A SOLDIER has just returned to war-torn Afghanistan for his fourth tour of duty in the country.
Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Tony Benton, from the Old Town, has been working in Helmand province since April as the Command Sergeant Major for 12th Mechanized Brigade.
His role is to support the Brigade Commander, acting as his eyes and ears, and to ensure that British troops deployed in the country maintain their high standards of battlefield discipline.
He said: “A big part of my job is to keep an eye on the lads. It comes down to me to make sure they maintain standards ensuring they remain safe and effective. I am the link between our soldiers and the headquarters so if they have any problems they can talk to me.
“They all know me and they know I am a stickler for detail, but they understand that what I tell them to do is intended to keep them as safe as possible.”
WO1 Benton’s responsibilities mean that he is required to travel around Helmand province visiting some of the 6,500 troops, including Danish and Estonians, who make up Task Force Helmand.
He added: “In 2010 I was working under the same commander in the area of Nad-e Ali. I’ve been back there several times on this tour and the place is unrecognisable.
“Before we were scrapping for every inch of ground and it would take some real heavy fighting to resupply any of our forward bases. Now there is a busy town built around a bustling market that the locals feel safe enough to bring their goods to on a daily basis.”
The soldier started his Army career 21 years ago serving first with The Queens and then The Princess Of Wales’s Royal Regiment. As well as Afghanistan he has served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq.
He said: “I can’t wait to get home to my beautiful wife Debbie and my daughters Lea, Kaitlyn, Annaleigh and Yasmin, The hardest thing is leaving my family and I miss them all loads.”
WO1 Benton, a life-long Hastings United fan, is also keen to get back to see his team and to a hard-earned cold beer in his local pub.