NURSE Tanya Wilson has swapped shifts at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra hospital for life on the front line in Afghanistan.
Medical Assistant Wilson is serving in Helmand province as the medic for J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines.
Having joined the Royal Navy in 2008, the nurse was offered the chance to attach to the Royal Marines for a six-month tour of Afghanistan – and she jumped at it.
Since arriving in Nad ‘Ali district in April, MA Wilson has been busy taking part in regular patrols and operations with the men of J Company as they fight against Taliban insurgents.
She said: ‘The work out here is so different to what I do at the hospital. I see a lot more primary healthcare and constantly feel on stand-by, waiting for something to happen. It means it’s quite stressful because you can never properly relax or be off duty.’
Over the course of the deployment, MA Wilson has had to deal with serious life-threatening injuries from improvised explosive devices, and other wounds sustained by the troops in combat.
She has also found herself treating commandos for less serious ailments.
She said: ‘When I’m back at the patrol base, I treat the guys for all sorts of things that might be bothering them. We’ve seen quite a lot of heat injuries too, which isn’t surprising given the conditions.’
Temperatures in Afghanistan can reach up to 50C during the summer and MA Wilson says the heat has been the hardest thing to get used to – especially as she and the marines have to conduct sweltering patrols in full body armour, carrying kit weighing five and a half stone.
She said: ‘The weight is heavy but I need to make sure I have everything, in case anything happens while on patrol.’
MA Wilson, who was born in South Africa and lives in west London when she is not working in Portsmouth, is looking forward to returning home to catch up with her fiancé, Alex, who she is due to marry next year.
Of her time in Afghanistan, she said: ‘It’s been tough at times but the best thing about working with the marines, and J Company in particular, is their professionalism, banter and the morale they provide.
‘They’ve made me feel part of their team.’