A PARATROOPER given vital first aid by a Huddersfield soldier after losing a leg is back in military action.
Cpl Stuart Hale is back in southern Afghanistan less than two years after he suffered horrific injuries in a mine blast in Helmand Province, the first British Serviceman to return to active service there as an amputee.
The 26-year-old from the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment was one of several soldiers injured after being caught in an unmarked minefield near the Kajaki Dam on September 6, 2006.
His colleague, Cpl Mark Wright, who was killed in the incident, posthumously received the George Cross for his actions that day.
But all were tended to by Kirkburton medic Lance Cpl Paul Hartley, who received the George Medal from the Queen in February last year for showing astonishing courage helping his badly wounded comrades.
He was serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps at the time.
He also won the Courage Award at the Examiner Community Awards last November.
He left the Army in February this year and is now a trainer and assessor for a first aid company.
The paratroopers became trapped in the minefield and as more and more mines were triggered Paul was ordered not to move until help arrived.
But he continued to help the two soldiers, Cpl Hale and Cpl Stuart Pearson, who had both lost limbs.
When Cpl Wright, the platoon commander, was critically injured by an explosion Paul risked his own life to help.
He crossed the minefield by throwing his backpack in front of him and jumping on to it. He did this eight times, but as he reached Cpl Wright another mine went off, injuring both men.
Paul suffered injuries to his chest, arms and legs. He also suffered ‘blast lung’, which caused breathing difficulties.
However, he managed to treat Cpl Wright, taking off his own T-shirt to stem the blood. Paul suffered severe sunburn as a result.
He also threw medical equipment to other wounded comrades, shouting instructions on how to use it.
He was one of the last to leave when rescue helicopters finally arrived but, sadly, Cpl Wright died on board.
Paul said: “He was the bravest man I ever knew.”
An Army investigation highlighted the fact that the injured troops had been forced to wait for several hours for rescue after a Chinook helicopter was unable to land and had no winch to lift the men to safety.
Cpl Hale had his right leg amputated because of the injuries he suffered and had to learn how to walk again at the specialist military rehabilitation centre, Headley Court in Surrey.
He described the learning experience as like being a one-year-old.
He has now returned to active service, working in intelligence at Kandahar Airfield, the main Nato hub in southern Afghanistan.
“Other people try to find different ways, but I just want to get back to the way I was,’’ he said. “That’s why I’m out here.”
Describing the reaction he has had since arriving in Afghanistan he said: “Some guys have spoken to me and said I’m a real credit to my country.
“Others look at me with suspicion because they think ‘that could happen to me’.
“But I wanted to come back out here and for people to think ‘if the worst should happen to me at least I know I can be back out here and still have a life in the military’.”
He admitted his artificial leg did have some limitations.
“If I could be deployed in the same capacity I’d be back out there on those hilltops,” he said.
Cpl Pearson – promoted since to sergeant – has also returned to duty and hopes to go back to Afghanistan one day.
Paul’s parents, Kathleen and Donovan, live in Kirkburton and he has two brothers, Chris and Michael.
He now lives in Hereford with his wife, Dawn, and their two-year-old son, Ewan.
He also has a five-year-old son, JJ, from a previous relationship.