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Lance Bombardier Stuart Brauninger flies British Army drones in Afghanistan

Lance Bombardier Stuart Brauninger with a British military drone
Lance Bombardier Stuart Brauninger with a British military drone

A soldier from Aylesford is the British Army's "eye in the sky" – helping to keep remote-controlled drones flying in the skies above Afghanistan.

Lance Bombardier Stuart Brauninger, 25, has been flying the unmanned drones above Helmand Province for the last six months, providing essential day and night aerial video for troops on the ground.

Drones hit the headlines earlier this month when an American aircraft was captured in Iran.

L Bdr Brauninger, nicknamed Ninja by his friends, said: "As a specialised unit, we're trained to plan and fly missions, process live video feeds for intelligence-gathering purposes and maintain the UAS [unmanned air systems] equipment."

L Bdr Brauninger, who went to Lords Wood Primary School and Aylesford Secondary School, joined the Army in 2002.

Since then, he has served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, as well the United States, Canada and Kenya.

"My first operational tour was to Iraq in 2005," he said. "It was hot, dusty, scary and nerve-racking as we were mortared every night but it soon became routine and second nature.

"I've been to Afghanistan four times. My first deployment in 2006 was a time of daily contacts with mortars and small arms fire on our positions. I travelled all over Helmand, to Sangin, Garmsir and Now Zad.

"On my first trip to Afghanistan, a mortar exploded barely two metres in front of me. The blast knocked me out cold, so it was a lucky escape."

He added: "Things have changed a lot since then. Camp Bastion [the main British military base in Afghanistan] has changed over the years – it's got a lot bigger and you can see the progress that we're making towards handing over to the Afghan security forces."

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