Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, March 11, 2008

QUICK quiz.
You are on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan , one of your Land Rovers has just been flipped by a landmine and you’re now outnumbered 3-1 by Taliban dug in around you and peppering you with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, machine guns and AK-47s. What do you do?
Most of us might say dive into the nearest hole and pray that Prince Harry is on hand to call in an air-strike to get us out of the proverbial.
But most of us are not Fusilier Damien Hields, or once he pays a visit to Buckingham Palace , Fusilier Damien Hields MC.
No, rather than keeping his head down Fusilier Hields followed the trail of the rocket-propelled grenades coming towards him, and then started giving the Taliban some back.
Just hang on a minute, let’s hit the pause button there, He followed the trial – got that – of rocket propelled grenades – yep, got that too – coming towards HIM? That’s where he loses me, because that’s where I would have been up and out and running as fast as my little legs would carry me.
Fusilier Hields however, is made of sterner stuff than soft-as-shandy newspaper columnists and to the evident misfortune of the Taliban attacking him, he was also armed with a grenade machine gun. I didn’t know such things exist, but if ever you are in a tight spot it is clearly the thing to have on your side and best to have Damien Hields at the trigger.
Having followed the trail of the RPGs fired at him, and I’m still utterly amazed by that, Fusilier Hields was able to spot the positions of the Taliban and started firing his grenades. Six boxes he got through in 15 minutes – that’s 192 grenades.
The Taliban understood the nature of the kicking they were getting from this one-man army and concentrated fire on him, turning his Land Rover into something more reminiscent of a tea strainer.
Fusilier Hields only stopped shooting back when they finally hit him, shattering a rib and he was dragged out of it to get treatment.
As well as winning the Military Cross, the third-highest award for gallantry, because this was a NATO operation he was also awarded the NATO Meritorious Service Medal. However, army rules do not allow soldiers to wear non-British medals, an anomaly which the pen-pushers at the MoD whose desks are a safe distance from the front line ought to put right straight away.
There’s been a lot of fuss in the past week about servicemen and women wearing their uniforms in public because of abuse aimed at them by those opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan .
I’m guessing that if you’ve got the nerve to follow the trail of an RPG fired at you, you can cope with the odd adverse comment from the misguided. Especially when the vast majority would applaud your actions.
Which brings me to the question of when we are to be allowed to do just that?
After Fusilier Hields receives his MC will the Army organise a parade of the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh (Royal Welch Fusliers) through the streets of Denbigh, and the other Welsh home towns of these soldiers?
I hope they do so that we can show our appreciation of the actions of someone who truly deserves to be called a hero.

ANOTHER weekend and another step closer to the Grand Slam.
The Irish said Wales hadn’t been truly tested thus far in the Six Nations. I take it they don’t think that now. We were tested, but it was they who were found wanting.
Strange how though, if you read the coverage of the London media, it is still all about England , the only team who deserve to win in their view, have let the championship elude them.
Wales, they grudgingly concede, are on track to win an ‘unlikely’ Grand Slam. Good of them to let us know eh?
And Shane Williams, once again, defied the laws of physics, which tell you that a 5ft 7ins player weighing 12st 8lbs (Williams) when tackled by a 6ft 2ins player weighing 15st 8lbs, ought to come off worst. But what does Shane do? He gives him the hand off and scores.
Another criticism levelled at the Welsh team is that that still haven’t played as well as they could. God help them when we do.

WOULD that we all had an independent panel setting our pay like AMs do.
Then we could all, with heavy heart, take our inflation-busting 8.3 per cent pay rises and insist that we don’t really want the money, but it’s being forced upon us by an independent panel, our hands are tied, our mouths are stuffed with gold etc, etc, etc.
What those AMs who are accepting the pay rise do not seem to understand – and it says something for the standard of intellect that the Assembly attracts - is that they can blether on about independent panels, commissions until kingdom come – their constituents are all facing low or no pay rises, spiralling mortgages and increasing bills.
They do not have the luxury of independent pay awards and they have little patience with politicians who take such awards while advocating restraint for the rest of us.
Congratulations to the Plaid AMs who had the decency to turn this award down. Their opponents call it posturing while trousering their cash. In the light of what we’re all facing in the real world, it was the right thing to do.

GOOD to see the Assembly doing its bit to put off the second home brigade this summer by sealing off Wales to visitors.
You might think of it as roadworks, but to those wanting to come her to buy a home it is more of a barricade. Two hours on the hell of the A55 and they’ll be turning back home to tune into ‘A Place In The Sun’ and buying somewhere on the Costas.
Of course, their might be one or two casualties in the Welsh tourism industry when the day trippers and holidaymakers fail to battle their way to our resorts, but hey, you know what they say about omelettes and eggs.
Fortress Cymru, you know it makes sense.

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