More from our Hampshire Tigers heading to Afghanistan

In their own words - Hampshire Tigers on the frontline

In their own words - Hampshire Tigers on the frontline

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Deputy News Editor

More Hampshire Tigers talk to the Daily Echo about their hopes and fears for the next seven months in the Afghanistan war zone.

Corporal Matt Dean, 37, from Hedge End

KEEP your head down and don’t take any risks.

That’s the advice Matt was given by his grandad Joseph – who himself served in the Army as a medic based at Netley’s Victoria Hospital – ahead of deploying to Afghanistan.

It’s a new experience for the soldier, who has previously served in Iraq, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Zaire and Jamaica during his 17 years with the Army.

“Pretty much every tour that the battalion has done, I’ve done. I’ve loved it. Being in the Army is everything I’d wanted to do since I was a little boy.

“I’d lie if I said I wasn’t worried about Afghanistan – I’m apprehensive, but in a good way. We have trained so hard and have our drills and skills down to a fine art now and I’m looking forward to being somewhere new.”

Colour Sergeant Sean Tarrant, 41, from the Waterside

HE’S been all over the world with the British Army, but deploying to Afghanistan is a first for dad-of-one Sean.

“It’s probably the biggest tour and certainly the most dangerous one that I’ve done in the past 18 years. Any tour makes you anxious but also, dare I say it, excited.

“My wife Claire told me to go out there, get the job done and get back – the sooner I go the sooner I’m back. It’s been a crazy time for her because our daughter has just started school,” said Sean, who was living at home and based in Bovington for the past three years until he returned to the battalion in Germany earlier this month.

Previously, he has served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and the Congo.

In Afghanistan he will be part of the specialist Police Advisory and Mentoring Group, helping to train and support local police in the country.

Private James Haines, 20, from Southampton

JAMES is the first to admit the Army life has put him on the straight and narrow.

“It was an opportunity for me to make something of my life, to stop hanging round street corners. I was looking around for jobs and there wasn’t anything,” said the former Redbridge Community School pupil, about to embark on his first operational tour.

“I’m the first person out of my family to join the Army and my dad James is proud of me – he’s told me just to look after myself. I’m pretty scared and nervous about what is coming but, at the same time, I’m looking forward to the experience.”

Private Tristan Stringer, 19, from Winchester

HE JOINED the Army because he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

Teenager Tristan joined up because his father Carl served for 22 years. Now, he’s preparing to go out to a war zone for the first time, with the backing of his dad and mum Trisha and brothers Tyler and Travis.

But while fully focused on the challenges ahead, his mind will also be with girlfriend Lauren, who lives in Wrexham, and is in the final months of pregnancy with their first child, due on January 8 next year.

“She’s a bit scared and worried but she knows how it goes – her dad is in the Army too. I’m hoping to get home on R&R in time for the birth.

“I’m more excited than nervous – not everyone can say they have gone and done this. There’s a few doubts in my mind but they are not major. We’ve trained hard and its been alright but there have been a few hard bits – particularly when it comes to lack of sleep – but I think we’re ready to go out there.”

Private Giovanni Crowther, 20, from Chandler's Ford

HE’S just come out of training and joined The Tigers just a few weeks ago.

But despite being among the newest of recruits, Giovanni sees his fresh arrival as a bonus when it comes to preparing for Afghanistan.

“I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my whole life,” said the former Toynbee pupil, who gave up work at Goodies chip shop in Chandler’s Ford to start his new career. “I wanted a good career, to make something of myself, so I walked into the recruitment centre in Southampton and signed up.”

Giovanni said he’s got the blessing of mum Corinne and dad Malcolm.

“My mum knew I always wanted to do it and she has supported me all the way and my dad was happy too – his brother is in the RAF.

“I’ve just finished training and I get here and find I’m going to Afghanistan in four weeks’ time. I knew they were preparing for it, that’s partly the reason I chose the battalion, because they were going so soon. I’m not the only one – I’ve got five mates from training here and I’m in a good mind set.”

Private Ben Moger, 20, from Southampton

HE’S been waiting for the opportunity to put his training into reality for the past three years.

Now finally Ben, a former pupil at Thornhill Primary and Weston Park Boys’ School, is heading to a war zone to put his well-rehearsed skills to the test.

Having joined the Army at 16, he wasn’t old enough to deploy on previous tours, but now the dad-of-one is looking forward to the experience.

“I’ve been waiting for this since I was 17, hearing lots of stories from the lads but wondering to myself what it’s really like.

“I’m nervous and I’m scared. The day I was coming back off leave it really hit home.

“I saw my little boy and said goodbye and my heart was pounding.

“I’ve done a fair bit of training now and I’m looking forward to getting out there and getting it over and done with.”

Along with his fellow soldiers, Ben has been having Pashtu lessons to learn how to engage with locals during the deployment.

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