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Feature: The Real Hurt Locker

Feature: The Real Hurtlocker

Bomb Disposal: The Real Hurt Locker Sergeant Richard Neale has one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. As an

‘ There have certainly been days where I have been pushed to the absolute limit of my ability but you weigh up every situation and deal with the problems as they arrise. My job is a dangerous one but we are well trained and know how to deal with most situations competently. Our job is not only to keep others safe but also ourselves.’

Ammunition Technician he dismantles bombs for a living. Richard, or Richie as he prefers to be called, has spent the last 9 years of his life working in some of the most hostile conditions in the world. Most people who spend their time in active war zones would be advised to stay away from danger but it is Richie’s job to actively seek it out. I went to meet the man who puts his life on the line in order to keep others safe.

enormous amount of paperwork. Most of the IEDs we work with are dealt with by a remote controlled unit called a ‘Dragon Runner’ that allows us to stay as far away from the device as possible. It seemed in the movie he couldn’t wait to wade on in there himself.

Richie: I don’t know if working with explosives was something I always wanted to do. From an early age I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the armed services and one thing seemed to lead to another. I was asked to take a short course working with basic explosives and it just snowballed from there. I can’t say I regret the decision though I absolutely love the work that I do. EJ: What sort of places does your job take you? How many tours have you been on up until now? RN: To be honest I have started to lose count of the amount of tours I have been on. I have spent time in war torn areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan but I also get to travel to places all over the world. There are always opportunities to travel with the army. Sometimes it might be a short training

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exercise in Scotland, next it might be a 3 month teaching course in the U.S or a team building exercise in France. It’s always nice to get to spend as much time as possible at home with my family and friends though.

There was recently an Oscar winning film made on the life of a bomb disposal expert called The Hurt Locker. How close was the film to the real life thing?

EJ: What kind of character do you need to get into your line of work?

That’s a difficult one to answer (Smiles). Don’t get me wrong, as a film I really enjoyed it but obviously it had a considerable amount of Hollywood treatment compared to the work that we do. My job is far from just dealing with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), it also involves a lot of boring work and a

RN: I think being able to keep a calm head and show an attention to detail is probably the most important thing. When you’re dealing with any kind of ammunition you need to be calm times at all times.

Words: Eddie Jones. Photos: MOD images, permissiom granted and Richard Neale

Eddie: What made you decide that you wanted to do this as your career? Was it something you always wanted to do?

EJ: How many bombs have you disarmed? Is it something that you keep track of? I have been doing this job for a long time now so I have worked with quite a large and varied amount of explosives. Some of the guys like to keep track of their numbers but it’s not something that I have ever done. I’m sure there are people who have a far better tally than me anyway so I just keep my head down. Sometimes you will have quiet weeks where you will barely be called out at all. Others it will seem like you are spending you’re entire time disarming devices or destroying ammo dumps. EJ: Has there ever been a point whilst in the field that you have thought ‘I might not get through this today’?

RN: No. There have certainly been days where I have been pushed to the absolute limit of my ability but you weigh up every situation and deal with the problems as they arrise. My job is a dangerous one but we are well trained and know how to deal with most situations competently. Our job is not only to keep others safe but also ourselves.

RN: I’m certainly not an adrenaline junky. I enjoy spending as much of my spare time as I can with my wife and children. I play golf and enjoy playing sport whenever I can. I read a lot and try to get to the cinema when I can. A lot of people assume that because I work with explosives that I seek out adventure when I’m not at work. That really isn’t the case.

EJ: In you’re line of work you must sometimes deal with some horrific scenes. How do you deal with losing people you work with and maybe even friends?

EJ: Do you see what you do as rewarding or just something that has to be done in order to keep those around you safe?

RN: There have been occasions where people I have known and liked have been killed or badly injured during service. It’s incredibly hard to deal with losing your colleagues but you have to try and focus on the lives that you are trying to save. EJ: How does someone in your highpressured line of work unwind and spend your free time?

RN: I see my job as incredibly rewarding and I don’t regret the career that I chose for one minute. In my opinion the work that I do helps to keep not only British soldiers safe, it also protects those who live and work in these dangerous areas. Often these devices are aimed at the local population as much as they are at us. I get to work with a fantastic group of guys who I would trust with my life and I think that’s a very special experience.

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