An Army officer from North Yorkshire has been given a gallantry award after coordinating one of the fastest casualty evacuations during a fire fight in Afghanistan.
Despite being under sustained enemy fire, Major Alasdair Grant managed to get the wounded soldier on to a helicopter in just 18 minutes and in hospital within 38 minutes.
Now Major Grant has been awarded a Mention in Despatches – an award presented for gallantry during active service.
Al, who serves with the 9th/12th Lancers, recalled: “My tactical party was in the Bowri Dashte area of Nad-e Ali, near Lashkar Gah, when we were ambushed in a boggy field.
“The soldier in front of me was shot in the top of his leg, so I gave him an immediate first aid assessment, but the priority was to get him out of enemy fire.
“One of the other soldiers helped me to drag him to a compound wall where we had some cover, then I got on to the radio to our headquarters to alert them that we needed a quick evacuation by helicopter.”
The 30-year-old from Harrogate added: “Despite his injury, the soldier made a full recovery and is now back with the unit. We had come under fire numerous times throughout that day, so we were kept vey busy.”
Al, who was a captain during his extended, eight-month tour in Helmand province, was second-in-command of the 7th Armoured Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF).
Out on the ground, his four-man headquarters moved around Lashkar Gah providing vital tactical information for commanders on the ground, as well as coordinating air and land assets, often under fire and at maximum radio range.
In just three months, Al arranged for the BRF to take over a mixed fleet of 25 armoured vehicles, devised a programme to retrain every crewman in the squadron and helped create the tactical doctrine for the fleet’s employment.
His citation reads: ‘Grant’s contribution on Op HERRICK was extraordinary. Over eight long months, his commitment and determination did much to increase the contribution of the force, and to support the success of our Afghan partners.
“His decision-making and bravery under fire have belied his rank and experience, and for this he deserves formal recognition.’
Now a company commander at the Army Foundation College at Uniacke Barracks in Killinghall, Al is hoping that he’ll be just as quick on his feet as he was on the airwaves.
He and three fellow officers from the 9th/12th Lancers are training hard for the Marathon des Sables next month.
Known as the toughest foot race on earth, competitors run a total of 251km (156m) across the Sahara Desert in just six days. That is the equivalent of five-and-a-half full marathons. One stage alone is a gruelling 91km (57m) long.
Al said: “The idea to do the Marathon des Sables was born in June last year as we neared the end of the second tour in Helmand, when four of us from the regiment decided that we needed a new challenge post-Afghanistan.”
He added: “It has been difficult to prepare ourselves for the desert when it’s the middle of winter in Harrogate. We’ve had to wear lots of layers of warm kit to make up for the lack of sun.”
Looking forward to the event on 3-14 April, Al said: “We’re feeling strong, but are up against a field of professional ultramarathon runners. Only 1,500 are selected to take part in the competition, so just getting a place is pretty tough.”
By competing in the Marathon des Sables, Al and his fellow officers are raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.