A WAR veteran from Helsby has returned to the front line in Afghanistan as part of a specialist Government task force bidding to stabilise the conflict affected country.
Former Royal Marine Major John Collicutt, 46, of Chester Road, Helsby – where he lives with his wife Julie and their two children – has just got back from a two month tour of Marja, Helmand Province, working as an advisor with the Civilian Stabilisation Unit.
“I’m going in to a community where you can deliver real change, very quickly,” said John, director of Helsby based Decisive Operations, who specialise in leadership development, support to businesses and executive decision making.
“I’ve done a couple of tours of Iraq – my battle group was the first into the country in 2003, we took the north half of Basra.
“I understand the people and the environment we are operating in.
“The US Marines would go out on the patrols, I would go in straight after them to meet and try to start talks with the community to work out what they need.
“I was always under the protective umbrella of the Marines. We did get shot at and convoys I was travelling in did get blown up. I can’t say that bullets were landing at my feet but they were flying over my head.”
John joined the organisation last year and is one of about 1,000 advisors in the UK.
“Having been in the forces you appreciate the need for this type of work, I guess part of the reason I go is because I feel more equipped to do it,” he added.
“In Marja they had no running water, no tarmac roads, no street lighting, no schools, and just one health centre for 80,000 people.
“You start to appreciate quite how lucky we are in the UK, and what a poor set of cards these other people have been dealt.
“You establish a bond with people who you want to help improve their lot in life.
“The group is supported by three government ministries, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of International Development and the Ministry of Defence.
“We are doing this work now in a more formal basis so when I go in and talk about rebuilding schools I know the UK Government will support me, we have the funds and the will to put in a health centre, for example.”
John is planning a return to Afghanistan by the beginning of 2011.