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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Soldier talks of 'occupational hazards'
A Belfast soldier honoured by the military for his courage has been speaking about his experiences in some of the world's most dangerous places.

Lance Corporal Trevor Coult was awarded the Military Cross - the British Army's second highest award - for bravery during an ambush by suicide bombers in Iraq.

Lance Corporal Trevor Coult (pic MoD/PA)
Lance Corporal Trevor Coult has been decorated for bravery

He has now returned with the Royal Irish Regiment's first battalion to their base in Scotland, following a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

He said the two places "don't compare at all" as Afghanistan was an even tougher challenge than Iraq.

"I have never been to a place like Afghanistan before in my life. It was the worst and the best tour I have ever done," he said.

"The worst tour for casualties and just chaos and the best tour for getting to do every single thing you have ever trained to do."

His regiment has been fighting Taliban insurgents in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

Three members of the regiment were killed in action - the highest casualty rate of any regiment in 25 years.

"For about three days we were hit hard with mortars, RPGs, and each time the mortars were getting more direct, they were hitting right inside the camp," he said.

"You were just staying there with your hands in your ears, body armour on, helmet on, sitting in the trench, you couldn't even get out of the trench.

"It was scary at times but you have to bite the bullet. If your boys see you falling apart... you can't fall apart you have to stay on top of them."

In September, the 31-year-old received the Military Cross for his actions during a machine gun ambush involving suicide bombers and gunmen in Baghdad.

The incident happened last year, when three armed insurgents stopped his multi-vehicle convoy on a stretch of road billed as the most dangerous in the world, opening fire on the stationary vehicles.

I like to keep people guessing about when I am coming home.
Cpl Trevor Coult

Acting as top cover sentry in the rear vehicle, Cpl Coult managed to return fire and control his vehicle, allowing two other crews to retreat from the ambush.

He then went back to cover a stalled vehicle and enable them to escape.

"It was a suicide bomber, first of all, who tried to reverse, he kept reversing, he actually got faster coming towards the convoy," he recalled.

"So the guys just dealt with it, killed the driver, killed the passenger. Once the car came to a halt, then all of a sudden... chaos, the whole world just lit up; insurgents firing at us from the left side and the right side of the bridge.

"At this stage the boss in the front wagon turned it round and started extracting back. I could see the wagon was stuck, he just stalled it. So we had to move the vehicle round to the side of his vehicle to deflect the rounds.

"You don't actually think about what you are doing at the time, you just go and do it. It's just one of those things, you don't think it's special. It's not special. All the guys are trained to do it."

His commanding officer has described him as an "outstanding" man, but Cpl Coult has played down his achievements.

Although pleased to have received the Military Cross, the timing of the announcement could not have been worse - he was told a day after a colleague was killed.

"In the place where I was, I couldn't celebrate, I couldn't go back and tell the troops about it, I had to leave it for a few days.

"Things were still fresh in their minds. Then again, it is quite good to have."

Unmarried Cpl Coult, who joined the Royal Irish in 1994, brushes off attacks in the two countries as an "occupational hazard".

"After a while these attacks on you and mortars, just become second nature," he said.

"If I was to sit and think about those things you would probably go mad. You just don't you just crack on with it. It is only a job."

Cpl Coult, like the other soldiers who have returned to their Fort George base in Inverness, can receive counselling and are advised on how to deal with bereavement and anger.

At the moment, Cpl Coult is simply trying to relax - and that means washing, cleaning and unpacking, and, of course, catching up with family and friends.

"I don't know whether to unpack my room or repack my because I am going on leave," he said.

"(I am) trying to relax. Trying to see people I haven't seen in a while. I like to keep people guessing about when I am coming home. I don't even let mum know I am coming home. I just arrive at her door."

Helen Jones speaks to Lance Corporal Trevor Coult

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