Letchworth soldier to be honoured for “relentless courage” in Afghanistan

A SOLDIER from Comet country who has saved the lives of many of his comrades while serving in Afghanistan is to be honoured for his “relentless courage”, it was announced today (Friday).

Acting sgt Paul Howard, from Letchworth, served six months in Helmand during the opening of Operation Panther’s Claw and is to be awarded a Mention in Despatches (MiD) for gallantry, outstanding leadership and saving the lives of others.

The 39-year-old, part of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Tank Regiment, coordinated the extraction of seriously wounded casualties following an explosion that killed his commanding officer lieutenant colonel Rupert Thorneloe and the driver of his Viking vehicle, trooper Joshua Hammond.

He was also instrumental in saving the lives of others in his troop on several occasions, notably being the first man to leap into a canal when a vehicle rolled into the water after a section of road they were travelling along collapsed.

Seven soldiers were trapped inside the upturned vehicle and, although three of the men had stopped breathing, medics were able to resuscitate them and all seven survived.

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A/sgt Howard was also one of the first on scene after vehicles in his convoy were struck by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), seriously wounding or killing the occupants.

Despite being under heavy and sustained enemy fire, a/sgt Howard led the casualty evacuation and the recovery of the vehicles to prevent them falling into enemy hands.

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A/sgt Howard, whose family are all avid Chelsea FC fans, said: “I feel privileged at receiving this award and I’ll wear it with pride, but this is not just for me but the troop I helped command.

“The lads (which) myself and captain Terry Newton had under our command were outstanding - especially when put in the worst case scenarios.

“They performed such brave acts never thinking of their safety. They would do anything we told them without question.

“We were a close knit troop as well as a squadron and looked out for each other. It’s sad we couldn’t keep our promise to bring everybody back.”

His citation reads: “Time after time, in moments of intense danger, Howard’s calm and decisive leadership was fundamental to the troop remaining combat-effective after such traumatic events. For his selfless and relentless courage he deserves formal public recognition.”

The Mention in Despatches is the oldest form of recognition of gallantry within the UK Armed Forces, and 131 personnel were included on the latest list.

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