JUST over a month before his death, The Star interviewed Sgt Lee Davidson during his tour in Afghanistan.
Speaking to reporter Richard Marsden while at Camp Bastion at the end of July, the 32-year-old Light Dragoons soldier talked of his experiences on the deployment and of his four previous tours of duty - once to Afghanistan, twice to Iraq and once to Bosnia.
He also told how he was looking forward to returning to the UK in time for his wife Samantha giving birth to their third child in November.
Sgt Davidson said that for the first six weeks of what turned out to be his final deployment, his unit was in a reconnaissance role, going out into the Helmand countryside to keep an eye on, and disrupt Taliban activity.
He said: “We would go out as a group on our own for three to four days at a time, then call in at forward operating bases to resupply. The aim was to establish a presence and watch routes where we thought insurgents were going to be - collecting intelligence.
“We covered an area of approximetaly 30 sq kilometres which was pretty much open desert. The task is harder than you would think because the insurgents blend into the environment.
“We would attempt to find out who they were by going to a place for two to three days and observing who was who, and their movements.”
But it proved difficult to apprehend suspects at times, particularly when they were on motorbikes and could get away easily from the soldiers’ slower armoured vehicles, Sgt Davidson and his colleagues said.
Describing his previous tours, Sgt Davidson said his initial experience of Iraq, deploying months after the 2003 invasion, was ‘fairly benign’.
He recalled: “We were going around in soft berets rather than helmets.”
Sgt Davidson contrasted it with the ‘welcome’ his unit received on their first deployment to Afghanistan in 2006/7.
He said: “We’d go into villages and see all the women and children running away. It would be quiet for a few minutes then you would get small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.”
Sgt Davidson said that while out on the recce patrols on his 2012 tour, the risk of improvised explosive devices was low in the desert compared with around villages and on well-used routes - but added that ‘you have to be wary in ditches, dykes and corners of fields’.
He said he joined up after two years as a labourer and factory worker on leaving school, inspired by a manager in one of his jobs who ‘used to go on about the Army’.
In June, mid-way through his tour, Sgt Davidson was chosen to become the second-in-command of a Police Advisory Team in Helmand, a role which involved helping Afghan police to plan operations, often involving capturing narcotics and detaining insurgents. He was serving in the role when he was killed.