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Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 09:39 UK

Afghan diary IV: Lucky to be alive

In the fourth entry of his diary from Afghanistan's Wardak province, the BBC's Ian Pannell meets US troops who have survived Taleban roadside bombs in remote and lawless Wardak province, in operation Call of Duty.

Lt Nathan Lokker
If the explosion had gone off underneath the vehicle it would have been a lot worse
Lt Nathan Lokker

Lt Nathan Lokker and his army colleague Cory Preston are lucky to be alive.

They have been hit by two roadside bombs in the last week and have both lived to tell the tale.

The men were travelling in the same Humvee armoured vehicle when it was struck by separate booby-trapped bombs just a few days apart.

They have escaped pretty much unscathed and spoke to the BBC about their experience.

'Off guard'

"I never thought I'd get hit with an improvised explosive device (IED) and I especially didn't think I'd get hit with two in one week," said Lt Lokker.

Map

Specialist Cory Preston described the shock of being caught in the blast.

"It catches you off guard every-time - you don't know where it's at or how big it's going to be. It shakes you up a little bit, you're nervous after that and at that moment your heart stops."

The soldiers are serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Wardak Province.

The first wave of the US-led surge in troops in Afghanistan arrived here in February. Since then they have been trying to push back a resurgent Taleban.

They are both with the Second Battalion, 87th Infantry stationed at a small base in the south of Wardak.

Twenty-four-year-old Lt Lokker, from Boise in Idaho, said all the men in the vehicle had a narrow escape.

"Obviously our vehicle and everybody in it was extremely lucky because if the explosion had gone off underneath the vehicle it would have been a lot worse."

In the first incident, twenty-three-year-old Cory Preston from Biloxi, Mississippi, was hit by a lump of concrete blown into the air by the blast.

"I've been hit with two IEDs in this vehicle in the last week. It is very unlucky but I'm also lucky that everyone in our vehicle was okay each time. I thank God for that."

Despite their experiences, both men deny feeling vulnerable in the Humvee which proved particularly vulnerable to roadside bombs in Iraq.

They also both describe their attackers as "cowards" for not standing and fighting "toe-to-toe" with American troops.

Well-supplied

We were recording the secure radio network as the explosion went off. This is a partial transcript of what was said:

Specialist Cory Preston
Cory Preston says he was unlucky to be attacked twice, but lucky to be alive

Lt Lokker: "I just hit another f*****g IED"

Control: "OK, beware there is a nine to 10 member (enemy) element in that vicinity who want to ambush you…"

Lt Lokker: "... As far as we know right now it went off underneath a bridge we crossed over."

Control: "Roger, are there any casualties?"

Lt Lokker: "Negative, vehicle is fine, we were able to drive it out of the scene."

Control: "Roger, hey Reaper One saw a guy running to the east."

The man seen running to the east is probably the illusive mortar man of Jaghato who has been harassing the district-centre for the last two years.

Every two to three days he has been attacking the police post here.

He is thought to work as part of a team of insurgents in the area. Not only are they bold in their strikes but they are also well-supplied, with a better supply of munitions than the Afghan police who are supposed to be guarding this area.

The arrival of heavily-armed US troops in the area might have acted as a deterrent but so far that does not seem to be the case.

Instead the mortar man and his band of insurgents seem to have stepped up their use of roadside bombs.

The two men from the 10th Mountain Division have mixed emotions. They know they have been unlucky to be caught in two roadside bombs in one week but they also know they are very lucky to have survived.



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