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Christmas ... the frontline; Bomb disposal expert ready to put his life at risk.

Byline: DAVE HIMELFIELD

SOLDIER Marc Smith plans to enjoy Christmas at his Huddersfield home.

But two days later, he will literally again put his life on the line for his country.

Lance Cpl Smith will be flying back to Afghanistan for one of the world's most dangerous jobs - as a bomb disposal expert fighting the Taliban.

Marc, 24, from Kirkheaton, has spent the last five months disarming Taliban bombs in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He has helped deactivate almost 80 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in his job as an assistant in the 11th Explosive Ordinance Disposal.

Marc, also known as Anthony, provides vital support for safely disposing of IEDs which are capable of killing and wounding scores of people.

In his 50kg rucksack are pliers, scalpels and explosives for carrying out controlled explosions.

When a patrol covers new territory, which is believed to be booby trapped, soldiers with metal detectors will scan the land.

If a suspicious item is found Marc and his officer-in-command are responsible for making the item safe.

Marc, a former pupil of Almondbury High School, joined the Royal Logistics Corps in 2002.

On his first tour in Afghanistan in May 2008 Marc was responsible for supplying frontline troops with everything from ammunition to rations.

Five-and-a-half months later he returned to Blighty and trained as a bomb disposal officer at an army training base in Chester.

There he learned to operate a 'Wheelbarrow' bomb disposal robot, which are used to neutralise suspected explosive devices in Britain. Marc jokes: "They cost about pounds 300,000. I haven't managed to blow one up but my boss has!" Unfortunately Wheelbarrows don't work too well in the dust and heat of Afghanistan where the extraordinarily hazardous task has to be done by hand.

Marc, a dad-to-be, said: "To start with it's really nerve-racking but after a while it comes as second nature.

"It's been good. I've enjoyed this tour much more. I feel I'm doing a better job and saving thousands of lives in the six months I've been there, both troops and Afghans."

Marc and his corps' work led to a documentarywhichwas broadcast on ITV lastweek as part of the national Millies 2009 awards.

He said: "It's good to get the recognition. Especially with the way the war is going, we're getting more recognition than before."

Marc will return to Afghanistan on December 27 for his last month of duty.

He will return to Britain to work as a bomb disposal officer based in the north west of England.

Marc's dad Dave, 41, adds: "The sense of pride for Marc is unbelievable and our troops are so modest about it.

"For me, Rachel (Marc's girlfriend) and his mum (Wendy) and his brother, we're just so proud of him."

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BRAVE: Marc Smith army bomb disposal officer at home and in Afghanistan (PC221209Bsmith)
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 24, 2009
Words:472
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