Episode 2 The Bomb Squad


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Episode 2

Documentary series following bomb disposal teams in Afghanistan, featuring helmet-mounted camera footage. A team is sent to search one of the most dangerous villages in Helmand.


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Transcript


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This programme contains strong languages 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 home made bombs that the Taliban dig into the ground to target troops.

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EXPLOSION

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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,

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the job of finding 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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EXPLOSION

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

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EXPLOSION

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As the Task Force launch their two biggest operations,

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bomb disposal operator Rod comes face to face with an unusual device.

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There may be more to this than meets the eye.

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And with the search team hit,

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the end of the tour is a long way away.

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

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We've lost three in three months. We've got another three months to go.

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There's going to be no-one left.

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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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EXPLOSION

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A bomb disposal operator is heading out for a six month tour of Afghanistan.

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Ladies and gentlemen, all remaining passengers please proceed to the departure lounge.

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Rod has 11 years experience in bomb disposal.

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He's already toured Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Iraq twice.

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But he's never been to Afghanistan.

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I think anybody who's not a bit nervous, a bit scared,

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especially with the tempo of ops in Afghanistan

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and what we actually do, I think they'd be quite strange not to be.

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You know, I wouldn't say I was the best operator. I'm a pretty good operator.

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But obviously I need to be at the top of my trade for the next six months.

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HE LAUGHS

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Oh, yes.

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Normally, bomb disposal operators work with two truck loads of equipment,

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but in Afghanistan that's not always possible.

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So for seven weeks, Rod and other volunteers from the Army, Navy and Air Force

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have been undergoing a gruelling assessment.

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Right, there's definitely an anti-tank mine underneath.

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To get to Afghanistan,

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they have to prove they can deal with any bomb with just the equipment they can carry.

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EXPLOSION

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By the end of the day, either I'm happy or my wife's happy.

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As in, if I pass,

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my wife's definitely not going to be happy but I will be.

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If I fail, the vice versa.

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Unfortunately, it's the old cliche

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if somebody gets married to a soldier, actually gets married to the army, too.

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And either they live with it or you get divorced.

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And since I'm already divorced

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and then I got married again it's about right.

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Only about a third of the candidates ever pass the course.

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We've been coming down the track here, where that sandy pit area is.

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We've seen a blue chemical drum. Normally that's main charges.

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The course is difficult and it's difficult for a reason

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because the guys on the course go out to do a very difficult job.

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I'm going to take a direct route straight to that barrel.

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Off the hard standing, I've got what looks like a freshly dug over patch of earth.

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'Quite clearly it's dangerous. We all know it's dangerous.

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'They're a very clever enemy, adaptable, resourceful.'

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We're not fighting fools. They're sophisticated. We don't underestimate them.

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I've got two hits.

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Finger tipping.

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I can't tell you what sort of person. You know, we need people who are clever.

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They can think outside the box. And I think the big thing is they work well under pressures.

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I've found two single wires leading off in the direction of the barrel.

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Under immense pressure. Sometimes under fire, sometimes very tired and fatigued.

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And it takes a special kind of person that can take that responsibility

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and actually enjoy that responsibility, and thrive on it.

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Standby. Firing.

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EXPLOSION

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But, er, we don't pass somebody because he's a good lad.

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We pass them because he's ready to go to Afghanistan.

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-Otherwise, you know, they may not come back.

-Woo!

-Did you pass?

-Yeah.

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-Congratulations. Nice.

-Why am I smiling? I should not be smiling.

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Well, it's always nice to know you've passed something.

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And when I come down, then it might hit.

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Then the reality might hit, but, yeah, at the moment I'm very happy.

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For those who've been successful, look after your teams, look after each other.

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Enjoy yourselves, go forth, multiply, stay in touch, need anything you know where we are.

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We've been together three years

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and we actually got married in July of this year.

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And so I think I've had a bit of a baptism of fire,

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so to speak, in life as an army wife.

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We'll have to wait to be a real married couple until I come back.

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-We haven't really lived together for a long time have we?

-No.

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For any more than 2 days in the last 14 weeks now.

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But it does mean, you know, we won't get to...

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we won't be shouting at each other for another six to eight months.

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As husband and wife.

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-I'm quite sure we can make up for it.

-Yeah, I'm sure.

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SHE LAUGHS

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And it's only six months,

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so it's not like it's a lifetime.

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In 11 years, Rod has dealt with 5 IEDs.

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EXPLOSION

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On a six month tour to Afghanistan,

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some operators have dismantled and destroyed over 100.

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EXPLOSION

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The Counter IED Task Force is led by Mark Davis.

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Right, well, I'll just plonk myself here, I think.

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Welcome to theatre.

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I hope that the training that you had was really good

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and I hope you're feeling pretty confident about it.

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Obviously, you know, we can't get away from the injuries

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and the deaths we've had, so please, you know, don't cut the corners.

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You're new into theatre, get yourselves bedded in a bit,

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and just take care out there.

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Rod has just met his team.

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They'll spend the next six months living and working together on the frontline.

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Have you met the number two yet? The number two is Frazer.

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He's the handsome chap at the end of the tent over there.

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Handsome in the loosest of sense.

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Have you seen his...above his bed?

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You get them with the combat medic pouches.

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-For if somebody's dead.

-You can put it on 'em.

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My little sense of humour.

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So we're just going to have to write it on his head.

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As long as we can find his head.

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Chris Cooper, he's the escort.

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-He's there for protection.

-Don't put too much pressure on me.

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No pressure whatsoever.

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You know, I want to get out on the ground now, to be honest.

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What about you guys?

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I don't know. I'm just a little bit apprehensive, that's all.

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It's not like fear of going out. Just fear of the unknown, really.

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That's all that's getting me.

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Yeah, I'm the same. Don't worry about it.

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The counter IED teams are based throughout Helmand Province.

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Rod's team, Brimstone One Nine,

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are going to be based in a heavily contested area called Rahim.

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The only woman in the team of four, Becci,

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is the electronic warfare specialist.

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Ah, my army story's a funny one.

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I was working in Northampton at Barclaycard head office,

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and I used to have to get this bus to work every day.

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And it was about a 40 minute drive.

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Every time I got on the bus, everyone would be in the same seats.

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And after about a few months,

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I just thought, I need to get off this bus cos I'm going to be sat here when I'm 45

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just on the same bus on my way to work.

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It was literally a, "Stop the bus, I'm going to join the army" moment.

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The idea was to get to see the world.

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Here it is.

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SHE LAUGHS

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As long as we knit as a team then no matter what happens, we'll get over it.

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Obviously, if the worst happens then it might affect the team quite badly

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but let's cross that bridge when we get to it.

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-Which one do you want, Becs?

-I have no shelves.

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THEY LAUGH

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-Where's my foot spa?

-Where do I plug my hairdryer in? Second thing is power.

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That is a point - there is no electricity.

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At the Task Force headquarters in Camp Bastion

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future operations are planned.

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And surveillance is used to spot the Taliban digging in bombs.

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It's estimated they plant over 1,000 IEDs every month.

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Sometimes, a precision missile fired from Bastion stops them dead.

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EXPLOSION

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Near Rahim, there's been a missile strike on someone seen laying an IED.

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This afternoon, a command wire was seen to be dug in and a main charge.

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Quite well east of here, just North of the Bandi Barq road.

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And they got hit by an exactor missile, I think, or extractor missile?

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There's bits of Taliban spread liberally all over the area currently.

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So if you're a bit squeamish because obviously yourself and yourself

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will be coming down the road with me.

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-How big is the main charge assessed to be?

-Didn't say.

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Very sketchy on information.

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We'll do what we do best.

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Start with no information and get lots more when we hit the ground.

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There's definitely a main charge there and bits of command wire and bits of body, currently.

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Whether the bits of body are still there when we get there.

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It's a religious thing. They have to bury the whole body.

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Whether it's in pieces or not, so it normally gets whisked away.

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-If he's missing his left toe, he's going to hell.

-Not quite as bad.

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-There'll be 40 virgins there.

-Why would you want 40 virgins?

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-You want experienced women.

-Yes, exactly my point.

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THEY LAUGH

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He probably wants 40 experienced slags from Chatham.

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THEY LAUGH

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Coops, Coops, Coops...

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This is Brimstone One Nine's first job out of Rahim.

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They're leaving in the morning.

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My mum thinks I'm at Bastion.

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It's probably for the best.

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Probably would be for the best if I WAS in Bastion.

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Perhaps if I tell enough people I'm at Bastion, they might send me back.

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The messages might get confused. "Why's Becci not at Bastion?"

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"Get her back to Bastion." Yeah.

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You worry about yourself enough, I think.

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You don't need anyone else worrying about you.

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My mum worries every time I get in my car back in the UK

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let alone coming out to Afghanistan.

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Well, I know that's Rod, this tall lad, but I don't know.

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She has told me but I forgot.

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SHE LAUGHS

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She looks really sort of quite small, doesn't she?

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SHE LAUGHS

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When she's not, but with all them men, she looks quite small.

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SHE LAUGHS

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She knows that I'm a worrier.

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Because I just worry about what she's seeing because, you know,

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you hear so many things about what people see.

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People being blown up and things like that, and that just...I don't want her to see that.

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Because you can't ever be the same again, can you?

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SHE GASPS

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Rod and the team are heading for the Bandi Barq Road.

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It's a main route the troops want to use

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but the Taliban have seeded it with IEDs.

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EXPLOSION

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A major operation is currently underway to clear the road.

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EXPLOSION

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In just one 300m stretch,

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Brimstone teams have already found and destroyed 12 bombs.

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Now Rod and his team have to deal with another bomb near the road.

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A team of soldiers from the Brigade Recce Force

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have been watching over this area from a small compound.

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It's from here that they spotted the Taliban laying the IED

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to target a small bridge the soldiers have been using.

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They've seen our movements. They know that's an area we cross.

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That's a bridge point there.

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They've observed us several times in that location and decided to place an IED there.

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But it's quite close to our compound which is unusual that they've had the audacity, really,

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-to go and lay an IED there.

-There were so many people involved yesterday, watching.

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Probably had seven people there at various times going up, looking reccing.

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It's a shame we only got to kill the one guy.

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They'd all be bang to rights had we killed all of them, as far as I'm concerned.

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Helping Rod deal with this one bomb will be a team of nearly 50.

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As well as the surveillance team in the compound,

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there are soldiers out on the ground surrounding the area.

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A specialist search team will get Rod to the IED.

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They lead the way through the most dangerous areas

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checking for bombs as they go.

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To try and put it into words is quite difficult to say

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how the intense fear of standing on one of these devices is...

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..incredibly strong and to be able to understand that you need to be there

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and see someone laid on the floor screaming, with no legs...

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..and blood all over the place before you kind of appreciate

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what these guys do, searching for devices.

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Lads, just drop down into that dead ground.

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There's a good threat of getting contacted. Just drop across to that dead ground.

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It's Si's responsibility to decide the route Rod and the team will take to the bomb.

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The more unpredictable he can make it, the better.

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Over the decades, the terrorist has always targeted how we operate.

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Their best way of doing that is watching our tactics.

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And then they will devise an IED-type

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to put in our path and, so, there's a sort of a circular activity going on

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where we watch them, they watch us.

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We have to be ever more alert and one step ahead of them all of the time.

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Can you take that?

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Fuck's sake.

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Cheers.

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The team think the bomb is a command wire device.

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That means that someone in the area could be watching

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ready to trigger it when the team get near.

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We got the kids just to the right by the block house.

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The one in the chequered shawl was one of the two watching yesterday.

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And the command wire could be protected by other bombs.

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Careful, mate.

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There was a guy in blue going along the back crossing

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coming through that gap there.

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The search team need to find the wire...

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..and mark out a safe path for everyone else to follow.

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Anywhere outside the yellow lines, there could be a bomb.

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Can you see that wire, mate?

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-No? Just fucking go slow up there, all right, mate?

-Yeah.

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Right, is the command wire there?

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-Rod.

-Yeah?

-Do you wanna come up and have a look, mate?

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-You can see the wire there, I think, surface laid.

-Yeah, seen.

-Seen?

-Yeah.

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-Yeah, I think I can see it as well.

-Yeah.

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The wire turns out to be a kite string.

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One tug on this string and the device would explode.

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It's on the other side of yet another irrigation ditch,

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running towards the bridge, where the IED is thought to be.

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Once the string has been cut, Rod will approach the bomb.

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What's the extraction plan, if it all goes terribly wrong for me?

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If it goes terribly wrong for you? I'd run in and fucking get you.

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Potentially I could be lighter so it won't be too much of a problem.

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You would be a lot lighter, to be fair.

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Everyone in this job takes risks. It's a risky job. Shit happens.

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Now, shit does happens and you can't get around that.

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Things'll happen that you could not even think of.

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-Ready?

-Let's go.

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When it boils down to it, if it went bang,

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I wouldn't know about it anyway.

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If I'm that close with my head looking in,

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it would be pretty quick and I wouldn't feel a thing.

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Don't explode! It's frowned upon.

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But it's the rest of my team, obviously, and my wife and my parents and my sister so...

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And all the friends,

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so yeah. So I get off lightly, really, when it boils down to it.

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-Bex?

-Yeah?

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Are you ready to go?

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Only Becci and Coops will be going across the ditch with Rod.

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You're going to enjoy this. You all right, Coops?

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Everyone else remains at a safe distance.

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Coops will provide Rod with protection in case of a direct attack,

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while Becci, as the electronic warfare specialist, will protect them

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from any radio-controlled or mobile phone operated device in the area.

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So ECM on top of there.

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Yeah?

0:20:500:20:53

You see where that grass is?

0:20:530:20:55

-Yeah.

-Coops, can you pass me the ECM?

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It's just a bit further.

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All right.

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METAL DETECTOR WHINES

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Can you see the string?

0:21:070:21:09

String... Oh, yeah, yeah.

0:21:090:21:13

Although the string has been cut, Rod still hasn't found the bomb.

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No-one knows exactly where it is,

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or if there's only one.

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They also don't know if there's some other way of setting it off.

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Rod needs to find the battery and disconnect it.

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OK, I can see...

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..direct to my front about two meters,

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twin-flex wire.

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It looks like it's been covered over with a load of grass cuttings.

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Frazer, Rod. We have a power source.

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So I'm going to come in from the top and try and get a cut on those two wires.

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Yeah, roger that.

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Get ready to move!

0:22:430:22:45

He's going to be taking a shot onto the device.

0:22:470:22:51

Can you get your guys, especially these ones here, under hard cover?

0:22:510:22:53

Rod plans to cut the wire with a blade fired by a small explosive.

0:22:550:23:00

Ready?

0:23:000:23:02

-In case this explosion sets off the bomb...

-All right, let's go.

0:23:020:23:06

..the three of them need to join the rest of the team back on the other side of the ditch.

0:23:060:23:11

Don't stand still too long.

0:23:110:23:13

For the past hour, the ditch has been slowly filling up.

0:23:170:23:21

Ah!

0:23:230:23:25

Right, can you pass me your ECM?

0:23:250:23:27

Coops, come in, just pull her back from that side to get her foot loose.

0:23:290:23:34

It's nearly there, Coops.

0:23:340:23:37

Ah! OK?

0:23:370:23:42

What happened to you?

0:23:420:23:45

Twice stuck.

0:23:450:23:46

HE LAUGHS

0:23:460:23:48

I actually thought I was going to die in there.

0:23:480:23:51

We're ready when you are, Frazer, to fire it.

0:23:510:23:54

Stand by! Firing!

0:23:570:23:59

-EXPLOSION

-It's now six and a half hours since the team got off the helicopter.

0:23:590:24:04

There's only an hour of daylight left.

0:24:040:24:07

Rod has cut one wire, but he still has to make the bomb safe.

0:24:070:24:12

Get down there, do a 360 of this side, or as much as I can.

0:24:120:24:16

-Place charge, fucking run away.

-Happy days.

0:24:160:24:18

Otherwise we're going to run out of light.

0:24:180:24:20

-Yeah.

-When we cross this time, I'll go across, get to the other side.

0:24:200:24:23

You start, you wait and just keep going.

0:24:230:24:27

Come on, let's do a widdle.

0:24:300:24:33

The week before he went away and also the days running up to it, erm...

0:24:330:24:39

were really, really quite emotionally charged for both of us.

0:24:390:24:43

Remember, don't stop.

0:24:430:24:45

On Christmas Day, we were having conversations about what I would do

0:24:450:24:49

should he have what he called... we've called...

0:24:490:24:53

we've called it Rod having a bad day at work.

0:24:530:24:56

Looking at it from my perspective,

0:24:560:25:00

how I would feel should I be an army widow,

0:25:000:25:04

and the best way I could describe it was I was absolutely petrified at that thought,

0:25:040:25:08

and if I thought about it now, then it is something that does fill you with dread and fear,

0:25:080:25:14

and I think when the doorbell goes and you're not

0:25:140:25:17

expecting somebody to come round, you instantly think, "Oh, God."

0:25:170:25:22

Come and get the ECM up here and then crack on.

0:25:220:25:25

If anything happens, I'll fucking run back this way.

0:25:250:25:28

METAL DETECTOR WHINES

0:25:280:25:31

Well, obviously, he's...isolated the battery pack

0:25:370:25:41

from the main device.

0:25:410:25:43

The cheeky fuckers!

0:25:430:25:45

Hang on.

0:25:450:25:47

There may be more to this than meets the eye.

0:25:470:25:50

There may be more to this than meets the eye, apparently.

0:25:500:25:52

OK, no further details! There's just more to this than meets the eye,

0:25:560:25:59

apparently, so it means he's found something interesting.

0:25:590:26:02

We'll wait and see...as usual.

0:26:060:26:10

Wait...and wait...and wait.

0:26:100:26:13

No, it is a battery, it's just a big one.

0:26:180:26:20

It's the biggest fucking battery I've ever seen.

0:26:230:26:26

We've got about another 35 minutes of light, workable light.

0:26:260:26:31

He is now making his way towards the actual main device.

0:26:370:26:40

Main charge... DFC.

0:26:470:26:48

DFC? It's a directional charge, so they'll have a sheet of metal,

0:26:480:26:53

and then behind that sheet of metal, they'll have explosives.

0:26:530:26:57

So when the explosives go off,

0:26:570:27:00

then the sheet of metal just flies out and forms a slug, as it were, to hit whoever's in its vicinity.

0:27:000:27:07

I've found the switch as well.

0:27:090:27:11

Just put something like nuts and bolts in there as well to increase the damage.

0:27:110:27:16

Which is fantastic.

0:27:190:27:22

Really generous of them.

0:27:220:27:23

Over on the Bandi Barq Road, another Brimstone team has also found a bomb.

0:27:450:27:50

They're preparing to destroy it by blowing it up.

0:27:500:27:53

EXPLOSION

0:27:550:27:58

What the fuck?! That made me jump! What's going on, Frazer?

0:27:580:28:02

I may have forgot to tell Rod about that...and he just jumped!

0:28:020:28:07

-Whoops!

-That's pretty jack.

-That was pretty jack, yeah.

0:28:070:28:10

Pass on my regards and tell 'em...

0:28:100:28:12

HE LAUGHS

0:28:120:28:14

The detonator's well, er...stuck in,

0:28:160:28:20

so it's getting whacked with the main charge. Get ready to move!

0:28:200:28:25

To stop the Taliban re-using the detonator

0:28:250:28:28

and any of the home-made explosive, Rod is going to blow them up.

0:28:280:28:32

Come on, let's make it go bang before it goes dark.

0:28:350:28:38

-Bleeding ears time coming up.

-Is it charging?

0:28:400:28:42

-You what, Simon?

-Stand by! Firing!

0:28:420:28:44

EXPLOSION

0:28:440:28:47

-That was all right, wasn't it?

-Wait there! Wait there!

0:28:470:28:51

-Don't look up, don't look up.

-Don't look up!

0:28:510:28:53

Getting rid of one IED has taken seven-and-a-half hours.

0:28:530:28:58

It's now too late to return to Rahim.

0:28:580:29:01

Rod and Brimstone 19 will have to stay overnight in the compound.

0:29:010:29:06

So, we're staying here tonight? We'll all be sleeping in these.

0:29:060:29:09

The actual main charge itself was designed

0:29:110:29:14

to inflict mass causalities, to be honest.

0:29:140:29:16

Lots of metal in it, so it's quite an effective weapon.

0:29:160:29:20

Now I need to get something to eat, cos I haven't eaten yet.

0:29:210:29:24

Some hot dogs and some bread there, mate.

0:29:240:29:27

-Er, don't drip it, you're dripping.

-Ah!

0:29:280:29:31

Oh, it's just full of mud.

0:29:310:29:33

They're going to weigh a ton tomorrow, I'll be carrying more weight.

0:29:350:29:39

You won't actually believe how...how difficult it is to get through it.

0:29:410:29:46

At one point, it just looked like me and Becs were actually at it

0:29:460:29:50

in the middle of this massive ditch that was full of goo.

0:29:500:29:54

I was trying to get round her waist and lever her up,

0:29:540:29:59

and I was like that, and she's, "Oh! Oh!"

0:29:590:30:01

Then I grabbed hold of her legs!

0:30:010:30:03

Oh, it was a right carry-on.

0:30:030:30:05

-There you are.

-Get amongst them hot dogs.

0:30:050:30:08

Is it two, yeah? Oh, no, there's not much bread, perhaps one bit of bread, two hot dogs.

0:30:080:30:12

Brimstone 19's job is completed.

0:30:230:30:27

It turns out it was only inches away from going very differently.

0:30:270:30:31

The bomb that the other Brimstone team found and destroyed on the Bandi Barq road yesterday

0:30:310:30:37

was on the exact route Rod and the team had walked from the helicopter, at the start of the job.

0:30:370:30:44

Nearly 22, 23 people

0:30:440:30:47

physically walked past the device, and somebody, the most fortunate person in the group,

0:30:470:30:53

stepped within a foot's width of it.

0:30:530:30:55

It's just one of those lessons learnt, because from what we've been told,

0:30:570:31:01

it was a pretty big device, so whoever was stood on top of it would have been pink mist.

0:31:010:31:06

And probably people in front and people behind,

0:31:060:31:10

you know, they would have been pretty seriously injured, if not killed, you know.

0:31:100:31:15

As far as I'm aware, that's the first time we've been that close,

0:31:150:31:18

but I don't think you ever really know how close you are. I don't think you'd want to know, really.

0:31:180:31:22

If every time you went out, you missed an IED by six inches.

0:31:220:31:26

I don't think you'd be wanting to leave camp very often.

0:31:260:31:29

-It doesn't count as one of your nine lives.

-Does it not?

-No.

0:31:310:31:34

To count as one of your nine lives, you've got to step on it

0:31:340:31:37

and it doesn't work, or it partials and you're still there.

0:31:370:31:41

HE LAUGHS That's when it counts as one of your lives.

0:31:410:31:43

A few of them may disappear over the next four months, but as long as I end up with at least one, I'm happy.

0:31:430:31:49

By clearing major routes like the Bandi Barq road, Brimstone enables troops to move more freely.

0:31:540:32:01

But further south, they're about to mount an entirely different type of operation.

0:32:010:32:06

Rod and his team are among 270 British and Afghan soldiers

0:32:100:32:14

joining forces for the largest British counter-IED operation ever.

0:32:140:32:18

The aim is to clear an abandoned village of IEDs so families can move back into their homes.

0:32:210:32:27

EXPLOSION

0:32:270:32:30

GUNFIRE

0:32:300:32:31

Contact!

0:32:310:32:32

For over a year, the army fought the Taliban for control of Char Coucha village.

0:32:360:32:41

If I can smash this down, get a ladder down there!

0:32:410:32:44

All right, back!

0:32:440:32:46

All right, we're looking at a massive open space!

0:32:460:32:49

By the time they pushed the Taliban out,

0:32:490:32:52

the locals had left their compounds and the village was riddled with IEDS.

0:32:520:32:56

Got a firing point?

0:32:560:32:58

The insurgents have been particularly vicious in this area.

0:32:580:33:01

It reached such a stage where every family who left

0:33:010:33:05

was ordered by the Taliban that they had to put IEDs in their own compounds.

0:33:050:33:09

But each week there's an incident to do with IEDs here, whether it be

0:33:090:33:14

a child pushing a wheelbarrow and it detonating, whatever it may be.

0:33:140:33:18

Our soldiers, we've had 12 soldiers wounded in this area,

0:33:180:33:21

and we've been very lucky not to lose anyone thus far.

0:33:210:33:24

But it is one of the most dangerous areas within our area of operation,

0:33:240:33:28

probably one of the most dangerous areas across the whole of Helmand.

0:33:280:33:32

In two days, Brimstone will begin the mission to search Char Coucha and find and remove every IED.

0:33:320:33:39

Leading the way will be four specialist search teams.

0:33:410:33:44

Rod will be working alongside Search Team 9.

0:33:440:33:50

Until then, they're training.

0:33:500:33:52

DETECTOR WHISTLES

0:33:520:33:54

See, we got to find a hundred out of a hundred.

0:33:540:33:59

They've got to get one out of a hundred and they've got a victory.

0:33:590:34:02

We have to find every little thing.

0:34:020:34:05

Take a knee, lads.

0:34:070:34:09

The team have been in Afghanistan for three months,

0:34:090:34:13

and they've already taken casualties.

0:34:130:34:15

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

0:34:150:34:20

We lost one...killed in action,

0:34:200:34:24

the other one wounded in action,

0:34:240:34:28

and another one's been sent home for another battle casualty.

0:34:280:34:32

So there's only four out of the original team left.

0:34:320:34:35

We lost three in three months.

0:34:350:34:37

So we're like...we've got another three months to go, there's going to be no-one left type thing.

0:34:370:34:42

Well, I suppose the, erm...the first one was when...

0:34:490:34:53

..Corporal Barnsdale was killed.

0:34:550:34:57

That was our first death, and it was amazingly traumatic for everybody.

0:34:570:35:03

But it would have been naive of me to think that, you know, we wouldn't get anybody killed.

0:35:030:35:08

The one that got Dave was a big pressure pad designed for vehicles,

0:35:080:35:12

so you need a lot of pressure to set it off, and he must have just caught it just in the middle.

0:35:120:35:17

So we've all stepped on it, but not just in the middle for them connections to meet.

0:35:170:35:22

So...I mean, some people are lucky and

0:35:220:35:25

others are not.

0:35:250:35:26

Yeah, carry on.

0:35:260:35:28

I think those youngsters in the search teams,

0:35:280:35:31

they're the ones that are up the front doing very dangerous work,

0:35:310:35:34

and it's hard to imagine the sort of anxiety and the stress levels that they must be going through,

0:35:340:35:40

because the IEDs, as we know, are difficult to find, even with our technology.

0:35:400:35:45

And it's having that confidence to then step forward and put your foot down onto the ground,

0:35:450:35:50

constantly wondering, "Is this going to be the step I take that actually blows me up?"

0:35:500:35:56

Take a knee, lads.

0:35:560:35:57

We weren't volunteers.

0:36:000:36:01

You're meant to be volunteers for this,

0:36:030:36:06

but we're not.

0:36:060:36:08

There's no getting out of it, you're in the army at the end of the day.

0:36:090:36:13

We just go where we're told, do whatever we're told. DETECTOR SQUEALS

0:36:130:36:17

A soldier doesn't have to worry about

0:36:170:36:20

having no roof over his head, having no food on the...

0:36:200:36:23

on the table.

0:36:230:36:25

They don't have to worry about anything like a civilian has to worry about.

0:36:250:36:29

All we have to worry about is either losing your legs

0:36:290:36:32

or losing your friends, and that's the cold, hard truth.

0:36:320:36:36

But at the end of the day, it's a job,

0:36:360:36:38

and unfortunately the job does ask you to put your life on the line.

0:36:380:36:42

And everyone knew back home I've always wanted to be a soldier,

0:36:420:36:47

and I'm here, I'm doing my jo...

0:36:470:36:50

I'm living the dream sort of thing.

0:36:500:36:52

But reality slaps you in the face when you come to Afghan, like.

0:36:520:36:55

At the age of 22, carrying your mate in a coffin home,

0:36:550:37:00

a mate that you've shared beers with and enjoyed and had laughs with.

0:37:000:37:06

And having seen him die and carry his coffin and send him home, you...

0:37:060:37:11

you can't go through things like that and not be changed as a person, like.

0:37:110:37:17

They're a young team, and you look at relations between you and your own children,

0:37:210:37:26

and they're so young, they could almost be my children.

0:37:260:37:30

And you just have that extra level of care, I think, and compassion.

0:37:300:37:35

But what you don't really think is that that team will get hit again.

0:37:350:37:38

There's no reason to think that they shouldn't do, you just don't really expect it.

0:37:380:37:45

Where Captain Sinnott got hit, the day before we found four devices in that same area,

0:37:460:37:51

and we was looking at them that night, and we were asking, "What would that do?

0:37:510:37:55

"How would that injure someone?"

0:37:550:37:57

Well, next day we found out, didn't we?

0:37:570:37:59

Oh, fuck.

0:38:150:38:18

Why is that so tight?

0:38:180:38:20

Because you've been in your wheelchair.

0:38:200:38:23

The more you sit, the less it gets stretched, so...

0:38:230:38:25

When Dave died, er...a month before,

0:38:310:38:36

when the blast goes, that dust goes everywhere.

0:38:360:38:39

Your whole world turns dark.

0:38:390:38:41

When I got hurt myself, the same thing, the world turned dark, and your immediate reaction is to

0:38:410:38:46

check yourself, but you think, "Oh, it's not me, but it was very close."

0:38:460:38:50

It wasn't until I looked down and I realised, "Bloody hell, it was actually me."

0:38:500:38:55

I think I had about a minute, the way blood was pumping out of me, and the guys were on me in seconds.

0:38:550:39:00

Getting those tourniquets on, that's the first thing that saves your life, really.

0:39:000:39:04

The whole team, they was brilliant, like.

0:39:040:39:07

With Dave, we felt helpless, because he died instantly.

0:39:070:39:11

With Captain Sinnott, it was different, we could treat him.

0:39:110:39:15

We got round him and we patched him up.

0:39:150:39:18

I mean, conscious through the whole thing. When they're tightening those tourniquets up, Christ!

0:39:180:39:23

I never felt pain like it.

0:39:230:39:25

I thought it hurt getting blown up, but it's actually the tourniquets which hurts the most.

0:39:250:39:30

No, as they say, you only do it once in your life, losing your legs, don't you?

0:39:300:39:34

-Yep.

-Can't do it again.

0:39:340:39:36

The last job, we destroyed 13 devices,

0:39:410:39:43

and when you come off the job and you've found 13 and you're like that.

0:39:430:39:47

But on the other side, it's a very...devastating job,

0:39:470:39:51

like we've seen my mate die by an IED, and I've had to treat my troopie, tourniquets on his legs

0:39:510:39:57

and pick him up on a stretcher and get him on the helicopter.

0:39:570:40:02

When you see that, you think,

0:40:020:40:04

"What am I doing here, like?"

0:40:040:40:06

Now Search Team Nine are about to go back out on the ground again.

0:40:060:40:10

They're going to play a leading role in the clearance of Char Coucha.

0:40:100:40:15

I just wanted to say thanks for the effort that you guys put in.

0:40:150:40:18

I think we all know that you guys

0:40:180:40:20

are right at the front taking the big risks.

0:40:200:40:23

And this is going to be a fairly unique challenge,

0:40:230:40:27

making areas safe again for locals to come back in.

0:40:270:40:31

And I don't think there's any better effect we can have than doing that for the population here

0:40:310:40:36

because that's what'll get us out of here in the end.

0:40:360:40:38

By proving that the Taliban don't rule this country

0:40:380:40:41

and you've got a very, very proud part to play in that by helping those people.

0:40:410:40:47

They're a good bunch of guys,

0:40:500:40:53

and they've had a rough ride of it, that's for sure.

0:40:530:40:57

I didn't think I'd get them back out on the ground after Dave died but they were brilliant.

0:40:570:41:01

They helped each other to get through it, you know.

0:41:010:41:04

They're unsung heroes out there. When we turn up, you know,

0:41:040:41:07

it's the absolute relief in their eyes when they see us turn up.

0:41:070:41:11

I think they're all quite shocked to hear that a lot of us

0:41:110:41:14

didn't choose this profession but we're doing it

0:41:140:41:17

and, er we don't get paid anything extra or we don't go home to a bevy of women for it, you know.

0:41:170:41:23

It's just a job for us, really,

0:41:230:41:27

and they think we are nutters for doing it.

0:41:270:41:29

I don't think they are wrong, to be honest.

0:41:290:41:31

I think we are a little bit crazy to be doing what we do.

0:41:310:41:34

We are anxious, a bit nervous.

0:41:370:41:39

But we're all going to take it slow,

0:41:390:41:41

concentrate on it and just make sure everyone gets home this time, you know what I mean.

0:41:410:41:46

Our last push. At the end of the day there's light at the end of the tunnel.

0:41:460:41:50

So happy days. We'll crack on with it again.

0:41:500:41:54

It's the squaddie way, you know what I mean.

0:41:540:41:59

The big one starting today Op Kapcha Kwandikalay.

0:42:120:42:16

Got map in general then each of these compounds links to a detailed DTA.

0:42:160:42:21

All teams were reported in at eight o'clock.

0:42:240:42:27

They're all on the ground ready to trot and I'd imagine now beginning the search.

0:42:270:42:32

There are 90 compounds and miles of alleyways in Char Coucha.

0:42:340:42:38

It all needs to be searched and cleared

0:42:380:42:41

before the families will return.

0:42:410:42:43

Rod and the other bomb disposal operators will wait

0:42:450:42:49

in a cleared compound until anything suspicious is found.

0:42:490:42:52

Search Team Nine have been given the job

0:42:540:42:57

of looking for any bombs hidden in Compound 52.

0:42:570:43:00

Because doorways are a prime spot for bombs, they'll go over the wall.

0:43:000:43:06

Medic-wise, should we have a casualty in there,

0:43:060:43:09

up over the wall and then back straight down.

0:43:090:43:11

By the time the tourniquets are on

0:43:110:43:13

we'll just fucking drag him over the wall and away we go.

0:43:130:43:16

The first man over the wall has to find a safe route for everyone else to follow.

0:43:190:43:24

If anything goes wrong it's very difficult

0:43:240:43:27

for anyone to go in and help him.

0:43:270:43:29

He's got a bit of ground sign, he's confirming.

0:43:450:43:47

Yeah, yeah, as he walked off he just found something.

0:43:470:43:51

He had a reading. So he's just going down.

0:43:510:43:53

We have at least 50 families who are tee-ed up ready to come back in.

0:43:560:44:01

And we're just holding fire till we've cleared the routes, the alleyways and their compounds.

0:44:010:44:06

Because it would be a disaster for us if they came back in and then they initiated an IED.

0:44:080:44:13

-Just under his arms, yeah?

-All the confidence we've been trying to build would be lost.

0:44:130:44:18

Just grab him. Got him?

0:44:180:44:21

As ever there is a degree of luck in all this.

0:44:210:44:23

And one cleverly hidden IED, one new trick up their sleeve and we're back to square one.

0:44:230:44:29

But I'm very conscious of the risk involved

0:44:290:44:31

in this operation and that risk is very high.

0:44:310:44:35

It's always good to send the dog up first.

0:44:380:44:41

If the worst should happen and the dog does miss it and gets blown up,

0:44:450:44:48

it's bad but at least it's rather the dog than one of our lads.

0:44:480:44:52

The operation at Char Coucha is part of an ongoing campaign

0:44:550:44:59

to persuade Afghans to stop supporting the Taliban.

0:44:590:45:02

What we'd like to talk about here today

0:45:020:45:05

are these devices.

0:45:050:45:06

And how they can kill or maim young people like you.

0:45:060:45:10

1,800 Afghans were killed by IEDs in 2010 alone.

0:45:100:45:16

It's thought as many as 9,000 were wounded.

0:45:160:45:21

The insurgents themselves maybe trying to present themselves as being honourable but patently they're not.

0:45:210:45:28

That's where the opportunity lies for us as men

0:45:280:45:32

to stand up to these cowards

0:45:320:45:33

and stop them having this terrible effect on the local communities.

0:45:330:45:38

To encourage the locals to move back in to Char Coucha,

0:45:430:45:46

they're being offered compensation for damage to their compounds.

0:45:460:45:50

Couple of windows, couple of doors, a little bit of ground damage.

0:45:510:45:57

OK, for this small damage

0:45:570:46:01

-I'm going to pay 10,000 Afghanis for it.

-10,000 Afghanis.

0:46:010:46:04

-He wants 15,000 Afghanis.

-He wants 15?

0:46:110:46:14

If I give him 15 my Commander will beat me.

0:46:140:46:16

So that's the money. Can you ask him to make his mark in that box here.

0:46:240:46:28

This is full and final settlement. He can't come back and claim for the same damage.

0:46:310:46:37

Right, I've got the main entrance to this compound in this room.

0:46:380:46:42

And there's a dip near the fucking door as well so...

0:46:420:46:45

Yeah, that's his compound so he's got no doors or windows.

0:46:500:46:54

But the interpreter has been to this compound and he reckons that's a different compound

0:46:540:46:58

he's kind of had himself photographed in front to try to get more money.

0:46:580:47:02

A lot of them I wouldn't trust, if I'm honest,

0:47:050:47:07

as far as I could throw them but, you know, I've got to deal with them.

0:47:070:47:11

-Sandy?

-Yeah.

-Come here, mate.

0:47:230:47:26

What looks like a bag of ball bearings, so take it for prints.

0:47:260:47:29

It's what they like to use on us.

0:47:290:47:33

It's only one of a number of finds in the compound.

0:47:330:47:37

As I was confirming down there in all the rubble, I started pulling out bits of scrap metal,

0:47:400:47:46

could be, er parts of battery where they've stripped it down

0:47:460:47:49

to take out all the carbon rods.

0:47:490:47:52

In there, as well, we found a bit of twin flex wire.

0:47:520:47:56

It's all components really to build an IED.

0:47:560:48:00

-Floydie.

-Yeah.

0:48:000:48:02

RPG. Tubes.

0:48:020:48:05

The discoveries made by Search Team Nine

0:48:060:48:08

suggest that Compound 52 was a Taliban bomb factory.

0:48:080:48:12

It's thought a place like this can produce a home-made bomb every 15 minutes.

0:48:120:48:19

The team go to investigate the entrance.

0:48:190:48:22

It's an area often protected with IEDs.

0:48:220:48:27

Speedy is lead searcher.

0:48:270:48:29

Because of the casualties the team has suffered,

0:48:290:48:32

he's joined them till the end of their tour.

0:48:320:48:35

DETECTOR EMITS SHRILL BEEPS

0:48:380:48:41

It's the end game, isn't it?

0:49:080:49:10

It's coming home and seeing all your family again in one piece.

0:49:100:49:13

The only thing you think about when you are searching.

0:49:130:49:16

And when you go down and you are picking away at the dirt,

0:49:160:49:19

-you are thinking...

-I'm going to get blown up here.

-..this is it.

-This is it.

0:49:190:49:23

Kind of thing, you are thinking this could be it kind of thing every time you go down.

0:49:230:49:28

You also think about it back here. This could be my last dessert.

0:49:280:49:32

This could be my last pack of peanut M&Ms.

0:49:320:49:35

-This could be my last film I'm watching.

-Pizza Hut.

0:49:350:49:37

This could be my last phone call home.

0:49:370:49:40

Er, I think I might have summat.

0:50:090:50:12

Take your time, mate.

0:50:130:50:16

It looks like, er, it might be an inner tube.

0:50:160:50:19

It's summat wrapped in an inner...

0:50:220:50:23

Yes, fuck it, find. I'm not fucking with it.

0:50:230:50:26

Get fucking ATO down. The dog showed interest in it, I seen it.

0:50:260:50:30

Get back. Don't fuck about.

0:50:300:50:33

Already? Fucking hell, you lads are keen.

0:50:410:50:43

A bomb disposal operator will be called to deal with it.

0:50:430:50:46

When you pull one out of the ground there's nothing better.

0:50:490:50:52

You think I dealt with one of them, that's it, you've beat them in a way,

0:50:520:50:56

you've outsmarted 'em. But, like, when Dave died, it was horrible

0:50:560:51:00

because, like, obviously all the war films and stuff like that,

0:51:000:51:03

there's an enemy in front of you kind of thing.

0:51:030:51:07

But, like, they've long gone.

0:51:070:51:09

And you are left to find it and you feel like

0:51:090:51:12

"you bastards" in a way, kind of thing, you know what I mean?

0:51:120:51:15

You want to get them back but they are not there,

0:51:150:51:18

they're never there, they never stay around, they never fight, just cowards.

0:51:180:51:22

They are. It is a cowardly way of fighting but it's effective.

0:51:220:51:28

Compounds today cleared 12 which is fantastic and 22 in total.

0:51:290:51:34

There's been three IEDs found in the actual village itself.

0:51:340:51:38

Well sorry one in the village and two on the outskirts,

0:51:380:51:41

about 300, 400 metres away.

0:51:410:51:43

So it's not been too busy for us

0:51:430:51:46

but it's been very busy for the search teams.

0:51:460:51:49

The operation to clear Char Coucha village takes the Brimstone teams 11 days.

0:51:530:51:59

Search Team Nine clear two major walkways,

0:52:030:52:05

and seven of the 75 compounds.

0:52:050:52:08

How did it go?

0:52:130:52:15

All right, another two jobs after the first one so...

0:52:150:52:20

Both the same though, so it wasn't too bad.

0:52:200:52:22

After less than two months in Afghanistan,

0:52:220:52:26

Rod has already doubled the number of IEDs that he's dealt with in his entire 11-year career.

0:52:260:52:31

And him and the team still have four months to go.

0:52:310:52:35

'It's the little things you miss like having a bath,

0:52:350:52:38

'being able to relax, walk into a kitchen and make a cup of coffee.

0:52:380:52:41

'And it's the company as well, I do miss my wife.

0:52:410:52:43

'I try not to think about home cos it just gets you depressed.

0:52:430:52:46

'It's something to look forward to but not to dwell on too much.'

0:52:460:52:51

Do the job out here and then go back.

0:52:510:52:54

The main thing is to all go back in one piece. That's the main aim.

0:52:540:52:59

With Char Coucha cleared the locals start to move back in.

0:53:040:53:08

So far 40 families have returned to the village.

0:53:100:53:15

Search Team Nine are also returning home.

0:53:150:53:20

In the past six months they have had to deal with the death of one team member

0:53:200:53:24

and the double amputation of another.

0:53:240:53:27

Now their tour is over.

0:53:270:53:28

You see, everyone says how horrible England is

0:53:330:53:36

oh, I'd love to move away and all this.

0:53:360:53:38

But you get into Brize the first thing you see is grass

0:53:380:53:42

and it is like we are back in England's green and grassy land.

0:53:420:53:47

And you don't appreciate how nice the country is

0:53:470:53:49

until you've actually been to a hell hole and Afghan really is.

0:53:490:53:53

It's got nothing there, it's just dust, rock, rubble, IEDs.

0:53:530:53:59

I had a funny thought when I came back,

0:53:590:54:02

like we're coming back to a proper flourishing country, like.

0:54:020:54:06

I dunno why I just had that feeling that you have to do your part and help other people.

0:54:060:54:12

Everyone deserves happiness, you know what I mean. Like running water, and that's why we are out there.

0:54:120:54:17

And it kind of dawned on me

0:54:170:54:19

and, yeah, I only thought about that for five seconds

0:54:190:54:22

then I thought beer and home and stuff like that.

0:54:220:54:24

After three months and another 20 bombs,

0:54:260:54:29

Rod and his team also get back.

0:54:290:54:32

Hopefully that will be my last time, to be honest.

0:54:380:54:41

So I think I've got that out of my system.

0:54:410:54:44

I've played soldiers well for the last six months.

0:54:440:54:46

I'm really, really glad to be back.

0:54:460:54:48

-How are you?

-I'm OK.

0:54:520:54:53

During six months in Afghanistan, The Counter IED Task Force

0:55:050:55:09

removed 500 bombs from the ground.

0:55:090:55:13

Three of their soldiers were killed and seven became amputees.

0:55:130:55:17

Counter IED Task Force, stand at ease.

0:55:170:55:23

It's right as we gather as a Task Force to celebrate our return,

0:55:250:55:29

it's even more important to remember

0:55:290:55:32

Dave, Will and Charlie,

0:55:320:55:36

to pray for them and their families and friends.

0:55:360:55:40

And to also hold in our prayers Lisa Head and her family

0:55:400:55:44

who died yesterday whilst serving on operations.

0:55:440:55:49

When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow

0:55:490:55:54

we gave our today.

0:55:540:55:56

APPLAUSE

0:56:010:56:05

I actually said to my girlfriend... She said one night

0:56:070:56:10

she feels so lucky that I'm home and I said to her we are lucky,

0:56:100:56:15

we don't even know how close we come.

0:56:150:56:19

The IEDs which we didn't find and which didn't go off

0:56:190:56:23

we might have just stepped over.

0:56:230:56:25

We are lucky. Everyone says, "How was it out there?"

0:56:250:56:28

And you say, "Yeah, I'm lucky to come back with two legs."

0:56:280:56:31

And that sounds extreme but it's true. It definitely is true.

0:56:310:56:35

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:56:500:56:52

Email: subtitling@bbc.co.uk

0:56:520:56:54

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

After a missile strike kills an insurgent laying an IED, bomb disposal operator Rod and his team are dropped into the area by helicopter to investigate. Captured on helmet camera, we see what Rod sees as he is standing over the bomb, which could kill him if he makes one wrong move.

Three months into their tour, Search Team 9 have already taken casualties. They have lost three team members but they're still at the front searching for IEDs and they are about to search one of the most dangerous villages in Helmand.

The Bomb Squad is full of insights; from what it's like to be a bomb disposal operator working in Afghanistan for the first time, to searching for IEDs after you've seen friends killed or injured by them.