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Soldier Pete Alexander on squaring up to the enemy in Afghanistan

Pete Alexander, a policeman and officer, who has served in Afghanistan
Pete Alexander, a policeman and officer, who has served in Afghanistan

by Chris Hunter

A Kent soldier and police officer has recounted the "stomach-turning" moment he learnt an Afghan recruit had killed the man who trained him at Sandhurst.

Maidstone Police’s PC Pete Alexander - also a TA captain - was training Afghan officers in Helmand Province, and was only eight miles from the scene of the attack, when a rogue Afghan officer shot dead five British servicemen at a checkpoint on November 3.

Among the dead was Warrant Officer 1st Class Darren Chant, who had been one of PC Alexander’s Colour Sergeants at Sandhurst.

The 28-year-old Medway man says he "knew of" the gunman but does not wish to talk about him.

Currently on two weeks’ leave, and preparing to return to Afghanistan next Sunday December 13, he says he still cannot totally trust Afghan officers, but remains determined to continue in his role.

"It hit us hard" said PC Alexander, a soldier with the Territorial Army’s Royal Artillery Regiment. "You have to build up a relationship with these people. You have to gain their trust. They have to gain your trust. Unfortunately, as a result of that incident it meant that an element of our trust towards them was lost.

"To hear of the death of someone you had been trained by; someone you looked up to when you were in your younger years at the beginning of your training. To hear about that is a bit of a kick in the nuts.

"Ultimately he was there doing the job we’re all out there doing, training the police and taking them to a stage whereby we have got a uniformed disciplined body of men who can effectively look after their own people."

The 28-year-old recalled the moment news of the attack had begun filtering through to them on November 3.

"We didn’t know what had happened at first, but then the details started coming through. You find out more about how many casualties there were, then find out who they were, how many lads had been killed, how many were injured and what state they were in. It turns your stomach, but it doesn’t matter whether you know these guys or not. At the end of the day you all wear the same uniform and are all out there for the same reason. So it turns your stomach every time you hear of someone being hurt or being killed."

But while the relationship with the Afghan Police has been damaged, the 28-year-old says soldiering is in his blood, and he is determined to continue his work in Afghanistan.

"I wanted to go" he said, "My grandfather was in the army. It’s in the blood and I’ll never get away from it.
"I’d finished my two-year probation with the police, and had just had a relationship break up, when the job came up.
"I said ‘let’s go’, everything seemed right at the time."

Having project-managed the construction of the new Helmand Provincial Training Centre, he is "excited" about returning to the region next Sunday and beginning work at the new site, despite the killings in November.

"You have to pick yourself up and get on straight away, because we still have a job to do" he said.

"We still have our orders to follow and we’re still there to train the police. We’re not just going to drop everything because of one incident. It sounds harsh. At the end of the day we lost five very good and capable guys; one of which I knew.

"All we can do is continue the way we’re planning and go forward with them, from mentoring and holding their hand to getting them up on their own two feet, so they can start doing the job themselves."

And he said Afghan police officers also understood the importance of re-building trust with British forces, and that their work was appreciated by everyday Afghans.

"They are an intelligent people, who were happy that we’re there assisting them.

"Ultimately, do the Afghan people want a foreign force there all the time? No, I don’t think they do. They want to live in peace, they want to be under the security of their own security forces - the police and the army.

"The Afghan police are actually quite hurt about what took place. They understand and realise it’s going take a while for us to pick ourselves back up in that relationship and move on from it."

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