Carl seeks a new challenge

Carl Harman, 28, serving in Afghanistan in 2009
Carl Harman, 28, serving in Afghanistan in 2009
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Joining the army was an easy decision for Carl Harman to make.

The 28-year-old enlisted when he was 17 after deciding that further education wasn’t for him.

His time in the army saw him travel to Afghanistan and Northern Ireland as a member of the bomb disposal team before he was discharged earlier this year.

He travelled to Afghanistan with a team in 2009 and spent four months in Helmand province.

Carl says: ‘Initially, I left school and went to Fareham College but I got quite bored of the whole education thing.

‘I wanted to have a career that I could get involved with, experience different environments and meet some good people.

‘At the time, events in Iraq and Afghanistan were going on so I thought there would be a good chance of me going away and experiencing different environments and situations if I joined the army.

‘So, when I was 17 I signed up.’

Carl was allowed to join the army because he was 18 at the end of his training.

And after completing his initial training, he signed up for the Royal Corps of Signals as a radio systems operator.

He adds: ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

‘I felt a little bit like a rabbit in the headlights at the recruiting office.

‘I heard information about different roles and went for the Royal Corps of Signals as it seemed the most interesting.’

As a radio systems operator Carl, from Southwick, says he had the opportunity to move around the world to a number of different places.

And within months of joining, he was given the news that he would be going to Afghanistan.

‘I was really excited to go,’ he says.

‘My unit and I were flown to Sierra Leone in preparation for the tour. But while I was out there, I got promoted and I couldn’t go. I was gutted.’

After a year in Bath doing a desk job, and with the war in Iraq starting to end, Carl was determined to get a tour under his belt.

He says: ‘I wanted to go for the experience more than anything.

‘A lot of people who do a tour get promoted off the back of it so it is a good way to move your career forward.’

Carl started looking around for other roles and decided to join the explosive ordnance disposal team. This was based in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

And in the summer of 2009 Carl was told he would be spending six months in Afghanistan.

‘The first thing that hit me when we landed was the heat,’ says Carl.

‘It was unbelievable. I remember waking up the next morning and I couldn’t believe how hot it was.’

Carl spent the first week in Afghanistan liaising with teams who had been on the ground for three months and doing light training.

They spent the first couple of weeks looking at different types of bombs used in the areas of Helmand that they might come across.

But within days of landing, Carl was told an old friend of his was involved in an accident in which a colleague was killed.

‘Seeing my friend in hospital made the whole thing a reality,’ he says. ‘That’s when I realised this is real and the soldiers who are injured or killed are no longer just faces on the television. It woke me up to what the consequences are if something goes wrong.’

It was down to Carl and his team to find out what happened and Carl adds that in that situation you hope it was a mistake by the soldier rather than the Taliban discovering plans or tactics.

‘If you think it is them being able to exploit you, it does worry you,’ he says.

‘We have a saying in bomb disposal that goes “We have to be lucky every time but the enemy only has to be lucky once”.

Daily activities for Carl included searching areas for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or responding when other soldiers found them.

He would spend days out in the field sleeping on cardboard with only a few necessities, one of which was his iPod.

He says: ‘When we had to travel light, you always made sure you had the necessary equipment so batteries, extra ammunition, water. But I always had my iPod and a colleague always had a pack of cards because you never knew how long you would be stuck in the field with nothing to do.

‘We could get dropped off somewhere to deal with a bomb but then it might kick off nearby and we couldn’t get out safely. So we would have to sit and wait.

‘Those were the worst days. You would think about home and your family.’

When he was out in the field, Carl could discover as many as six IEDs in one patch of land.

He says that one day, it took him three hours to go 100 metres because the metal detector was picking out shrapnel.

But four months into his tour, Carl and his team were involved in a fatal accident.

Carl suffered whiplash after an IED went off and a member of his team died. His boss suffered serious injuries.

He says: ‘We were immediately taken back to Camp Bastion where I spent a few days in hospital.

‘I had suffered whiplash injuries to my neck and back.

‘But I went into shock right away and after trying to go back into the field, I made a decision with the doctor to return home.’

After coming back from the tour, Carl carried on working with the army until February this year when he was discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He adds: ‘I don’t know what I will do as a career now because I always thought I would stay in the army.

‘But I have been helped by a lot by charities and I just need to find my passion now.’