A FLEETWOOD army sergeant is playing a vital role in building the Afghan Army’s artillery section.
Sergeant Paul Challoner, 26, is in Afghanistan for the second time and is working as part of a team training and mentoring the Afghan soldiers.
He has been there since September living and working in the harsh, war-torn conditions and is now looking forward to coming home to his family.
As part of the Brigade Advisory Group, Paul, is helping to coach the Afghans in some of the technical intricacies involved in gunnery.
And their ultimate aim is to build an organic Afghan artillery capability.
He said: “We can see the results of what we’re doing on a daily basis and we know that, in the long term, our efforts will leave the Afghan National Army in better shape to take on and defeat the insurgents who are trying to cripple this country.”
He serves with the Colchester based 7th Parachute Regiment and is based in the small camp of Tapa Topche - known amongst British troops as Artillery Hill – which overlooks the town of Gereshk.
The training culminated recently with a live firing exercise which saw the Afghan gunners fire high explosives for the first time.
Paul, who when home enjoys a pint at the Queens, said: “You could see the improvements in the Afghan Gunners after just one day’s live firing.
“The increased level in confidence they had after handling live ammunition and firing live for the first time is credit to all the hard work they have put in over the past five months. It was one example of how rewarding our work out here is. More used to working as part of a gun battery in the UK, Paul has had to adapt to the challenges associated with working with soldiers from other nations. Having joined the army in 2001, he volunteered to join the airborne gunners of 7 Para RHA. He passed the arduous pre-parachute selection course in 2002 and earned his coveted ‘Para Wings’. He has also served in Iraq and Kosovo.
Paul is now counting down the days to be reunitedwith his wife Caroline.
He added: “I want to thank my wife for being so strong and for being an amazing person. I love and miss her so much and can’t wait to be back in Fleetwood with her.”