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Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009
Kemp returns to Afghan front line

Ex-EastEnder Ross Kemp is back in the firing line with British troops in his new documentary Return To Afghanistan. It's been a year since he first went out, so Newsbeat got the lowdown on why he went back, what he found when he got there and how he felt about being in the danger zone.

Ross Kemp
The actor admits to finding everything scary while making the documentary

Why did you want to go back to Afghanistan?

Basically to see what had changed... were we able to win against the Taliban? Were we actually rebuilding things? But also to see how much equipment was available to our soldiers on the ground. Is this a containable problem? Is this a win-able situation?

I wasn't expecting much to have changed. It's only a year and Afghanistan works at a different rate to what we're used to in the UK. But it's a country I've fallen in love with, with it's people and it's a place of outstanding beauty. It's a harsh country, a tough country to live in but the people there are fantastic.

We've already made sacrifices in young men's lives. I want to make sure the sacrifices being made by the soldiers and their families are actually worth it.

Did you have any apprehension about going back? Was there anything you were worried about?
Ross Kemp
Ross says he's fallen in love with the people of Afghanistan

Yeah. Getting shot basically! The worst thing now for most people is stepping on an IED (improvised explosive device). Last week I was out on the ground in Kajaki and a young boy was blown up by an IED and killed.

All those things run through your mind but you have to cut those things out of your mind because otherwise you'd never go anywhere. The first time I went out there I was very naive about how close it was going to be. But after your first contact you realise it's quite dangerous out there. You never get used to it but you become more accepting of it.

How did the soldiers react to having you with them?

There's always an element of mickey taking. I was the Crazy Frog in Kajaki (of ring tone fame). I was the Queen of the Queen Vic in Musa Qala for a time. But as soon as you get there you're out on the ground, it's 45C (113F) heat and within 20 minutes we're in a 40-minute ambush.

Thankfully no-one got killed, apart from the enemy. And once you've had that much lead pushed in your direction and you're laying next to a soldier, it gets around very quickly that you're not a luvvy and you're up for the job you're gonna be doing for the next three weeks.

Do they ever worry you're going to be a hindrance there with the camera crew and equipment?

It's only myself and the cameraman, so it's not that many more people. There is an element that we may draw attention because we don't wear camouflage and we stand out. We were accused by Taliban radio of being American spies who'd come to steal their commander when I was out there last.

But we also carry a proper, full size HD camera which does stand out and can look like a weapons system. But fortunately that's the cameraman carrying that, though I do carry that for him occasionally! But we're there to tell the story and I think most of the time they're happy to have us there. And also in a six-and-a-half month tour, us two turning up, with a series producer, breaks up the monotony.

Was there good camaraderie between you and the soldiers?

Ross Kemp
Ross says he felt welcomed by many British soldiers
Just like everything, some people you're gonna get on better with than you do with others. But I have to say I was more than welcomed by both 5 Scots, the Royal Irish Regiment and the 45 Commando were fantastic to me.

I think the advantage was they'd seen the first film. That helped us immensely with the access we were given. And also the fact that the MoD allowed us to go out there and got us out there.

It's always in the news about equipment and whether soldiers have enough resources. What was your experience?

Across the board I'd say the equipment is improving all the time. The government is listening, the MoD are listening to the requirements of the soldiers. The basic weapon systems, if you go from the SA80 up to the javelin missile or the new jackal vehicle and the mastiff vehicles are an incredible improvement on the things they've replaced.

I still don't think there are enough helicopters in the field to fight the war that they are asking to fight. I'm not sure what that's down to, whether it's down to enough pilots, or whether it's down to not having enough money or there just not being the actual helicopters available. People are sensitive about it but the fact is there just simply aren't enough.

What was the most shocking thing you saw or what scared you the most?

I've been out on the ground when young people have died and that's the saddest thing that can happen to you. I was very honoured to be allowed to stand with the marines at his memorial service. It's all scary. When you're in the middle of it, you're not really thinking about that, you're thinking about getting your job done. It's only afterwards, when you come home, that you think about close it was and how dangerous it can be.

Return to Afghanistan begins on 1 February on Sky1 at 10pm.

Ross Kemp was talking to Newsbeat's Sinead Garvan.

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