Only Rob Durrant’s sturdy flak jacket stopped the racing bullet penetrating into his stomach, after he was shot while on patrol in Nad-e Ali North, Helmand province.
The 27-year-old is due to march through Barnstaple today as part of Chivenor’s Commando Logistic Regiment homecoming parade. He had been serving as a Lead Medical Assistant in Afghanistan for almost six months.
The impact of the strike, fired when he was just 400m away from his base, knocked LMA Durrant onto the floor, where he had to scramble to safety. But thanks to an improved bullet-proof jacket, which has been issued to British forces over the past few years, the medic miraculously escaped the incident with just cuts and bruises.
LMA Durrant, who was the designated medic for J Company 42 Commando, said: “If that had happened last time I was in Afghanistan, when the body armour was not as good, I think it would have been a very different story. I know I was very lucky.” The medic, who also served in Afghanistan with Chivenor’s CLR in 2006, had stopped two minutes away from his base to talk to locals when the incident happened.
A local sniper, who the company eventually came to know by name, fired the long-range shot.
LMA Durrant said the shot came out of the blue because there was no other cross fire going on. He said: “The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground with a massive pain in my stomach.
“I don’t remember hearing anything, or feeling the impact of the shot, I just remember falling.” Realising he’d been shot, LMA Durrant yelled out to his comrades.
But he was quickly overcome with relief when he realised the bullet had sunk into his body armour – but stopped short of hitting his body. He said: “When I looked down and saw there was no blood, I couldn’t believe it. I remember almost laughing to myself. It was a big calibre bullet as well, so it would have done some serious damage.”
Ironically, the medic had been moved to checkpoint Cudrat, where the incident happened, for “a break”, following two difficult months at checkpoint Kamiabi. He said: “Everyone was saying how typical it was for me to get shot once I’d been taken out of the more dangerous area.
“At the other check point it had been non-stop for two months and we came under a lot of close-range attacks. “It all reached a crescendo in August, so they sent me to a different base, to give me a break.”
In heroic fashion, LMA Durrant returned to the frontline less than one week after the incident, which took place on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He returned home three weeks later.
He said: “The first patrol back, I was thinking ‘Here we go again’, but you quickly have to learn to trust it again. I just got back out there and told myself I would be fine. And I was.”