COMING of age was no trivial matter for Cheshire soldier Phil Rogers who turned 21 while manning guns on the front-line in Afghanistan.
Instead of partying, Phil, from Malpas, was providing heavy artillery support to troops in Helmand province.
The gunner is serving his first operational tour with 4th Regiment Royal Artillery in the Nahr-e Saraj area in the extreme heat of an Afghan summer.
He said: “My job is a loader on the gun, which means that during a fire mission I get the ammunition into the gun as quickly as possible.
“I also help the detachment commander with any tasks that he needs doing on or around the gun position.”
Phil added: “We keep our skills fresh on all the weapon systems here. Apart from the light gun, which I deal with daily, I am also trained on the 50-calibre heavy machine gun.
“I have been out on the ground to provide force protection with the Danish and the Afghan National Army in Gereshk. That was really good.”
Phil admits that he was apprehensive at the start of the six-month tour.
“I was nervous at first. You’re sat on the plane and then you get the call to put on helmets and body armour. The lights go off and nobody says a word. But I like being out here. I’m doing my job for real – not just on an exercise.”
When not in uniform, Phil’s hobbies include playing football for his village team in Tilston and snooker for the district of Whitchurch. He also enjoys darts and rugby.
His girlfriend Kate and mum Mel live in Malpas, while dad Phil lives in Whitchurch. He is the only member of his family to serve in the forces.
Phil added: “I miss my family, girlfriend and all of my mates. But don’t worry – I’ll be back in August for a bit of rest and recuperation!”