon Rae, Pte Smith’s mother, said that when she got the call about the attack her stomach dropped. She said: “The call made me feel sick. I am just so relieved to have him home.”

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