Return to civvy street will be tough

DRIVING trucks through the Iraqi desert is a contrast to driving trains through Suffolk but an Ipswich-based soldier faces the tough task of making that transition.

DRIVING trucks through the Iraqi desert is a contrast to driving trains through Suffolk but an Ipswich-based soldier faces the tough task of making that transition.

Paul Southernwood, a Territorial Army soldier with Ipswich's 202 Transport Squadron, will be home from Iraq within a few months and he's already aware it will be tough returning to civilian life.

“It's going to be weird not being a soldier and having more freedom over where I go and what I do.

“The last thing you do here before you leave the gate is get a full magazine (of ammunition) and put on your helmet.”


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Lance Corporal Southernwood is among the 4,500 British troops based at the Basra airport camp in southern Iraq.

He has been driving trucks loaded with supplies for British troops spread across the Basra area and has found Iraq less of a battlefield than he thought it would be.

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“It's not been as I expected it,” he said.

“I came out here for a challenge, a change of lifestyle and a bit of an adventure but because of the situation it's calmed down.

“I've done quite a few operations. As you drive around you can go through an area of nice houses with gardens and you turn the corner and you're into slums with rubbish everywhere.

“Things have changed so that the city itself is open for business. There are people all over.

“On Sundays for example, from about six o'clock in the morning you see people out and about. It does seem to have changed a lot from one or two years ago.”

By early December L Cpl Southernwood will be marching through the streets of Ipswich along with his colleagues fresh from their tour of Iraq.

Soon he'll be back behind the controls as a National Express train driver taking passengers through Ipswich on the London Liverpool Street to Peterborough route.

“Everyone is looking forward to going home but there are people I'm going to miss. By that time we'll have been together for a year,” he said.

“There's times I didn't want to be here, particularly at the beginning we were thinking 'what the hell have we done this for?'. But now we're getting near the end of it I'm certainly reasonably happy.

“It's quite bearable now with ten weeks to push on. I look at it as ten more Sunday dinners, that's all it is. The weeks do seem to go past really quickly.

“People have said it will probably change you but I don't feel any different in myself.

“I think I'm the same person I was. I've seen something that a lot of people don't see and it's something I'll always have with me but has it changed me? I don't think it has.”

- In tomorrow's Evening Star chief reporter Grant Sherlock talks to the former Stowmarket student who helped co-ordinate a dramatic helicopter rescue of an injured Grundisburgh teenager from a remote Iraqi highway.

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