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Soldier fights different kind of fire

Published: 26 Mar 2012 07:001 comment

A FIREFIGHTER who swapped his hose for a rifle as a reservist soldier has said fighting in Afghanistan's "trumps" all the danger he has ever faced in his day job.

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Corporal Bobby Bell, from Pangbourne, has spent the last four months in notorious Helmand Province. He is a Territorial Army soldier with Reading-based 7 Rifles and is serving with A Company, 5 Rifles, in the Nahr-e-Saraj district.

Cpl Bell, a firefighter at Dee Road station in Tilehurst, has been acting as a specialist adviser to the Afghan Local Police - a village-based security force designed to protect communities and homes from the threat of the Taliban.

The 31-year-old, who is developing the skills of up to 30 officers, including how to fire a rifle and searching vehicles for explosives, said: "It has been a massive privilege to come out here and do my bit.

"The Afghan lads are great fun and learn really quickly. It's very different to my life as a firefighter back in Reading. I have been in some pretty tough situations before, but being out here on the front line trumps them all."

Major Matt Forde, commanding officer of A Company, added: "Cpl Bell's contribution to the team has been quite remarkable. Back home he is used to fighting fires and out here he is in firefights.

"His civilian experience and different perspective have been invaluable to the Company and testament to the adaptability of the Territorial Army. His hard work has gone a long way to making this small part of Helmand safer."

A Company is part of the Germany-based 20th Armoured Brigade's deployment on Operation Herrick 15. It has been in Helmand since October and are due to return to Germany in May.

Back in Reading, 7 Rifles held an open evening at its Brock Barracks headquarters in Oxford Road on Tuesday last week. Capt Paul Woolman said it was very successful, with more than 40 young men and women turning up to find out more about joining the Battalion.

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