Episode 1 The Bomb Squad


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Episode 1

Documentary series following specialist bomb disposal teams in Afghanistan, using helmet-mounted cameras to show what they see as they stand over the potentially deadly devices.


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Transcript


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THIS PROGRAMME CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE AND SCENES WHICH SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND DISTURBING

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The number-one killer of British troops in Afghanistan is IEDs,

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improvised explosive devices or homemade bombs that the Taliban dig into the ground to target troops.

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In 2010, IEDs killed or wounded almost 8,500 coalition troops

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and an estimated 11,000 Afghans.

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In Central Helmand, the job of finding

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and destroying all these bombs

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comes down to The British Counter IED Task Force known as Brimstone.

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For the first time ever, the Ministry of Defence has allowed this work to be filmed.

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From the searchers who go looking for IEDs...

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METAL DETECTOR SQUEALS

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..to the bomb disposal operator whose job it is to make them safe...

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..and also the teams who have to deal with the devastating impact of an IED.

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He had lost his leg quite high above the knee on the left side.

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His right leg had been amputated at a through-knee amputation

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and his left arm had significant injuries.

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He's still in a critical condition and that's largely due to the injuries to his pelvis area.

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This is the story of the people who put their lives on the line every day -

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the people who walk towards the bomb.

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Today, Adam and Brimstone 4-7 have been called into a Taliban area

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where there are thought to be IEDs.

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Adam is nearly halfway through his six-month tour

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of Afghanistan as a bomb disposal operator.

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Right, go on, Tone!

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'They know that they struggle to take us on toe-to-toe.'

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Firing!

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Stay down! Stay down!

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What they have got is a very crude, very simplistic way

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of causing us harm, which is sneaking around and placing explosives in the ground.

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Standby. Firing.

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EXPLOSION

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And they do a good job at it.

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They know where we're likely to go, they know where we can't see.

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They know the ground so much more intimately than we could ever hope to, and it works.

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It does, it slows us down, it breaks our morale,

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you know, it costs us money.

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Firing!

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It achieves all those things at very little cost to them.

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Adam has been called out to a wall.

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The Taliban have been using it for cover

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when shooting at a small army base.

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They have just isolated, boss, so they are just starting now.

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The army want to knock it down, but they think the area is booby-trapped.

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This one operation involves units out on the ground and in the air.

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Go, seek, seek, seek.

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The search dog spots something unusual.

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-Like a gulley bit where it goes in like that.

-Yeah.

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By the entrance of there. She stopped dead, tail went up.

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Until the searchers find something, Adam just has to wait.

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That's the jacket.

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The helmet, plate, one set of trousers.

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To be honest, a lot of the jobs over there are not done in a bomb suit

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cos it's just too hot and, erm, if you get contacted

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when you're on task, then obviously you can't...

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it's difficult to run away in that.

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But you'd never make an approach without a suit in the UK.

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Some people wanted to do it since they were kids.

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They'd say, "Yeah, I want to be the bomb disposal guy," you know,

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sat at home crossed-legged on the bed flicking through Guns & Ammo magazine or whatever.

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But they're fairly few and far between, and you talk to a lot of operators

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and they're the ones that by chance have ended up in the right place at the right time.

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And job-wise, it's been fantastic and I've really enjoyed it.

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That's not saying I'm not at all dubious about the job I'm going to do

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but I'm not necessarily losing sleep over it.

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No, I wouldn't say I'm an excessive worrier.

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I'm going to try and not think about the next six months too much

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cos I know the last time he was away, I did worry a lot.

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And as long as I hear from him occasionally.

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Last time he was away, how many phone calls did I get?

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-Three?

-Get away.

-In six months? Something like that.

-Get away!

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-It's true.

-It's not true.

-That IS true.

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-That's a massive exaggeration.

-Six, maybe.

-Get out!

-It's true!

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Are you going to put your phone down and come and say night-night?

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I want to play with my phone.

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Go and say night-night to Daddy.

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Night-night, Daddy.

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'I think she has got into the routine of me being away, to be honest.

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'She's moved four times since she has been born already.

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'Yeah, she has had a lot of change in a short life'

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and I've not been around for a lot of it

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and that shows in my relationship with her, definitely.

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Find the corners, then.

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'You know, it cuts me deep sometimes when she doesn't want to be my friend.'

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Is that the corner?

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No.

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'But there'll be other birthday parties.'

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It's not as though I'm missing her 21st or anything.

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At the wall, one of the searchers has made a discovery in the bushes.

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Yeah, he found something.

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Bit of plastic, bit of wire and a little bit further,

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another wire coming out of the mud going into the plastic.

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What have you marked it?

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There's a yellow line where we started sending the dog up

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-and there's a yellow arrow going into it.

-Right, OK.

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-You see it.

-So if that's it there, the yellow arrow is going here, is it?

-Yes.

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The searchers' job is finished. Now it's up to Adam.

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I don't see much need in setting myself out

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as though it's Operation Certain Death.

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There is luck involved, but there is luck involved in everything you do.

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I don't blame anyone for preparing themselves or their families

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for the worst-case scenario, writing endless notes.

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"Make sure they have this on sale behind the bar at my funeral," or all that sort of stuff.

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You end up being quite blunt about it.

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But if I went round thinking the next day was going to be my last

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all the time, I wouldn't be able to work.

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METAL DETECTOR SQUEALS

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The wires found by the searcher could lead to a battery

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hidden in the bushes.

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The pressure plate that will trigger the bomb could be anywhere on the path.

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As usual, everything is being watched.

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I mean, you can see a couple of them

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keeping an eye out on the roof over there...

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..but the thing is you don't know

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whether it's a local or it could actually be the bomb-maker himself,

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you know, having a look trying to see what the operator is doing.

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You know, so that's why you try not to set patterns.

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Cos that's how operators get targeted.

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Right, I can see where he has confirmed into the battery pack.

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I can see the ground sign coming from it.

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DISTANT GUNFIRE

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That was the Apache just firing a few rounds, giving someone the good news.

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Gleaming! Right, Gaz. Finger tipped into the link.

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I can see the ground sign from the link into where the pressure plate probably is.

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See the battery pack down there.

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Adam will try to cut the wire but trigger the cut from a distance.

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Right, start getting ready to move.

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Just watch the cables. There shouldn't be an explosion.

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We're just expecting a pop, that's it.

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POP!

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The wire is cut, but it doesn't mean the bomb is now safe.

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The device is placed to target an individual

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and it's based on what they do, where they go,

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what time they go there, what they touch, what they move.

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And as soon as we find a way to counter that,

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they look at it and go, "Let's change that and introduce this into the circuit.

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"Oh, they've developed this now, let's bring out this piece of kit."

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It's a game of cat and mouse and it's ongoing.

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You know, there'll be occasions when they're ahead,

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there'll be occasions when we're ahead, and there will be times when a new device is discovered.

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In a lot of instances, it will involve someone being injured

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before we've established what that is.

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Yeah, everything we do is watched closely in order

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that we can be targeted in the future.

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Adam goes back to see what more he needs to do.

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Right, this wire goes right the way across the road.

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The rest of the bomb is buried on the opposite side of the path.

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There is an actual turd down here somewhere.

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Dead bird, human turd.

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How much more detritus can we possibly get down on this device?

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There we go.

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-Right, I'm on t'end of the pressure plate.

-Yep.

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-Right, main charge directly beneath.

-Yep.

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Adam has uncovered the main explosive

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and another wire leading into it.

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-We good to go?

-Yeah.

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Standby! Firing!

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POP!

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Right, I'm on to the det.

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Right, det's off.

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Get in!

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Oh, I see.

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The bomb is a pressure plate device with 5kg of explosive.

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Parts of the bomb are collected for forensic investigation.

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Some of it can lead back to the source which means that they can't get the supplies in

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if we get rid of that source, which lowers the threat then.

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The less items they can get, the less IEDs they can put in the ground,

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the less of our lads they can kill.

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Adam takes a small sample of the explosives.

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And will blow the rest of it up.

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Stand by! Firing!

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That's the carbon rods.

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So there's no metal signature. You can't pick it up on a metal detector.

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Carbon rod on the top, carbon rod on the bottom.

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It's when you press on and actually contact.

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And the battery pack. Invariably, round here,

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they're all nine volt PP3s,

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the little badgers that sting your tongue when you lick 'em.

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It's estimated that over 1,000 new IEDs

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are hidden in the ground every month.

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Smile for the camera.

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It's taken a team of 40 nearly four hours to get rid of one device.

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The wall can be safely knocked down.

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Adam and the rest of his team return to their patrol base.

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"Woman, could you please send the following pronto?

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"Coffee bags, beef Monster Munch, and did I mention Mini Eggs?

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"I've been smashing about two bombs a day on average over the last two weeks.

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"I tried to..." You see, this is just my husband...

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"..Tried to call you twice today from the sat phone,

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"but you were probably out with your new boyfriend spending all my money." Charming!

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"I'm in patrol base Nahidullah now. It's the badlands.

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"I hope that Jennifer's party went well

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"and that you cleared up after yourself in the bar."

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The day after he left was Jennifer's birthday party.

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Obviously the usual...

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"Please, please don't spend all my money.

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"Keep the house clean and tidy and get a grip of that animal."

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Being his beautiful daughter.

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So...lots and lots of love, my delightful husband.

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Isn't he charming?

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The Counter-IED Task Force

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has teams spread throughout Central Helmand Province.

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Adam's team, Brimstone 4-7, is based with

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Two Scots Battlegroup in Nahidullah.

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The base is right in the middle of a Taliban area

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known to be riddled with IEDs.

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Adam's been living here for three months on rations,

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but a cookhouse has just been opened.

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I suppose if we were a big unit and I was the engineer lieutenant

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troop commander or summat, I could turn round and say,

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"Nah! I've got plenty of guys to do pan bashing." We haven't.

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We're a five-man team and I'm not really entitled to turn round

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and say, "Nah, you do the pan bashing."

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I eat the same as they do. We all live together.

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There is no-one else to do it, so we crack on and do it.

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And why I end up doing the scraping every Sunday, I don't know.

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Living alongside Adam is second-in-command Tony,

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dog-handler Tony, Rod the Navy escort

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and Gaz the electronic warfare specialist.

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I tend to make things to make my life easier.

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Kind of get whatever I can and just build it.

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So I built a massive shelving unit.

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Pens! It's not bad.

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But this is like... this is the best bit.

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Teesha doesn't send me that many pictures out, so the pictures I've got...

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Yeah, they kind of mean a lot.

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-Have you shown them your mouse tally?

-It's up there.

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Chuff chart.

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It's how many mice I've killed since I've been here.

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And two of them with my bare hands.

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LAUGHTER

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We was in a compound and with our little tents,

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it's got a zip at the bottom and I thought,

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"No, no that'll be fine, nothing will get in there."

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Got in my tent, done the zip up and thought, "Fuck, there's a mouse in my tent!"

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And it was just running round. So I managed to grab it,

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squeezed it until it kind of made a squeak and then bumpf!

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Kind of chose the wrong tent to come in, to be honest.

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As they wait for a new job to come in,

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Adam deals with parts of the bomb they found at the wall.

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I've got the det from yesterday to photograph.

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So that's me little tin that I keep the dets in.

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Because they're put together in someone's workshop as opposed

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to a manufacturing process, they are notoriously frisky.

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You know, if I were to bite that it would blow my jaw off, which is

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why we don't hand them into the forensic chain.

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What we'll do is I'll photograph that, get as much detail off it as I can,

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put that on my report and then that will get destroyed.

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I should ring home, actually.

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When was the last time you spoke?

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Couple of days ago... All right, maybe a week.

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Erm... The thing is I'm 29-years-old

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and my family are well aware of what I do and as long as I ring home

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once a week and say, "Yeah, I'm fine," then they understand that.

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So I sort of do my honourable officer bit

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and give the lads time on the phone. Yeah.

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But I phoned home a shit load more than I did last tour, anyway.

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I'll put the timer on.

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Have you put it on so it goes bleep-bleep?

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Once or twice, she has got a bit upset and told me

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she misses her daddy and things like that.

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But she doesn't really talk about him that much.

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Go and get the crackers. Have you forgotten them?

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When he phoned last night, she didn't want to speak to him

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cos she was having fun with her grandad at the time.

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Whenever any time she mentions him, everything stops

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and we have a wee conversation about Daddy, you know.

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She has linked onto that. When she is being naughty,

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she tells me about her daddy so I stop telling her off and start...

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I've caught on to that as well!

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Adam needs to leave the base to destroy some ammunition

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and the detonator from yesterday's bomb.

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The searchers will lead him to a safe spot.

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They only have seven weeks of specialist training

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before coming to Afghanistan.

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Got pulled into the office and told I was doing it.

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Wasn't me putting my hand up and asking.

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It was just, "You're doing this."

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Not, "Do you want to do it?" or anything like you expect,

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but just, "You are doing this, have fun."

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To be honest, I shit myself, cos I mean, if you don't, you're just mental.

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I mean, out there looking for something that's going to kill ya.

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It's not an ideal job, but it is a job that has to be done.

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Five bomb disposal operators have been killed by IEDs in the last two years.

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But it's the searchers who have been hit the hardest.

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In the last three months alone, two soldiers from search teams

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have been killed and another five have become amputees.

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Stringer, a nice straight line from here to the corner of that wall there.

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OK, spray your left-hand side so we know where you've been to.

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Today, Stringer is lead searcher.

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Finding and marking the safe route for the others to follow.

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Anywhere you search, you've got to think in your mind,

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"OK, is that searched enough that I'd stand on it?"

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Cos it's not them people behind me, cos if you'd stand on it, then you are happy for them to.

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If I'm uncertain about a bit of ground what I'd do is

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put my foot onto it first and then go across it cos that way, you know

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if I have got it wrong, then I'm not leaving for someone else to tread on it.

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Like I told my Mrs, like, I worry obviously cos she is at home with two kids.

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It's obviously worrying, but when you are sitting there,

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laying in your pit and can't get to sleep and that,

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you think back to home and that, and it gets you through, really.

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Midway through the tour is about the time people start getting complacent

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and saying, "Oh, that'll never happen."

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It's always about that time that something does happen.

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So you just have to check yourselves and say, "Let's stay with it."

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We are too far into the tour now to be taking unnecessary risks.

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That'll do there, Stringer.

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Stringer has cleared a safe path for Adam.

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As well as the detonator, Adam is also going to blow up

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a rocket propelled grenade or RPG that's been seized from the Taliban.

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Cos an RPG is a shaped charge that's pointing downwards into the earth

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into a bank cos you get slug throw so the copper shaped charge

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can travel up to 900 metres on its own

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and then any other bits we need to dispose of go as close as possible.

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See, I reckon these kids know what we're doing

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cos they're just sat in a field, ready to watch the explosion. It's like fireworks for them!

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They know what the script is, they know what will happen.

0:24:540:24:56

And if they don't then we'll fire a mini flare. Not at them...

0:24:560:25:00

just, you know, up in the air.

0:25:000:25:02

Last thing I need is a local national kid with a bit of bloody RPG stuck in his head.

0:25:020:25:06

Oi!

0:25:060:25:07

Get away!

0:25:120:25:15

Right, good, that's them cleared.

0:25:150:25:18

Happy days.

0:25:180:25:20

It's an RPG, there's a reasonable amount of frag on this,

0:25:200:25:23

so I want everyone tight into the wall. All right?

0:25:230:25:27

Stand by!

0:25:310:25:32

Firing!

0:25:320:25:33

You know, I've been in the army 12 years now

0:25:360:25:40

and I only done this because I was told I wouldn't be able to do it.

0:25:400:25:45

So I made a point of doing it.

0:25:450:25:47

I suppose I just wanted to prove that I'm not as old and fragile

0:25:470:25:50

as some people might think, you know. I'm a driver by trade,

0:25:500:25:55

but I just needed to get out on tour, to be honest,

0:25:550:25:59

and I suppose it gives me a little bit of a buzz, really.

0:25:590:26:02

I'm quite in my element, actually. But yeah, I enjoy it.

0:26:020:26:05

-Where's that come from?

-Sh! Ask no questions and I won't tell you any lies, mate.

0:26:050:26:10

Favours for favours, you know. I help the chef out, he helps me out.

0:26:100:26:14

-Oh, cheese and pickle!

-There's only two buns, though.

0:26:140:26:20

-I can't remember the last time I had a bit of cheese.

-Nor can I.

0:26:200:26:24

-Like a proper bit of cheese.

-You know when you hear chicks going on about comfort food?

0:26:240:26:29

A cheese and pickle sandwich and a cup of coffee.

0:26:290:26:31

We've been going on about it for three months. Honestly, ain't we?

0:26:310:26:35

-Three months we've been banging on about cheese and pickle sandwich.

-You've been banging on about it.

0:26:350:26:41

-I think you should put that report down and get ready for a taste sensation.

-Tidy.

0:26:410:26:45

That's lovely cheese as well.

0:26:450:26:48

That's my badger. God damn, I've missed cheese.

0:26:480:26:53

During the first three months of their tour, the team's biggest job

0:26:550:26:59

was at a place called Compound One.

0:26:590:27:01

Stand by! Firing!

0:27:010:27:03

Compound One sits on a small hill overlooking a major new road

0:27:050:27:08

the army are building through Central Helmand.

0:27:080:27:11

-Ready, boss?

-Yeah go for it.

-Everyone ready?

-Yep.

0:27:110:27:14

Stand by! Firing!

0:27:140:27:17

When the army forced the Taliban out, the Taliban left the area seeded with IEDs.

0:27:200:27:27

Firing!

0:27:270:27:28

Over a nine-day period, Adam and the team found and destroyed

0:27:310:27:35

17 devices around this tiny compound.

0:27:350:27:39

During their time there, Oddy, their first search dog,

0:27:410:27:44

stood on an IED and was killed.

0:27:440:27:47

We was talking and then it was just suddenly we was in a cloud of smoke.

0:27:470:27:51

You didn't really realise until you was like that

0:27:510:27:54

and you came back up and it was like, "Fuck, what was that?"

0:27:540:27:57

Then it was just like you could hear duh, duh, duh, things falling down

0:27:570:28:01

and then it was Chris shouting, "Oddy! Oddy!"

0:28:010:28:03

And it was like, "Where the fuck is Oddy?"

0:28:030:28:06

That was it. Everyone was like, "Shit, guess what just happened."

0:28:060:28:10

-The thing me and Rod see from outside was the fact that there was bits coming over.

-It wasn't nice.

0:28:100:28:15

You know what I mean? We obviously thought, is that bits of our blokes?

0:28:150:28:18

Or, you know. I know it sounds quite Jack, cos as soon as I heard it was the dog,

0:28:180:28:23

I was like, right, it's just the dog.

0:28:230:28:25

I didn't mean it like, it's JUST the dog, but it wasn't one of our lads.

0:28:250:28:30

That's the way you gotta look at it. That's what they're there for.

0:28:300:28:33

Even though, if Dazz went up, you know, he'd cry like a baby.

0:28:330:28:37

Fact. That is fact.

0:28:370:28:39

The compound has been renamed Check Point Loy Mandeh

0:28:430:28:46

and now the team have to go back again.

0:28:460:28:49

This time, they have been asked to clear an area outside

0:28:490:28:53

the compound to reopen a route for the locals.

0:28:530:28:57

The plan then, everyone knows is a 150 metre route called Route Uranus.

0:28:570:29:02

It's a route that hasn't been searched and a route

0:29:020:29:04

that hasn't been used since before they actually searched this compound.

0:29:040:29:09

Can I just confirm that, er... we're going up Uranus tomorrow?

0:29:090:29:14

-Oh, you had to get it in, didn't you?

-Can't wait to clear Uranus.

0:29:140:29:17

Yes, we are looking forward to clearing Uranus, so...

0:29:170:29:20

it should be fun, so it should. Thank you for that.

0:29:200:29:23

We said when we left there last time,

0:29:230:29:25

"Thank, God, we'll never have to come back to this place."

0:29:250:29:28

We said that the first time we left, didn't we?

0:29:280:29:30

We have been there about four times now!

0:29:300:29:34

Just keep on finding more IEDs.

0:29:340:29:36

-Riddled.

-It is riddled.

-Riddled. Horrible place.

0:29:360:29:39

I don't walk down the road to a device going,

0:29:450:29:47

"Must render this device safe for the people of Afghanistan."

0:29:470:29:51

I know that's why we are here, that's the overarching mission.

0:29:510:29:55

But what I do think about is, am I doing the right thing?

0:29:550:29:59

Is it safe?

0:29:590:30:01

And if I was badly injured, then I'd be massively embarrassed

0:30:010:30:05

if it was because of something that I could have done differently.

0:30:050:30:10

If something I could have done differently caused somebody else

0:30:120:30:15

to be injured, I just... That doesn't bear thinking about,

0:30:150:30:18

that's probably worst, worst case.

0:30:180:30:21

-This place is a shit hole.

-Have you seen our plaque?

0:30:280:30:31

The plaque's in the corner for the dog.

0:30:310:30:34

While Adam and his team wait inside the compound,

0:30:380:30:41

the searchers will go out onto Route Uranus to find any bombs.

0:30:410:30:45

This is Marty's fifth tour,

0:30:450:30:48

but his first as a search team commander.

0:30:480:30:51

The lads I'm working with, they're searchers.

0:30:510:30:55

And erm, obviously, the days can go quite long,

0:30:550:30:58

so they tend to switch off. And it's my job to keep them back on track.

0:30:580:31:02

It's a dangerous job.

0:31:020:31:04

Obviously, every step that you take could be your last.

0:31:040:31:10

Er, they are pretty young guys as well.

0:31:100:31:13

Stringer there, who's 20, just turned 20.

0:31:130:31:16

-The youngest, aren't you?

-Yeah, I'm the baby of the group.

0:31:160:31:19

He's the youngest. All my team, it's their first tour.

0:31:190:31:22

All my guys, so it's a pretty hard tour for them to be,

0:31:220:31:26

for their first one.

0:31:260:31:28

Trying to explain that to somebody that doesn't know anything about it,

0:31:280:31:32

they won't understand till they have actually been here.

0:31:320:31:35

Cos I didn't understand it until I actually got here and realised how bad it really was.

0:31:350:31:39

With the search about to begin, the Warthog vehicles move out to try and prevent any Taliban attacks.

0:31:420:31:48

It's Marty's responsibility to make sure the search is carried out correctly.

0:31:530:31:57

Stringer!

0:31:570:31:59

OK, Stringer, the dog showed a little bit of interest.

0:31:590:32:02

It wasn't a lot, mate, but it was just around this area here.

0:32:020:32:05

OK, just slow it down a little bit, wait till Rooke catches up.

0:32:070:32:10

Come to your right, that's it, yeah.

0:32:100:32:16

Searchers are trained to lie down

0:32:190:32:22

when they check beneath the surface rubble for IEDs.

0:32:220:32:27

If a bomb goes off, they may lose an arm.

0:32:270:32:31

If they're crouching, they could lose their arms and legs

0:32:310:32:35

or be killed.

0:32:350:32:38

Rooke, if you are confirming get on your fucking belt buckle!

0:32:380:32:41

It's so tiny, pathetic even going.

0:32:410:32:43

-I don't care. If you are moving that ground then get on your fucking belt buckle!

-All right.

0:32:430:32:49

-Oi!

-Carry on.

-Oi! Fucking come here, arsehole.

0:32:490:32:53

Less of the fucking attitude, dickhead.

0:32:530:32:56

You know your fucking drills! Do them, all right?

0:32:560:32:58

Stop being a fucking knob and risking your own fucking life

0:32:580:33:01

cos you can't be arsed getting on your fucking belt buckle.

0:33:010:33:05

Now fucking do it!

0:33:050:33:07

You can't afford, mate, to fucking lose your head. Yeah?

0:33:070:33:11

At the end of the day, mate, I'm trying to save your life.

0:33:110:33:14

I don't want that going off if there was anything there, all right,

0:33:140:33:17

and taking your head off. All right?

0:33:170:33:19

Oi! Fucking same for the rest of yous.

0:33:190:33:22

On your fucking belt buckle when yous are confirming or even touching any ground on the surface.

0:33:220:33:26

All right. It's not just you.

0:33:260:33:29

All the time they're out searching, the team is vulnerable to attack.

0:33:430:33:47

Comms just come over from the ground call saying

0:33:510:33:54

Taliban commanders are getting all of his guys to the sands. Must mean like firing positions.

0:33:540:33:59

Obviously, for the infantry it's a sign that the Taliban

0:33:590:34:04

know we're here, they know what we're doing

0:34:040:34:07

and they're probably not too happy about it.

0:34:070:34:10

GUNFIRE

0:34:120:34:14

There you go, lads.

0:34:140:34:17

That's them back, innit?

0:34:200:34:23

RPG, sounds like.

0:34:250:34:27

Guys, remember we've got four warthogs sitting on the high ground behind that compound.

0:34:290:34:34

Anything over there is going to get fucking destroyed.

0:34:340:34:37

And we've got Tiny on the 50 behind us.

0:34:370:34:40

If we stopped every time we had rounds going off,

0:34:400:34:44

we'd never fucking achieve anything.

0:34:440:34:46

With the Taliban held back, a local farmer comes forward.

0:34:480:34:51

There's Ali G coming up.

0:34:530:34:56

Sir... I think he is trying to tell you where an IED is.

0:34:560:34:59

This local's come up to us,

0:35:060:35:08

pointed in this bush and picked up a pressure plate and put it back down.

0:35:080:35:12

Big saw blade pressure plate, was it?

0:35:120:35:14

Fuck me, it was about that big.

0:35:140:35:16

The thing with finds and things, you can get a protected hide

0:35:160:35:21

whereby they'll place a device next to whatever they are trying to squirrel away.

0:35:210:35:27

So it can be quite dangerous when you've got a confirmed hide like that

0:35:270:35:30

If I was to put a hide there, I'd probably put a couple of devices around it.

0:35:300:35:36

The team decide to finish searching

0:35:380:35:41

and marking the road before investigating.

0:35:410:35:43

Yeah, Roger. We've got roughly four metres left to do.

0:35:430:35:47

It takes two and a half hours

0:35:470:35:49

before a 150 metre strip of road is cleared.

0:35:490:35:52

Now Adam can deal with what the farmer was pointing out.

0:35:520:35:56

At this point, we're not sure if there is a main charge there or not yet. Over.

0:35:560:36:01

GUNFIRE

0:36:010:36:03

That was a bit closer, that'll learn yah.

0:36:030:36:05

Only Adam will go down into the bushes.

0:36:070:36:12

As the electronic warfare specialist,

0:36:120:36:15

Gaz will use his ECM to try and block any remote controlled devices that may be in the area.

0:36:150:36:20

-Where about is it from here?

-See that big thick bush there?

-Yeah.

0:36:200:36:24

Just down there.

0:36:240:36:26

I don't like it, though. Cos obviously, I won't have eyes on.

0:36:320:36:38

Gaz has got eyes on and Rod has got eyes on.

0:36:380:36:40

Plus there is Warthogs out anyhow,

0:36:400:36:43

so we've got enough fire support, if you like.

0:36:430:36:45

Don't stop me worrying, though.

0:36:450:36:48

Oh, have it!

0:36:530:36:55

-Gaz!

-Boss!

0:37:000:37:03

I've got eyes on the one he's lifted up.

0:37:030:37:05

I can see the pressure plate the local's lifted up. It's here.

0:37:050:37:09

-Got another one.

-Cool.

0:37:210:37:24

Right, Gaz, I've come onto a sack here with a massive metal reading, all dug in.

0:37:390:37:44

It's all loose round it

0:37:440:37:46

so potentially, it could be bigger than bloody Ben Hur, this.

0:37:460:37:50

In the past, hidden items have been booby-trapped to explode when pulled out.

0:38:000:38:04

That's fine.

0:38:040:38:07

Adam attaches a cord so the bag can be pulled free from a distance.

0:38:070:38:12

Drop yourselves down.

0:38:120:38:14

It's worked a treat.

0:38:240:38:27

The bag contains another pressure plate.

0:38:270:38:30

Altogether, Adam's found three hidden away.

0:38:300:38:34

They'll be sent for forensic examination to try and work out

0:38:340:38:38

who has been making all the devices found here.

0:38:380:38:43

The path can now be opened for the locals.

0:38:430:38:46

There's been a couple of occasions where they've gone, "Thanks for that,

0:38:460:38:50

"thanks for getting rid of the mine, we can use our field again,"

0:38:500:38:54

or, "We can use that road again." How sincere they are about it, I don't know.

0:38:540:38:58

Taff, do us a favour. Go and grab the tagiman. These lads want the tagiman for some reason.

0:38:580:39:04

They normally want a chit or something,

0:39:040:39:06

so they can go to a claims clinic and get money.

0:39:060:39:09

"We want compensation for where you have put your ICP in our field."

0:39:090:39:13

Come back later!

0:39:130:39:15

-Are they a boy band?

-Yeah, I think they are a boy band.

0:39:150:39:19

All right, I tell you what, we won't put an ICP in your field

0:39:190:39:22

and you can have the IED in your field instead, your call!

0:39:220:39:25

Half the roads have got IEDs on 'em,

0:39:250:39:27

so the only way to travel is through people's fields.

0:39:270:39:32

So we actually spend more money on compensation, you know,

0:39:320:39:35

than anything else, like, you know.

0:39:350:39:39

"Woman Face. Still in PB Nahidullah. There's mice everywhere.

0:39:540:39:57

"Gaz, my bleep, puts traps down next to his bed and keeps a tally

0:39:570:40:00

"on how many he's done in. He thinks he's the Pied Piper of Nahidullah.

0:40:000:40:04

"Post is not getting through at the moment.

0:40:040:40:07

"Helicopters can't fly in very often as they get shot at.

0:40:070:40:10

"I noticed that you smashed £60 on fuel.

0:40:100:40:13

"I hope you are not commuting to and from your mother's all the time."

0:40:130:40:18

Yeah, whoops.

0:40:180:40:20

Erm... "I'll write or call when I can. Be clean and tidy!

0:40:200:40:23

"Don't worry about me one bit. I'm all over this.

0:40:230:40:26

"Lots of love, Husband Face."

0:40:260:40:29

I know sometimes, if I go away for a week,

0:40:290:40:32

secretly, she thinks "Actually, great stuff!

0:40:320:40:35

"He's not coming home from work every day and ranting at me about

0:40:350:40:38

"the toys left out in the front room," or things like that.

0:40:380:40:41

But I got a letter the other day saying, actually the novelty has worn off

0:40:410:40:45

which was nice to hear, actually, but I understand it completely.

0:40:450:40:49

Because I know how much of a grumpy git I am, when I come home and I get on at her.

0:40:490:40:54

But I do the same thing with Gaz here.

0:40:540:40:56

And for the same thing! Nine out of ten times, he hasn't done anything wrong either!

0:40:560:41:01

He hasn't been awake five minutes and I chew him out about something.

0:41:010:41:06

I wrote about two letters home, I think.

0:41:060:41:08

One at the beginning, one before Christmas. That's it.

0:41:080:41:12

-Just two?

-I phone her enough.

0:41:120:41:16

It's nice just to see "Oh, he wrote this."

0:41:160:41:19

Cos I like it more when my Mrs sends me a letter, hand-written.

0:41:190:41:22

I mean, my blueys home tend to revolve around, you know,

0:41:220:41:26

the mince and triv that's happened around here.

0:41:260:41:29

"I had beef stew for tea last night.

0:41:290:41:33

"Yeah, we're still dumping in a plastic bag, and showering

0:41:330:41:36

"under a bag and sleeping in a bag," and stuff like that.

0:41:360:41:39

That's the other thing about Rachael. I know that even if there is a drama,

0:41:390:41:43

she'll sort it out, rather than bothering me with it.

0:41:430:41:46

I mean, there's everyday things that come up in a household

0:41:490:41:53

that I have to deal with and if he was here, he would do it.

0:41:530:41:56

You know, when the boiler stopped working.

0:41:560:41:59

I didn't mention it to him, I just had it fixed.

0:41:590:42:04

-Oh!

-Ohhh, Mum!

0:42:040:42:09

I don't even want him thinking about things like that.

0:42:090:42:11

He's got enough to think about. You know, he needs to know that Jennifer and I are managing fine

0:42:110:42:16

without him, and as sad as that is, we will manage without him.

0:42:160:42:22

We do manage without him.

0:42:220:42:25

You know, if worst came to worst, we would manage without him.

0:42:250:42:30

As much as we don't want to. But that's life.

0:42:300:42:34

That's our life, anyway. Yeah.

0:42:360:42:40

On the 19th January, Adam and the searchers are called back

0:42:430:42:47

to Loy Mandeh once again.

0:42:470:42:49

Two IEDs have been found near the end of Route Uranus.

0:42:520:42:56

At 1pm, just as the searchers begin work,

0:42:560:42:59

Stringer steps onto a third IED.

0:42:590:43:03

He immediately loses both legs.

0:43:030:43:07

Within 25 minutes, he's in hospital at Camp Bastion.

0:43:110:43:14

'Op minimise! Op minimise! Op minimise!'

0:43:160:43:20

The news has already reached the Counter-IED headquarters based at the camp.

0:43:200:43:26

Right, the feedback from the sergeant major at the hospital is that

0:43:260:43:29

he's a double amputee with serious injuries to his arm.

0:43:290:43:32

He has, however, an unidentified bleed somewhere on him,

0:43:320:43:35

so he's gone straight into surgery, so he's currently critical.

0:43:350:43:40

Although Stringer is in hospital, Adam and the rest of the team

0:43:400:43:43

are still out on the ground.

0:43:430:43:45

And they're coming under direct attack.

0:43:450:43:47

Tell the OC of your company to get Ugly up in the sky to provide you with cover.

0:43:470:43:51

They know where the threat side is, cos that's where you are getting fucking shot from.

0:43:510:43:56

I know it's a bit fucking harsh, but just tell your men you need to do this cos that's your job

0:43:560:44:01

and then fucking talk about it after you've finished.

0:44:010:44:04

The search team are going to have to sort of man-up, you know.

0:44:040:44:07

They are soldiers at the end of the day. Same with the IED team.

0:44:070:44:10

They have to get on with the task that they set out to do.

0:44:100:44:13

Unfortunately, it's business as usual, cos business here doesn't stop.

0:44:130:44:17

It comes to a pause for some people. We just crack on as normal.

0:44:170:44:22

It's another three hours before Adam and the team finish working

0:44:240:44:28

on the ground near where Stringer was injured.

0:44:280:44:32

Hello, mate, how are you?

0:44:320:44:34

There are obviously a lot of questions coming up about what happened earlier on.

0:44:370:44:41

Not questions, but people wanting to know what went on.

0:44:410:44:44

OK, so estimated size?

0:44:460:44:48

Bollocks.

0:44:480:44:51

If it had blown his boot 70 metres, it's not 3kg, Adam.

0:44:510:44:56

Right, fair enough, OK.

0:44:560:44:58

No, if you were next to him, mate... I didn't realise.

0:44:580:45:02

It just seems a long way for his foot and his boot to have been thrown.

0:45:020:45:06

All right, mate, go and chill for a bit, ok?

0:45:060:45:11

Pass on our best wishes to the lads and that, yeah.

0:45:110:45:14

And we'll see you tomorrow.

0:45:140:45:17

By the time Adam and the team return to Camp Bastion, Alex Stringer

0:45:190:45:22

has been flown back to the UK.

0:45:220:45:26

We just got into the ICP

0:45:320:45:35

and it just went a bit tits-up from there, really.

0:45:350:45:38

It was just fucking...an explosion and it was just kind of waking up

0:45:400:45:44

on the ground with my hands over my ears thinking,

0:45:440:45:48

"What the fuck was that?"

0:45:480:45:50

Yeah, I had a moment straight after when I opened my eyes

0:45:520:45:55

and saw the edge of the seat of the explosion

0:45:550:45:58

two feet in front of my face.

0:45:580:46:00

And I looked down and I just couldn't comprehend that it wasn't me.

0:46:000:46:06

I was like, there is no way I'm still...

0:46:060:46:09

There was not a scratch on me.

0:46:090:46:11

And then I looked up and I saw Alex.

0:46:110:46:15

It was a bit surreal at first, you know,

0:46:150:46:19

finding it something out of a movie.

0:46:190:46:23

Private Tidmus was already on top of Stringer giving him first aid

0:46:230:46:28

and then all of a sudden, there was a lot of hissing

0:46:280:46:31

and then the ECM just burst into a ball of flames on his back.

0:46:310:46:36

It just pushed it over the edge, really.

0:46:360:46:39

You know, a casualty anyway is bad, but when your casualties on fire

0:46:390:46:45

and then you're being shot at and there's RPGs coming in.

0:46:450:46:49

There's not much more that could have gone wrong.

0:46:490:46:52

None of the boys expected anything like that.

0:46:520:46:55

Especially knowing that he's just lost two limbs.

0:46:590:47:01

It was just really bad.

0:47:010:47:03

The guys tried to get water on him.

0:47:030:47:06

I tried rolling him and all sorts.

0:47:060:47:08

The flames eventually went out. Even before the flames went out

0:47:080:47:14

I was back on his legs, like, you know.

0:47:140:47:16

Basically, from there we put him on a stretcher and casevac-ed him

0:47:160:47:19

over towards where the heli was. But he started to come round.

0:47:190:47:23

That's where my part came into it.

0:47:230:47:25

Just keep chatting to him. He wanted to know what's he lost.

0:47:250:47:29

You know, "Tell me the truth, I want to know."

0:47:290:47:32

Obviously, I didn't tell him anything more,

0:47:320:47:35

so just concentrate on your daughters back home and, you know

0:47:350:47:38

your family back home and that.

0:47:380:47:42

It just felt like forever. It was one of the longest days of my life. It really was.

0:47:420:47:46

He's alive, and that's the main thing.

0:47:490:47:53

Hopefully, his left arm's saved and you know, he's got both of his arms.

0:47:530:47:58

And unfortunately, he won't have both his legs.

0:47:580:48:01

But you know, it is what it is. You know. He's only a young lad as well.

0:48:010:48:08

He's got two young kids, a young Mrs,

0:48:080:48:11

and it's just unfortunate that these things happen.

0:48:110:48:14

Hopefully, he'll be all right.

0:48:140:48:16

Really strong boy, he is. And to survive something like that as well.

0:48:160:48:20

He's really strong.

0:48:200:48:23

Even when he wakes up, Stringer being Stringer, he'll get up

0:48:230:48:26

and you know, brush himself down and that.

0:48:260:48:30

I think he's that kind of person. He'll crack on with life.

0:48:300:48:34

Nothing will hold him back.

0:48:340:48:37

Within days, a replacement joins the team

0:48:370:48:42

and they return to duty to see out the rest of their tour.

0:48:420:48:45

Another day, another device.

0:48:460:48:49

I think I stopped enjoying it at that point.

0:48:490:48:52

EXPLOSION

0:48:520:48:54

Not to the point of misery,

0:48:540:48:56

but it was a lot less fun from that point on.

0:48:560:48:59

Another day in paradise, eh, boys?

0:48:590:49:02

Being here just puts everything in perspective.

0:49:020:49:05

You see shocking things so regularly that it becomes normal,

0:49:050:49:09

and on the scale of things, telling the wife off for leaving

0:49:090:49:13

the child's toys out everywhere... It's just... What does it matter?

0:49:130:49:17

Firing!

0:49:170:49:18

You know, just go home and be happy.

0:49:200:49:23

It's almost like you get the chance for a fresh start.

0:49:230:49:26

You think, "I'll come back from this and I'm not going to be such a shitbag to my family.

0:49:260:49:31

"I'm going to spend a lot more time with Jennifer."

0:49:310:49:35

I hate to think that she's not going to develop properly cos

0:49:350:49:39

I haven't played with her or I haven't been a very good father.

0:49:390:49:43

I think, if I'm completely honest with myself, you know, I haven't.

0:49:430:49:47

It's quite upsetting, actually, when I think about it.

0:49:500:49:52

I've tried so hard doing all this and then not really tried very hard

0:49:520:49:59

at the more important things.

0:49:590:50:01

On Adam and the team's last day on duty, they get called out

0:50:070:50:10

to one final bomb.

0:50:100:50:12

Watch the alleyways when you go down, boys.

0:50:120:50:15

Keep your fucking eyes and wits about you.

0:50:240:50:27

-All right, son? What's your name?

-Kalam.

-Your name's Kalam?

0:50:300:50:35

Pleased to meet you. Be good. Don't turn into a terrorist.

0:50:350:50:39

30 seconds away.

0:50:430:50:46

Keep your head down.

0:50:460:50:49

Fucking hate this.

0:50:490:50:51

Stand by! Firing!

0:50:510:50:53

Stay down!

0:50:560:50:59

After six months in Afghanistan, Adam and the team's tour is over.

0:50:590:51:04

As cheesy as it sounds, I was fully accepting of the fact

0:51:130:51:16

that I might not come back.

0:51:160:51:18

I never thought any further than the end of the tour

0:51:180:51:22

because I always thought, Sod's law and I thought

0:51:220:51:25

something's going to happen to me, guaranteed.

0:51:250:51:28

Towards the end, it was just a case of, I've got ten days to survive,

0:51:280:51:33

I've got nine days to survive.

0:51:330:51:36

And you just concentrate on that, but right up until the very last day,

0:51:360:51:41

that very last job, I thought something's going to happen.

0:51:410:51:44

It sounds dramatic, but I just thought I'd either come back

0:51:440:51:48

with legs missing or I won't come back.

0:51:480:51:52

It's been emotional. That's all I can say. It's been emotional.

0:51:520:51:55

Obviously, good things have happened and bad things have happened.

0:51:550:51:59

Unfortunately, some people didn't make it back and obviously,

0:51:590:52:03

other people did make it back, but not as they went out.

0:52:030:52:06

So, apart from that, I'm glad to be back.

0:52:060:52:11

Alex Stringer is home from rehab for four weeks rest with his family.

0:52:210:52:26

His left arm was so badly damaged, it also had to be amputated.

0:52:290:52:33

Obviously, I remember getting blown up, but like, initially,

0:52:400:52:43

when I hit the ground, I thought someone else had been blown up

0:52:430:52:46

and I'd just been knocked off my feet.

0:52:460:52:48

And then next thing I remember was being in the stretcher

0:52:500:52:54

talking to Marty, trying to keep me conscious

0:52:540:52:56

and he was constantly reminding me, "You're doing this for your girls,

0:52:560:53:00

"you've got to stay with us, got to stay with us.

0:53:000:53:02

"Your daughter's just been born," and all stuff like that.

0:53:020:53:05

And erm, like, at one point, I did a bit of a cliche

0:53:120:53:15

and I was laying there and said, "I don't want to die out here."

0:53:150:53:19

And he reassured me and said I wouldn't and that.

0:53:190:53:21

Come here! Millie!

0:53:210:53:24

You owe me a game of dominoes.

0:53:240:53:26

I feel brilliant, like. I don't see this as a down side.

0:53:330:53:36

I just see it as a new lease of life, new way of looking at things.

0:53:360:53:39

It's just more challenging. Everyone lives for challenges.

0:53:390:53:42

Otherwise, what do you live for?

0:53:420:53:46

I want to put Pepper Pig there, look. I'll put one there.

0:53:460:53:50

Oh, look you got dogs there, look.

0:53:500:53:52

You can't look at it as in, "I'm disabled, I can't do anything."

0:53:520:53:57

Just got to look at it, right, I've got one arm and my head, you know.

0:53:570:54:02

Got to work my way around problems now.

0:54:020:54:05

You got to get up and get about. And keep going.

0:54:080:54:12

I'm looking forward to what the future holds.

0:54:120:54:14

Going to make me a cup of tea?

0:54:200:54:22

But every day I've got afterwards,

0:54:220:54:24

you know, every day I keep seeing my girls and carrying on,

0:54:240:54:27

I thank the boys for it, cos if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here.

0:54:270:54:32

It's good. Life's good.

0:54:340:54:37

-Can you see Daddy yet?

-I can.

-You can't.

0:54:370:54:41

For the past three weeks Adam, Rachael and Jennifer have been

0:54:420:54:45

on holiday, camping and hiking together in Scotland.

0:54:450:54:49

I think the problem we had as a family was that I'd spent

0:54:490:54:52

so much time away from them that we weren't a family.

0:54:520:54:54

It was Rachael and Jennifer and me, and I was just the angry man who came back and told everyone off.

0:54:540:55:00

And I sort of promised myself when I was out there

0:55:000:55:02

that if I got back, then I'd address all that.

0:55:020:55:04

So I suppose, if anything, it's probably made me

0:55:040:55:08

a little bit calmer and a little bit more accepting of stuff.

0:55:080:55:12

Is he different?

0:55:150:55:17

I dunno. It's hard to... He's always been...

0:55:170:55:20

This is going to sound bad, but he's always been kind of grumpy.

0:55:200:55:24

But he's certainly trying so hard with Jennifer, it's obvious.

0:55:240:55:29

So yeah, we're all right. Happy.

0:55:290:55:34

I'm not going to come back and say I'm a changed man from that tour.

0:55:360:55:40

I'm really not. We saw some horrible things and saw some amazing things.

0:55:400:55:45

But certainly being out there put a lot of things in perspective.

0:55:450:55:48

And I'm just grateful for having been and done and come back.

0:55:480:55:52

Brimstone take on their biggest operation ever

0:55:560:55:59

in one of the most dangerous parts of Helmand.

0:55:590:56:02

Contact!

0:56:020:56:05

And as new teams face new challenges...

0:56:070:56:10

There may be more to this than meets the eye.

0:56:100:56:15

..they're all a long way from home.

0:56:150:56:17

There's seven in a team, and there's only four of us left.

0:56:170:56:21

We lost three in three months. We got three months to go.

0:56:210:56:24

There's going to be no-one left type thing.

0:56:240:56:27

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:56:500:56:53

E-mail subtitling@bbc.co.uk

0:56:530:56:58

For the first time ever, the Ministry of Defence has allowed the work of specialist bomb disposal teams in Afghanistan to be shown.

Adam is halfway through his tour of Afghanistan as a bomb disposal operator. Captured on helmet camera, we see what Adam sees as he is standing over the bomb which could kill him if he makes one wrong move.

Over the past weeks, Adam and his team have cleared 17 IEDs from a compound, so that it can be used as an army base. When they're called out to the compound one final time, they take a casualty.

The Bomb Squad is full of revelations - what an IED looks like, what it's like to risk your life as a highly trained operator or as a young searcher, and what it's like to be the family left behind, wondering if their loved ones will come home.