When Bristol man Darren ‘Herbie’ Hyde (39) accompanied his friend to a Territorial Army recruitment day back in 2000, little did he think that 12 years later he would be collecting an Operation Herrick campaign medal and promotion to the rank of Sergeant following a six month tour in Afghanistan.
“I only went along to offer moral support to my friend, as I had previously served in the Regular Army,” explains Herbie, “but when I arrived at the TA centre in Horfield, it turned out the recruiting officer was someone who I’d been in the Army Cadets with as a youngster and after chatting to him I thought this could be fun!”
A radio operator with Bristol’s 39 Signal Regiment, one of the Army’s specialist communications units, while on the front line Herbie supported the Royal Marines’ Counter IED Taskforce operating across Helmand province as a communications specialist: “Essentially, I was responsible for the care and maintenance of vital communications kit on the ground.”
Ensuring the lines of communication between different military units operating across the volatile and inhospitable terrain of southern Afghanistan is not an easy feat but one which is essential for keeping troops on the ground safe.
It was certainly a world away from Herbie’s civilian job as a health and safety officer for electrical company H M (Bristol) which he put on hold last January when he mobilised to begin training for his tour with the Regular Army’s 10 Signal Regiment. That’s not to say however, that Herbie didn’t find his civilian skills as an electrician put to the test on the front line. His expertise in setting up temporary electrical systems came to the fore when he found himself establishing power systems for control bases in the desert.
“Extreme camping, is how I’d best describe life on tour in Afghanistan and it’s a million miles away from anything you’ll experience in everyday life back at home,” says Herbie. “It was certainly a full and varied tour, before I left I couldn’t imagine being on patrol with the Royal Marines and it was an experience that would be hard to beat.”
Lt Col Dominic Sharkey, the Officer Commanding of 39 Signal Regiment, presented Herbie with his medal on return from Afghanistan, he comments: “Sgt Hyde is the perfect example of what can be achieved by those serving in the Territorial Army. He was able to take his specialist skills, gained both through his military and civilian work, to provide vital support for the British Forces’ operation in Afghanistan.
“The Territorial Army plays a vital role in the UK’s defence capabilities and we’re always keen to hear from those who, like Sgt Hyde have the enthusiasm and dedication it takes to serve in the TA.”
Now back in Bristol with his wife Sarah and step-daughter Elise, as well as returning to his day job, Herbie is taking a leading role in delivering pre-deployment training to the next team from 39 Signal Regiment which is due to deploy to Afghanistan in 2013 so that they can serve shoulder to shoulder with their Regular Army counterparts.
39 Signal Regiment will be hosting an open day for anyone interested in finding out more about the Territorial Army at the TA Centre on Horfield Common on Saturday 11 February. The TA centre will be open between 9.45am and 3.45pm and visitors will be able to get a taste of life in the TA including the chance to sample an Army curry! For more details email 39SR-HQ-CLK@mod.uk or call 0117 951 9266.