Nothing in my 27 years in the Army prepared me for Afghanistan – not even Iraq. I wasn't ready for the suicide bombings; the sights, sounds and smells stay with you forever. Only recently a 15-year-old boy approached our checkpoint and blew himself up, killing two soldiers and a 13-year-old civilian. It was such a waste of life.
All politicians should do some time in the Army. I think that with that insight, they'd alter budgets to ensure that soldiers had exactly the equipment they needed.
There's pain and pleasure when it comes to being away from family. The pain is the separation, and it's just awful. The pleasure is at the end of each tour when you come back and you get to know each other all over again. It's an unbelievable high.
Soldiers think more about injury than they do about death. Death is final. What really scares a soldier is coming back burnt, disfigured or brain-damaged. I think about it every time we go on patrol.
We need to have the support of the people, which we currently do. As long as we have their support, the Taliban will be beaten. Of this I have no doubt.
It's a noble thing to question every action you take. The other side of the coin is to take life wantonly. You're fighting in a hostile place and you have to take lives, but to take a life and not reflect on what you've done will leave you in a dark and awful place.
The bonds you build with some soldiers in a few weeks last for life. During my last tour in Afghanistan, I met a group of people who I was with for 14 days and they are now some of the strongest friends I have.
Everybody fantasises about the same thing on leaving Afghanistan: having their first pint in the pub. We talk it through exhaustively – which beer we're going to have and how we're going to drink it. The Afghan soldiers we work with do the same thing, imagining what food they'll have when they get back to their families.
'An Ordinary Soldier', by Doug Beattie, is published by Simon & Schuster at £17.99Reuse content