A Wellingborough man who swapped life as a long-haired, bearded philosophy student for a stint on the front line has spoken about his time in Afghanistan.
Former Huxlow Science College student Private Morgan Lloyd, a reservist with the 2 (Leicester and Lincoln) Company 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, was in the middle of a philosophy degree at the University of Stirling when he decided to join the univeristy’s Officer Training Corps.
He was fixed on an Army career but an injury left him unable to complete his training.
Instead, the 24-year-old came home to Northamptonshire and signed up with the Army Reserve – formerly known as the Territorial Army.
Pte Lloyd had completed training exercises in the USA and Kenya when he was given the opportunity to go to Afghanistan.
He flew out in October last year and was based at Lashkar Gah, Helmand, which was handed over to Afghan forces in March ahead of a planned withdrawal of Allied troops later this year.
Pte Lloyd said: “Afghanistan was what I expected, but not necessarily all I wanted.
“You think as an infantry soldier you’ll be spending hours out on the ground but Lash (Lashkar Gah) wasn’t like that. It was one of the most secure places in Helmand.”
Days for Pte Lloyd started at 6am with breakfast followed by dreaded sentry duty, which took place up to four times every day.
It meant patrolling the camp, looking out for dangers or threats.
Sometimes he was given intelligence which meant he had to look out for specific threats, and other times he gained intelligence which was passed up the chain of command.
“Being on sentry duty can be monotonous and the most difficult thing is to keep your head where it should be,” said Pte Lloyd.
Duties also included cleaning weapons and being part of the Quick Reaction Force – a team that is on standby to be quickly deployed in case of any incidents in camp.
“I came home for rest and recuperation in December but was back in Afghanistan by December 23 so spent Christmas there,” said Pte Lloyd.
“It was actually one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had.
“Our platoon commanders dressed up as Santa and the elves and gave us care packages. We had turkey with all the trimmings.
“Being in Afghanistan didn’t really faze me at first because there were ways to keep in touch with home and it felt a bit like the first term at university.
“But going back in December after R&R was tough because you realised what you were missing.”
For the last month of his tour, Pte Lloyd was sent to Camp Bastion, home to about 4,000 UK service personnel as well as US and Danish soldiers.
“It’s just like a little English town,” said Pte Lloyd.
“There’s a Pizza Hut and a KFC and a corner shop. There’s even a bus.
“The Americans have their own shop where you can go and buy beef jerky and red Mountain Dew.
“You go and drop off your laundry in the morning and it’s done for you later in the day.
“It even snowed while I was there which was amazing. It was the first time snow had ever fallen on Camp Bastion and there were grown Afghan men there who had never seen snow before.”
Although there are plenty of home comforts at Camp Bastion, Pte Lloyd missed television programmes and rugby.
“There is the British Forces Broadcasting Service and a BBC channel that shows some programmes about 24 hours after they’ve been on in the UK but it’s not the same.
“The soldiers out there are big football fans so it was difficult to get them to watch the rugby if there is a Premier League match on!”
Now Pte Lloyd is home, he is resting before hopefully starting the process to become an officer in the regular Army.
He said: “I managed to do some of the steps before I was injured but there is a long process before you even get to Sandhurst.”
Other reservists in Pte Lloyd’s company hold down full-time jobs as well as being reservists.
His platoon commander Second Lieutenant David Morgan said: “It’s quite possible to have a job and be a reservist.
“There are options for how much time you give. It’s could be a training session during the week, one weekend a month then a two-week summer camp every year.
“You need to be aged between 18 and 43.”
To find out more about being a reservist, visit www.army.mod.uk.