Reporters George Makin and Kirsty Green have told of their “eye-opening” experience after travelling to Iraq to see Staffordshire troops at work.
George and Kirsty, who work for the Walsall Advertiser, spent a week in Basra and Al Amarah with the 1st Battalion the Staffordshire Regiment, interviewing soldiers and accompanying them on patrols.
For both it was an amazing experience as they saw the poverty of Iraq first hand, struggled with temperatures of 45C in the shade, and flirted with danger along the way.
Kirsty, (24), said: “It was an eye-opener seeing the state of the country, and seeing the job that the soldiers do and the pressure and conditions they have to put up with was quite shocking.”
During the trip the journalists witnessed an operation to secure an airfield and visited local police stations where they experienced the tension between British forces and the Iraqi police.
They also had a scare during a helicopter trip when they heard the sound of loud pops.
Flares – designed to divert incoming anti-aircraft missiles – fell away behind them, and for a moment they thought they were under attack.
Kirsty said: “For a few seconds I thought ‘oh god no’.
But on the whole, both said they felt safe during the trip.
George, (46), said: “There was a certain degree of danger. On foot patrols there is a threat from roadside bombs or being shot, but the people we were with knew what they were doing, and we had faith in them.
“We had so much to do in such a short space of time that we just got on with that. We didn’t have time to consider the dangers.”
He did, however, struggle with the heat, and dropped a trouser size while he was out there.
He said: “It was 45C in the shade and we were walking around in body armour and a helmet.
“I don’t know how the soldiers do it. They were running around in more equipment and we were strolling behind them but still sweating like pigs.
“I found the whole experience very challenging and physically demanding, but I’d do it again.”