Army’s ‘cal­lous’ ul­ti­ma­tum to hero medic hit by shell shock in botched res­cue mis­sion in Afghanistan

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Sean Ray­ment and Mark Ni­col

A BRI­TISH Army medic whose brav­ery was de­picted in an award­win­ning war movie has re­vealed how he was told to ‘man up or leave’ the Forces af­ter suf­fer­ing post trau­matic stress disor­der.

Cor­po­ral Paul ‘Tug’ Hart­ley, 37, saved the lives of three hor­ri­bly wounded com­rades trapped in a Tal­iban mine­field. His valiant at­tempts to treat them fea­tured in Ka­jaki: The True Story, which won a Bafta award for its por­trayal of one of the most dra­matic and bloody in­ci­dents of Bri­tain’s war in Afghanistan.

Cor­po­ral Hart­ley re­ceived the Ge­orge Medal for his gal­lantry and be­came a poster boy for the Royal Army Med­i­cal Corps. But now he has re­vealed how ‘cal­lous’ top brass ended his military ca­reer when he ad­mit­ted he was men­tally ill.

The fa­ther-of-three said he hoped he would re­ceive his bosses’ sup­port when he con­fided in them about his psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sues. In­stead, they gave him his march­ing or­ders.

He said: ‘Af­ter the in­ci­dent at Ka­jaki, I had din­ners with the Duke of Glouces­ter. I was a hero who they wheeled out for spe­cial events. But when I needed help, I was told to lie.

‘My con­di­tion, which was rapidly wors­en­ing at the time, was all due to what had hap­pened there. I was get­ting flash­backs to be­ing in the mine­field, see­ing my mates’ bod­ies cov­ered in blood.

‘I was be­com­ing vi­o­lent and caus­ing dif­fi­cul­ties at home with my wife.

‘But my com­man­ders’ re­sponse was sort your­self out and sol­dier on, be­cause if you’ve got post trau­matic stress disor­der, you’ll have to be med­i­cally dis­charged. So I lost my

‘I was sick but the Army treated me cal­lously’

RAW COURAGE: Mark Stan­ley as hero medic Paul ‘Tug’ Hart­ley in Ka­jaki military ca­reer, just like that.’ The film cap­tured the in­cred­i­ble ten­sion on Septem­ber 6, 2006, as Cpl Hart­ley, played by Game Of Thrones ac­tor Mark Stan­ley, res­cued soldiers who had lost legs in two huge blasts.

With en­emy gun­men clos­ing in, the medic plot­ted a route through the mine­field by throw­ing his kit bag on the ground and, when it did not ex­plode, jump­ing on it. Eye wit­nesses said it was the bravest thing they had ever seen.

Then a UK he­li­copter ar­rived but with­out a winch to pull up the in­jured soldiers. Its back­draft set off an­other mine. Even­tu­ally a US chop­per picked the men up, but by then Para com­man­der Cor­po­ral Mark Wright had suc­cumbed to his in­juries.

Cpl Hart­ley, from Here­ford, told how within months of com­ing home he was suf­fer­ing night­mares, row­ing with his wife and drink­ing heav­ily. So he sought help from his med­i­cal unit com­man­ders.

He said: ‘When I saw my com­man­ders in Jan­uary 2008, they ba­si­cally gave me the choice of hid­ing my ill­ness or leav­ing. I knew cov­er­ing up my symp­toms wasn’t a vi­able op­tion and in­sisted that I had to re­ceive treat­ment. Our meet­ing ended quickly af­ter that.

‘The Army’s treat­ment of me was cal­lous. I was sick but they booted me back into civil­ian life. I wasn’t even al­lowed to at­tend the med­i­cal board hear­ing which de­cided my fate.

‘Al­most a decade later, not enough has changed. Soldiers are suf­fer­ing in si­lence be­cause they know they’ll be treated as I was if they’re hon­est about men­tal ill­ness.’

Since 2012, more than 1,800 Ser­vices per­son­nel suf­fer­ing from PTSD have been med­i­cally dis­charged. Soldiers with less se­vere cases re­ceive treat­ment and are en­cour­aged to con­tinue their military careers.

For­mer head of the Bri­tish Army Gen­eral the Lord Dan­natt has called for the Gov­ern­ment to up­hold pledges to sup­port troops made as part of the Armed Forces Covenant.

An Army spokesman said: ‘The Army works hard to re­duce the stigma as­so­ci­ated with men­tal ill­ness, en­cour­ag­ing those who need help to come for­ward to re­ceive the care they de­serve.’

POSTER BOY: Cor­po­ral Paul Hart­ley pic­tured on duty in Afghanistan in 2004

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