Engineers provide Army’s backbone

Afghanistan''engineersram'Spr Nick Rhodes with the 'retch' mobile crane
Afghanistan''engineersram'Spr Nick Rhodes with the 'retch' mobile crane
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AT THE age of 25, Sheffield lad Nick Rhodes is young for a war veteran – but he’s already been to Afghanistan twice and is now on his third deployment.

The Sapper, of 28 Engineer Regiment, supporting the Task Force Helmand Engineer Group, is in a relaxed role this time around, working as a resources specialist.

His role involves looking after the contents of hundreds of storage containers spread around Camp Bastion, which contain supplies for troops across Helmand.

But his past tours in the country have not been quite so peaceful. In the first, in 2006, he performed a similar role but was based at Kandahar, in a neighbouring province to the east.

Spr Rhodes, from Killamarsh, but whose regiment is stationed in Hameln, Germany, said: “We were getting fired on with mortars and our tent shook.

“Attacks happened most nights in the summer months although the trouble died down in the winter - the Taliban don’t attack as much when it’s cold. I don’t think they like it.”

On Spr Rhodes’ second tour, he spent time working with American troops on explosive ordnance disposal.

“Our biggest find was in an empty compound, where there were around 20 rockets and 10 rocket-propelled grenades. We piled them up and destroyed them in batches, in controlled explosions. There were a few quite big bangs,” he recalled.

Spr Rhodes’ current tour, which he has just started, co-incided with his partner Caroline becoming pregnant.

“We’re engaged to be married and our baby boy, who we are going to call Harry, is due in July,” he said.

Luckily, Spr Rhodes’ commander has allowed him his two-week rest and relaxation break at that time, and he might also be allowed two weeks’ paternity leave, depending on operational commitments.

He said: “I’m glad my commanding officer is being really nice and understanding.”

Former Eckington School pupil Spr Rhodes joined the Army five years ago after beginning training as an aerospace engineer then as a bricklayer and liking neither.

“I must like it in the Army because I’ve stuck at it and am now on tour number three,” he said.