A SOLDIER from Mirfield said British troops were doing a good job of winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Afghan people.
Infantry rifleman Pte Jonathan Kilner was speaking after returning to home soil yesterday following a four-month tour of duty in Helmand Province.
It was the first time the 20-year-old had been on tour in Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment.
Pte Kilner was one of 125 soldiers who were greeted by relieved family and friends at Battlesbury Barracks in Warminster, Wiltshire.
Their homecoming, following a three-month deployment, is in time for Remembrance Sunday when Burma Company, 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, will take part in a church service and march through Warminster.
Pte Kilner said: “We’re definitely doing a good job. It’s about hearts and minds.
“A lot of the Afghans would bring out bread and rice for you. Most of them appreciate what we are doing, but there are the odd ones who are swayed by the Taliban.
“You don’t see the Taliban, you only see the results – they’re smarter than people think.”
Pte Kilner, a former Castle Hall School pupil who has been with the army for four years, was stationed at the Price base.
He was responsible for training the Afghan army.
“There were nine of us taking out about 30 from the Afghan army,’’ he said.
“You would go out on patrol, get them to follow you and see how they did.
“We had an interpreter. If they didn’t understand you, you could use hand signs and that got the message across most of the time.
“It will take a while before they can do it for themselves, but they are learning.”
Without a lot of contact from the outside world, Pte Kilner said news reports from the British media did not have an effect on the troops in the region.
“You just get on with the job,” he said.
But he admitted there were times when he felt at risk.
“As soon as you leave your patrol base, you know that there could be something dangerous,” he said
“It got a bit dodgy at times.”
In temperatures that could reach 50°C, off-duty time was about cooling down.
“You’d put your shorts and flip flops on and jump in the stream and just sit about for a bit,” he said.
“There’s no TV or internet, just radio.”
After arriving back at RAF Brize Norton, the troops were greeted by friends and family at Battlesbury Barracks in Warminster, Wiltshire.
Pte Kilner, whose father David was there to welcome him home, is now looking forward to taking some time out and going on holiday to the Canary Islands before his next assignment.
Speaking after returning to Britain, Lieutenant Colonel Tom Vallings, Commanding Officer of 3 Yorks, said: “We had soldiers embedded with all the battlegroups across the whole of Helmand.
“Straight away they were doing their duty, taking the fight to the Taliban and were involved in serious contacts and patrolling right from the beginning.
“Their contribution to those battlegroups has been immense, I’m amazed how quickly a Battalion can apply themselves in a can-do approach and fit into another unit, get straight out on the ground and deliver the effect that’s required. It is quite humbling.”