Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Brave Ulsterman who puts his life on the line every day in Afghanistan

Risky business: TA soldier Lance Corporal David Holdsworth, a former Lisburn City Council worker, is in Afghanistan with 152 Ulster Transport Battalion

This is the brave Northern Ireland man putting his life on the line to clear hundreds of bombs from roads across Afghanistan.

Five months ago Territorial Army soldier Lance Corporal David Holdsworth swapped civilian life for one of the riskiest jobs on the front line.

The 34-year-old father-of-three detects deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which have been the biggest threat to British forces in Helmand in recent months.

The former Lisburn City Council worker helps clear the way for essential supply convoys travelling to forward-operating bases in the heart of the Afghan desert. Speaking before leaving Camp Bastion to replenish ammunition, food and fuel supplies for the battle-weary 2nd Battalion The Rifles in Sangin, L/Cpl Holdsworth said: “You name it, we've seen it. Small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades, mortars and the big ones, IEDs.

“Sometimes I am in charge of a small team which means we go in front of patrols using our metal detectors or using visual signs to try and locate the IEDs.

“They might be placed at vulnerable points or specific areas such as a road crossing or a wadi crossing. So we have to clear them to enable all the supplies to get through.

“I'd say it is one of the most dangerous jobs in our small group.

“I've been quite fortunate to be honest, but one of the other fellas in my group was quite close to an IED. It was right beside him and blew up.

“He was lucky because when the vehicle went over he was on foot and was just covered in the debris. We’ve been quite lucky in that the vehicles have been taking quite a lot of the brunt of it.

“I was here in 2007 and since then the number of IEDs has just escalated.

“We are now seeing the same tactics as we saw in Iraq and it demoralises the troops because you are fighting an unseen enemy all the time.”

L/Cpl Holdsworth was deployed from Palace Barracks in March and is on his second Afghan tour. The former council worker had hoped to start up his own building business but the slump in the property market has forced him to re-think his career options. He added: “I've only ever seen the Taliban from a distance. That's enough for me.

“They'll either fire mortars at us or take shots at us from a distance or plant IEDs, and then they'll just blend in with the local population so we don't know who's who.

“It is scary and anybody that says it isn't is lying. But there are certain points when you are scared more — for example if you come to a wadi crossing and you are in the front vehicle.

“It is scary but sometimes you have just got to say ‘look I'm going to be all right’.”

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