Chatteris soldier who led Taliban battle to run for Royal Anglians

A SERGEANT who led a platoon to victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan is to take part in the Great Eastern Run and raise money for his regiment.

Sergeant Matt Waters was asked to take 35-40 members of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment into enemy-occupied territories in Sangin province.

For the next six months he was in charge of daily offensive operations and bloody machine gun battles to “flush the Taliban out” of their home turf.

After a military triumph in what has been described as an unwinnable war, he then helped win the hearts of minds of Sangin residents to enable the British Army to bring lasting peace to the area.

He said his men were “second to none” - but it wasn’t without heartache as many colleagues were killed and suffered “horrific injuries”.

The 34-year-old war hero will now take part in Peterborough’s Great Eastern Run to raise money for troops in his Regiment suffering hardship and distress.

Sgt Waters, of St Francis Drive, Chatteris, said: “It affects everyone differently. For me it was sad to lose good friends and see horrific injuries.

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“However you have got to keep moving. The moment you start thinking about what’s going on at home or elsewhere, you start losing focus and making yourself and your men vulnerable.”

The self-confessed “father figure” of his platoon added that his main concern was not for his own safety but the welfare of his young soldiers.

The Chatteris Town Youth Football Coach said: “The average soldier is between 18 and 21 years old. If it is their first operational tour, it is going to have a massive impact on the way they look at life.”

Sgt Waters was deployed to the war-torn Middle Eastern country in 2007 to patrol areas which were known to be “obstructive and occupied by Taliban forces”.

His platoon was told to get into combat with insurgents and win territories back for the Afghan people, which meant bloody and brutal battles with vicious warlords. It also required soldiers’ complete concentration.

Sgt Waters, who now works as a recruiter in the Cambridge Armed Forces Careers Office, said: “If a man is not 100 per cent, you can’t have him there. You have got to be aware of what’s going on in his mind.”

His tactics defeated Taliban fighters but then an even more difficult battle began - winning over a weary Afghan public.

But the soldier praises his colleagues’ focus, saying the British Army “got it quite right” when balancing combat with the need to win hearts and minds.

Sgt Waters, who was joined in Sangin by Ross Kemp for the TV presenter’s popular Afghanistan series, said: “British Army soldiers are known for their expertise in combat but they can just flick a switch and become hearts and minds.”

He also said humour and camaraderie play an important part in surviving the nightmare of war.

The super-fit runner hopes to raise more than �1,000 for The Royal Anglian Regiment Benevolent Charity Fund at the 13.1 mile Great Eastern Run on Sunday, October 10. He has already raised �250.

To sponsor Sgt Waters, visit the website

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