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December 2009.

“The Taliban are what they do� Fresh from the front line in Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Ben Barry gives us an insight into the life of a soldier in modern day Britain.

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Life on the front line.

Sian Smith talks to Lance Corporal Ben Barry about the trials and tribulations of life in the army.

I’m not sure what I imagined him to look like, I knew he wouldn’t have a stamp on his forehead reading, ‘Soldier fresh from the front line’ but I thought you would, somehow, be able to tell. You couldn’t. Lance Corporal Ben Barry, uniforms, but it all makes sense, it’s 24, from 2nd Battalion the Rifles, about turning boys into men; if you has served in the army for six years. can’t do the little things such as Aged 18, he joined because, “I used ironing your own uniform how are to drive past on the way to college you meant to deal with daily life at everyday and think it was a good war? idea” although his attitudes have Those who join up now changed since: “at first I joined know for certain that they will be because it seemed like good money, going to war, almost straight from but now I want to and that’s “Any soldier who training, make a change in this why it’s all changing. says they have no When you join the world. Many youngsters, like army you join for the fear is a liar” myself, join not infantry, the fighting. really knowing what the army is People that join the army now are about, but when you take that first doing what someone who has been in step onto war-torn turf something the army for 20 years hasn’t had the inside you changes and you realise opportunity to do”. your purpose”. Fresh back from his fifth tour Since Ben joined in 2003, he of duty, I want to find out what life is says the army have become stricter: really like on the frontline, free from “It’s less slack now, you have to do make believe, full of honesty. everything for yourself. It’s stupid “My first three tours of duty things, like having to iron our own were peace-keeping tours so they

were a lot different. My first tour was Northern Ireland, which was easy because the troubles had calmed down dramatically, we were there for presence rather than to fight. My two tours of Kosovo were similar, one was a peacekeeping tour and the other during government elections, and again, were there only to ensure the trouble did not flare up again. The harshness of war hit hardest in Afghanistan. When I was in Iraq I thought it was horrendous, but looking back it was nothing in comparison. We were housed in the old Basra Palace, so had good surroundings. We had bunk beds, working showers and were given three decent meals a day, so our living conditions were good. The biggest threat to us out there were shoots, we’d be shot at four hours on end every day, but it was easier to cope with than the bombs in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is just horrendous, it is so hardcore, everything out there is hard, there is nothing nice out there at all! The moment you step off the plane you realise that you are in for the hardest six months of your life. We were living in tents, washing our uniforms and ourselves in the river everyday and living off spam for breakfast and noodles for lunch and dinner for the entire six months. Everyday we were faced with roadside bombs, suicide bombers and continuous attacks. On one occasion, the aerial of my tank was shot off above my head, but I didn’t even flinch. It’s strange because for me, it has been the most enjoyable part of the army. It might be hard for people to imagine, but near death experiences can be

enjoyable”. At this point I’m curious as to whether or not a human being can dead I won’t know but living with endure such extreme regime if they nightmare to fly out unnecessary a permanent injury is something I luxuries; the Taliban would just do not agree with the reasons behind don’t think I could cope with. I’m shoot the helicopters down. They it, but it appears this is a lucky I know that and I just have can’t judge until they know. It is the controversial topic: “I can’t say same with those whether or not I agree with the war, “when you take that first to pray this luck continues. with higher military either way it doesn’t matter though, step onto war-torn turf I’ve been rank. They stand on it’s my job. All I can say is that the shot at, blown up television and talk something inside you Talban are evil and need and attacked, but about the war, but overthrowing, although very good at changes and you realise I’d never leave. what they do. They’re good fighters, most don’t know the The army is a way reality of your purpose” every time you think you have a plan of life and I love it, daytoday life to overthrow them they do all of it.” something else to get ahead of you. out there. Every soldier, regardless As my interview draws to a of rank, should spend a day on the I don’t see this war ending anytime close I have an overwhelming sense frontline in Afghanistan before they soon, not for 25years at least.” of pride to be British. I thank him for can preach to the masses”. As Ben talks he seems all he has done, he is a true hero. During our meeting Ben proud, yet modest, whilst being notices a woman wearing a help for completely frank: “I don’t think of myself as a hero, I chose to do this, I heroes t-shirt, he approaches her and wasn’t forced, but those people who thanks her: “people like her who protest against the war need a reality support us make the job check. Spending time standing on a worthwhile”. It is this act of gratitude that sums him up entirely. Thankful. platform protesting with “It might seem heartless, but ignorance isn’t helping anyone, nor is slagging off the government. It is I think being in the army makes you to death. When easy for people to “some near death cold your mates die you sit in the comfort of experiences can be have to get over it, you their own home still have to go out the saying that the life enjoyable” gate the next day and loss is down to lack if you let it get to you it will affect of equipment and support from the government, but it’s not that simple. your judgement. I’m not saying I’m not scared, any soldier who says they We have everything we need out there, life loss is due to the fact that have no fear is a liar, but you learn to cope with it. My fear does not lie we are fighting a war, plain and with death, but with injury, if I’m simple. It would be a logistical

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