BRAVE Brighouse soldier Matthew Jones is back on the front line in Afghanistan where dealing with deadly roadside bombs is a daily hazard.
Corporal Jones is serving in Helmand province with the 26 Armoured Engineer Squadron of the Royal Engineers. For the young soldier, who was inspired by his grandfather’s example to join the Army, returning to Afghanistan is both a duty and a huge challenge.
“You can hear bombs going off all the time around you and the helicopters hovering,” said Cpl Jones during a brief visit to his family in Richard Street.
“There is always the threat of getting shot at but the main problem are the IEDs - improvised explosive devices - which the Taliban have put in everywhere.”
For Cpl Jones’s parents, Glenn and Gail, the delight in having their son home for ten days has been tempered by the anxieties over what he faces when he returns to Hazrat where he is stationed.
“At the end of the day Matthew is doing what he wants to do and we are very proud of him.
“He has confidence in himself and his own abilities and in his colleagues - he seems to have no fear in him,” said Mr Jones.
“The worse time is when there is a communication blackout when a soldier has been killed. Waiting for news is just horrible.”
Catching up his sleep was a priority for 23-year-old Matthew while he was back in Brighouse. “It’s so hot out there at the moment that it’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep,” said his father. “Matthew just wanted to have a good rest and catch up with his friends.”
Mr Jones drove his son to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire for the flight back to Afghanistan and was astounded by the response from members of the public.
“Matthew was his uniform and he looks fit and healthy from being in the sun. People were looking and smiling at him and he even got a discount when we stopped to buy food. There is such a lot of goodwill from the public towards our soldiers but it is hard for his mum and I when he goes back.”
A former pupil at St Chad’s Primary School and Brighouse High School, Cpl Jones is back in Afghanistan for another four months. A joiner by trade, he has been involved in reconstruction and training soldiers from the Afghan National Army who are increasingly taking over responsibility for maintaining security in their own country.
Working in full body armour in the heat of the day has been exhausting.
He said: “It is okay being out there but the heat is unreal. It is 50 degrees every day and the same at night and living conditions are not very good.
“I lived in a tent and ate rations for months. It is good working with the lads because we are such a close section but the heat is the hardest thing to deal with.
“Being there is how I imagined it would be but it’s not everything you see on the news. We get to talk to the locals because we are working a lot with the Afghan National Army out on patrol. It’s hard to tell who is Taliban and who is a normal farmer.”
Cpl Jones decided to join the army after his grandfather died six years ago.
“He did 22 years’ service in the Army so when he died I joined the Territorial Army which I was in for about two years.
“I enjoyed it so much and, as I was unemployed at the time, I decided to join the Army.”
Despite being out in Afghanistan Cpl Jones still manages to stay in regular contact with family.
“We get internet access most of the time apart from when a soldier is killed. Then no-one is allowed to go on the internet until the family is notified.
“We also get phone cards with about 30 minutes on a week so I try to ring as much as I can. It is hard with the time difference.”
As the conflict in Afghanistan nears it tenth anniversary later this year, Cpl Jones feels he is making his own contribution to resolving a difficult and sometimes desperate situation.
“I know that my family is really proud of what I’m doing and I enjoy speaking to my mates about what I’m doing - it’s been a good experience,” said Cpl Jones who also has a 25-year-old sister, Amy.
More pictures of Matthew in action in Afghanistan are available in the Brighouse Echo 02-06-11