As I sit here getting ever closer to the end of my latest tour of duty, I contemplate the mind set of the British soldier. This may or may not be one of the most dangerous places on the planet, probably not but it is still dangerous. It makes me wonder exactly what bravery is.
Is it simply brave to just be here? Is it brave to step outside the wire? Is it brave to fly those flying chariots that are our primary mode of transport here? Is it brave to don all of your PPE (Personal protective equipment)? Is it brave to poke your head up over a wall in the middle of Helmand?
I am not sure. These are the day to day experiences of some of the soldiers out here in Afghanistan. Although you feel trepidation prior to any of the above, when you get there, you just go, do your business and the training takes over. You are so busy looking, thinking, observing, watching, you don’t really have the time to be worried. We don’t constantly worry about every step, or that it could be your last.
I certainly don’t feel brave when in the relative safety of Camp Bastion. I don’t feel ‘brave’ when I go out on patrol, I don’t feel ‘brave’ when I fly in the Merlin or Chinook and I certainly don’t feel brave wrapped up in my PPE (only bloody heavy).
So what is brave?
I had the good fortune this week to photograph a soldier who had been lucky. He had been shot by an insurgent, whilst on patrol in Helmand. Luckily for him he was saved by his body armour, the round embedding into his back plate.
Armed with what remains of the round, we were tasked to get some photographs of Trooper Dan Griffiths for the UK press, I asked him how he felt. He told me that he ‘worried’ now. During the incident he was knocked down with such force that he truly believed he was seriously injured. He admitted to screaming in pain, clambering for cover. Only when checked over by his comrade was he then aware he had escaped injury and just how lucky he was. Dan is now one of the few who knows what it feels like to be shot and I am sure it is not an experience he would like to repeat, yet he still has to endure, he still has patrols to go on, operations to take part in, be part of a team.
Simply put, in light of his experiences, in my eyes, Trooper Griffiths is brave.