Still waiting for armour, said soldier two weeks before death

Author: By Sam Marsden and Margaret Davis, Press Association

Rifleman Andrew Fentiman, 23, of Cambridge, died after coming under fire while
on foot patrol near Sangin in Helmand Province on Sunday, the Ministry of
Defence (MoD) said.

On 2 November he wrote an internet blog to let friends know that he had
arrived in Afghanistan.

“We are still waiting on these new body armour and helmets that were promised
to us,” he wrote in the blog, entitled “Hello From Afghan”.

“You would have seen the story splashed all over the news, they said they
would be ready for us but we hope they will arrive soon…”

The MoD announced in September that 5,000 sets of new helmets and body armour
were about to be shipped to Afghanistan for use by frontline troops.

Officials said the new Osprey assault armour was less bulky and easier to move
in than existing armour and the updated Mark 7 helmet was more stable when
fitted with night vision equipment and made it easier to fire a weapon.

The first 5,000 sets were due to go to infantry soldiers, engineers, drivers,
medics, dog handlers and other troops who regularly went “outside the wire”.

Another 5,000 sets of the new helmets and armour are due to be sent to
Afghanistan in spring 2010.

Rifleman Fentiman was serving with the 7th Battalion The Rifles and had put
his career as a sales manager at software firm Team Studio, based in
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, on hold so he could deploy to Afghanistan as
part of the 3 Rifles Battle Group, said the MoD.

In the blog, which appeared on his company’s website, Rifleman Fentiman said
he had arrived at camp after a 24-hour flight from Edinburgh.

He told how the atmosphere was “reasonably calm” and cigarettes were cheap.

“I’m now waiting to go to my FOB (forward operating base) which should be in
the next 4 days,” he wrote.

“We have been doing the training package which consists of IED clearance
drills, zeroing, defensive shoots, patrolling skills, use of night vision
goggles and some mandatory briefs, we need to complete this before we can
move outside the wire.

“We are quite fortunate as the day before we were due to be on the ranges, one
person was killed and 2 others injured as someone stepped on an IED which
didn’t make for a pleasant arrival for us.

“Looking at the positives, my commander was there at the time and proved
himself by helping to save one of the guys’ (sic) lives.

“Apart from that incident it’s reasonable (sic) calm; helicopters fly overhead
throughout the days and nights as well as MRLS launchers firing away.

“I have to admit, it makes this whole experience feel slightly surreal.”

He added: “One of the best things out here is that cigarettes are 5 dollars
for 200! There is the odd brand I recognise but we will only have access to
the local ones when we are in the FOB.

“That’s about it for the moment; I will try and send a post every now and then
when things are a little more interesting.

“PS they made me shave my head and the run through loads of dust with full kit
on in the middle of the day.

“Regards, Rfn Fentiman.”

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