Belfast Telegraph

RIR soldier becomes Afghan hero after saving eight-year-old girl

By Lesley-Anne Henry in Helmand Province

The locals call his name when he patrols through their village. To them, Corporal Aran Rushe is a hero.

The 26-year-old Army medic from Portstewart, Co Londonderry, braved a hail of Taliban bullets to help save an eight-year-old girl who had been shot by insurgents.

The incident happened when Royal Irish Regiment troops who were helping a local farmer move his trailer came under attack from the Taliban. They were being fired on from all sides.

The young girl, Sheefa, who had been working in a nearby field, was hit twice but miraculously managed to crawl the 100 yards to Cpl Rushe's patrol base.

And, despite a heavy gun battle raging with bullets streaming overhead, he administered emergency first aid and called in a helicopter to fly the injured child to the field hospital at Camp Bastion.

The young soldier said: “We were providing a cordon so we could let the re-supply convoy go through.

“The convoy got engaged by the insurgents. We were returning fire onto the insurgents but we stopped firing because we could see locals working in the fields.

“The insurgents continued to fire on to us. But the locals were in the way, so we just observed.

“We were up there for a good 20 minutes when I got the shout for me to go round to the back gate where Sheefa had crawled or walked to get to the back gate.

“Immediately, we brought her in on a stretcher and took her to the medical facility we had there.

“She had two gunshot wounds — one to her leg and one to her abdomen. Straight away we knew that she was category ‘A', which is our highest priority casualty. I reported that up, and said we need to get her out.

”When the helicopter came in we carried her across the open ground and handed her over to the medical evacuation response team. And that was it.”

Cpl Rushe, who was in Afghanistan in 2008, has also served in the Gulf.

However, it is his actions on this latest tour that are expected to be recognised when the medals are awarded later in the year.

Since the incident in October Cpl Rushe has been one of the most popular soldiers on his patrol. “I have seen Sheefa three or four times when I've been out on patrols since,” he said.

“She comes up to me when I'm out. She recognises me and will hold my hand. They also say my name. She's not 100% better yet, but she's getting there.”

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