How RAF fire­men bat­tle blazes AND Tal­iban in­sur­gents ‘UN­LIKE CIVIL­IAN FIRE­FIGHT­ERS, WE’RE TRAINED TO USE DEADLY FORCE!’ RE­PORT­ING FROM THE FRONT LINE IN AFGHANISTAN

EX­CLU­SIVE

Midweek Sport - - NEWS - By JES­SICA HA­WORTH in AFGHANISTAN

blast from an­other nearby ex­plo­sive forced SAC McGe­orge into ac­tion.

South Africaborn McGe­orge, whose Bri­tish grand­fa­ther also served in the South African Air­force, re­called: “We were walking around the side of the stricken ve­hi­cle when, out of nowhere, we heard an ex­plo­sion.

“We hit the deck and looked up and saw one of our Amer­i­can al­lies drag­ging his mate away from the area. The ca­su­alty was in a bad way. There was a lot of blood coming from his throat.

“That’s when we re­al­ized a sec­ond IED had gone off. One of the Amer­i­can medics got straight to work on the ca­su­alty, while we looked down our sights, scop­ing for any in­sur­gents.

“My­self and the two other fire­men set up a ground WHEN you’re serv­ing in Afghanistan, you’re ex­pected to fight – no mat­ter what your role.

Which is why even mil­i­tary FIRE­MEN have to swap their water hoses for ma­chine guns when faced with Tal­iban as­sas­sins.

Here, in an EX­CLU­SIVE in­ter­view with one RAF flame-douser, re­veals how all ser­vice per­son­nel in war-torn Hel­mand Province are re­quired to do their bit to pro­tect our troops. de­fence around the medics, cov­er­ing them with our ri­fles while they fought to save the man’s life.

“We were com­pletely alone, left with a stricken ve­hi­cle – which we used for cover while try­ing to fend off any en­e­mies – and wait­ing for a res­cue heli­copter to land.

“The ca­su­alty was lifted back to Bas­tion hospi­tal as we waited to evac­u­ate.”

Un­like civil­ian fire­fight­ers, the RAF’s fire unit are trained to use weapons – and in­structed to use deadly force if nec­es­sary.

Test

They com­plete reg­u­lar com­bat train­ing ses­sions while on tour, as well as fire sup­port drills.

All fire unit mem­bers are equipped with a stan­dard SA80 A2 5.56mm Light Sup­port Weapon.

Their kit – which in­cludes Osprey body ar­mour, hel­met, res­cue kit, Ber­gen ruck­sack, por­ta­ble fire ex­tin­guisher, cir­cu­lar cut­ting saw and tool­kit – weighs-in at a whop­ping 40kg.

Un­der the glare of the Afghan sum­mer sun, when the mer­cury can hit 50 de­grees C, that load will test a fire­man’s stamina.

And SAC McGe­orge – who is on his sec­ond tour in Afghanistan, the most re­cent last­ing four months – says be­ing a mil­i­tary fire­man will also test your ‘nerve’ too.

Speak­ing about the fa­tal IED at­tack, which took place in 2011, he added: “You just have to deal with what’s in front of you.

“It’s a chal­leng­ing role in all as­pects, and it’s a test of your nerve and bot­tle.

“You’re there pri­mar­ily to work as a fire­man. But you also have to be pre­pared for com­bat. You don’t want it to come to that. But that’s what makes us so dif­fer­ent to civil­ian fire­fight­ers.

“Yes, you’re not ex­pected to have to use that com­bat train­ing all the time, but it’s there when you need it.

“Within 24 hours we were back on it again. It’s just one of those things. The team can’t af­ford for you to take a break or any­thing like that.

“I know peo­ple deal with trauma dif­fer­ently, but for me per­son­ally, I’d rather get back on the bike and throw my­self into the thick of it straight away.”

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