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Bomb squad CO heads off for first Afghan tour
THE commanding officer of a regiment nicknamed the Real Hurt Locker will head out to Afghanistan to support his boys in April.
Lieutenant Colonel Adam McRae, commanding officer of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment (11 EOD), will lead a task force to find and dispose of bombs.
11 EOD, which is based at Vauxhall Barracks in Didcot, is nicknamed after the 2008 film about bomb disposal experts The Hurt Locker.
About 80 personnel from the regiment, including 25 from Didcot, will join the 280-strong task force in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
Hundreds of Oxfordshire service personnel, from both the army and RAF, will head out to Afghanistan in April for a six-month tour of duty.
Lt Col McRae said: “I am looking forward to it. I am not looking forward to leaving my family, but professionally it is what we join the army to do.
“I will not be out (in the field) that often, but I will go out because you have got to share some of the tasks and dangers with your soldiers.
“There is no point going out and just sitting behind a desk.”
It will be the first time Lt Col McRae, who has 20 years’ experience in the army and 10 years in bomb disposal, will have toured Afghanistan.
He has previously completed two tours of Northern Ireland and one of Bosnia and Iraq and won an MBE for services to the army in 2005.
Asked whether he saw himself as brave for doing his bomb disposal work, he said: “No. It is just a job, and I am trained to do it.
“I look at firemen and policemen who turn up at scenes of accidents on motorways and burning houses and I think they are brave.
“I am not saying you do not get scared, but fear is good. Being scared keeps you alive.
“But I remember the first device I ever did, in Northern Ireland. I went and did the job, and then went home and had a cup of tea and thought ‘that’s it?’ “The training is so good – to do bomb disposal in Afghanistan you go through months and months of training and assessment – that I felt more under pressure in training than I ever did for real.
“The lonely walk – which is a good title for it – is one of the few places on the planet where no one is next to you.”
But Lt Col McRae said everyone in the regiment had experienced “hairy moments” in their careers.
He said: “Everyone looks back and thinks that was close. I have friends who have stood on a pressure mat and heard it click under them.”
One of the regiment’s main tasks will be to train Afghani bomb disposal teams in preparation for the UK leaving Afghanistan in 2014.
“As we transition, the idea is for Afghanis to provide their own security and we teach them the skills and take a step back,” said Lt Col McRae, who added that his team do 3,000 tasks a year in the UK “The bulk of bomb disposal in Helmand is now done by Afghanis, and they are very talented at it.”
Lt Col McRae gives a talk to schools using the regiment’s nickname, the Real Hurt Locker, but said the film did not reflect his team. “Our job is a lot more boring than The Hurt Locker,” he said. “The film is a dramatisation and therefore an interpretation.”