Norman Russell whilst on duty
DROMORE MAN SPEAKS OF TOUR OF DUTY IN
DROMORE man Norman Russell has recently
returned from his tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and has
spoken of the life and death situations he faced on a daily
basis in the war-torn Middle East countries - 'It was the best
and worst experience of my life."
is a former pupil of Dromore Central and Dromore High School. He
followed in his father's footsteps and enlisted in the army when
he was 21. He is now serving in the First Battalion of the Royal
Irish Regiment, based at Fort George in Inverness.
Having been on active service in Northern
Ireland, in Bessbrook in 2003 and at Drumcree, his most testing
service was spent, not in Iraq, hut during his three months
voluntary duty in Afghanistan.
"Iraq was a walk in the park compared to
Afghanistan," said Norman, who is on leave at home in Dromore
for a few weeks.
"In Iraq we were based near Basra and rotated
every six weeks for the six months we were there. We would be
guarding the camp, escorting.
"We were busy but compared to Afghanistan it
was an easy job," he added. "There was always the threat every
day but if you were going to do an escort there wouldn't be much
However, Afghanistan was a completely
different matter. As Norman and his fellow soldiers faced the
daily prospect of being killed at the hands of the Taliban, it
was a very difficult experience for the Dromore man.
"I have heard it said that Afghanistan is
like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan and that would be
were hit by the Taliban eight times a day at one stage. From
first thing in the morning until last thing at night they would
be firing rockets, small arms, RPGs and 107mm rounds.
"When we first arrived we went out to relieve
other call-signs and we got ambushed from three sides within
half an hour on the streets. We should have known then what we
were up against.
"For 48 hours we were on duty for two hours
and off duty for two hours. It was very intense, you never
really got to sleep.
"As time went on we got more time off duty
but even when you're off duty you are still under threat and
never really relax.
"There were times when we even slept in our
body armour and helmet."
One of the most difficult times for Norman in
Afghanistan was when the reality of being killed hit very close
to home. "Two of my mates got hit by a mortar,'' explained
Norman. "They were in an outpost, it landed in between them and
killed them outright.
"I saw one of them being stretchered out and
I couldn't look at the other guy. Usually mortars will be too
long or too short so this time we thought it must have missed
again. But it didn't. It could have been any one of us up there.
"You're training does kick in straight away
and you try not to think about it hut some mornings you do wake
up and think 'I wonder is this the day'."
Despite everything he has faced and seen,
Norman would not hesitate to return to Afghanistan. "It was the
best and worst experience of my life," he said, "but I would
volunteer to do it again."