A Stamford airman who is the RAF’s top bomb disposal expert is home from Afghanistan.
Chief Technician Dave Lowe, 38, has recently completed a gruelling tour of Helmand province with the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.
He is now home in Stamford ready on call with his unit 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron, based in RAF Wittering, to react to any scares in the region.
He is also the first RAF serviceman to pass the course needed to qualify to be a high-threat improvised explosive device (IED) operator who is not in the Royal Logistic Corps.
But he is keen to play down his heroics in what looks to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the armed forces.
He said: “Coming back from Afghanistan it can be quite hard to relax to go from being very busy, always alert and switched on looking out for your team to being at home. It’s not a bad thing, but it isn’t easy.
“The danger is all relative. It is frightening. There is danger that comes with being in a high stakes environment but the training is the best on the planet and you have to trust that training when you’re defusing a bomb and just get on with it.
“I have lost friends out there, including Captain Lisa Head, and colleagues on the same training course as me, which is just horrible, but the job is incredibly rewarding.
“Every improvised explosive device we remove that’s saved one potential injured soldier or one killed local.
“We cleared one road in Helmand which hadn’t been cleared for more than a year.
“The impact we had is massive. And the trust of the locals, as soon as we said it was clear, was amazing. They were out driving sheep and cattle along the road.
“And of course it clears the way for the other agencies and charities as well as ourselves. It means the Afghans can return to some sort of normality.”
But Chief Technician Lowe played down the danger of the job disarming IEDs compared to other sections of the armed forces.
He said: “The regular infantry have to go out on patrol. There is always the threat of an IED going off or an ambush while they are out there.”
His nerves have been tested to the limit with a series of challenges during his tour, including disarming a massive roadside explosive with 600 troops waiting for him to clear their route forward.
He said: “On that particular incident there was a large IED in a town that was formerly a Taliban stronghold.
“It had been there a long time on top of an important bridge and for me to blow that up would have stopped the whole operation moving through that road. So I had no choice but to make that safe in the best manner I could and let the troops move through.
“Sometimes if it is an offensive operation where you’re pushing the enemy line, you could be the first person sat on the road there dealing with an IED and no other forces are beyond you.
“There’s a lot of pressure on you to push on and there’s a lot of people relying on you. It’s quite a heavy responsibility.”