A SOLDIER from Halifax has been deployed to Afghanistan for the second time to work alongside members of Afghanistan’s own armed forces.
Former Sowerby Bridge High School student Private Luke Whylie, 22, is based in Helmand province with other members of his unit, the Colchester-based Third Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.
They are responsible for driving out the insurgency and improving security for the local population in the Nad-e Ali area of Afghanistan and are also training up their Afghan counterparts, who are increasingly taking over responsibility for maintaining security in their own country.
Luke used to play rugby for King Cross, Calderdale, Old Brods, Leeds Tykes and Yorkshire County.
Now he is a gunner operating the general purpose machine gun and regularly goes out on foot patrols.
He is also part of the crew of a Jackal vehicle and the unit’s Quick Reaction Force, which provides an urgent response to incidents.
Luke said: “What I enjoy most is getting to do the job that we’ve trained for.
“We are a well-trained unit that can make a difference in the fight against the Taliban and it’s great that we are able to prove that time and time again.
“It’s important that we keep doing what we’re doing to help the locals – they want to defeat the Taliban too but we have to help them to achieve that. “
Private Whylie joined the army in 2007 and has served a previous tour of Afghanistan in 2008.
He feels there has been some definite changes since then. “It feels a lot different to before,” he said. “The locals are definitely more friendly and on-side – I think they understand more about what we are here to do.
“It really feels like we are making progress.
“It’s important that we keep doing what we’re doing to help the locals – they want to defeat the Taliban too but we have to help them to achieve that. The harder we work the better this place will end up.
“This is also a winter tour so it’s much colder than the last time I was here, which was in the boiling summer months.”
Despite having been on operations abroad before, Luke admitted he still finds it tough being parted from family and friends.
He said: “The tour is going well but obviously I miss everyone back at home, especially my girlfrien d Sarah.
“Having been out here before I knew what to expect, but being away from your loved ones never gets any easier.”
Luke is in Helmand now and is due to return in April.