BOMBARDIER Aaron Collins saved the lives of 100 soldiers after a suicide car bomber drove into an Army compound setting off more than 20 explosives.
The Hartlepool 25-year-old found himself trapped underneath the collapsed rubble with Taliban soldiers shooting at him from just 10 metres away.
Brave Bombardier Collins managed to free himself from the debris inside the destroyed army control room and single-handedly set about helping his trapped colleagues while fighting off the firing Taliban, armed with just a radio and a pistol.
The former High Tunstall College of Science student then managed to call for armoured helicopters and, maintaining a cool head in a scene of utter chaos, directed them to the attacking Taliban soldiers.
In one of the largest vehicle-borne attacks recorded across the Afghanistan campaign, the “exemplary actions” of Bombardier Collins helped to save the lives of around 100 men.
In recognition of his incredibly brave life-saving efforts Bombardier Collins of the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery was awarded a Goschen Medal.
Yet today the reluctant hero told the Mail: “You can’t stop and think about it, in a situation like that you just do your job.
“You have a lucky escape and you move on, happy days.”
Bombardier Collins was serving in Afghanistan for the third time as a forward air controller on Operation Herrick when the control room where he was based was attacked at around 6.15pm on March 25 this year.
As the roof collapsed, Bombardier Collins lost his own protective equipment but fortunately managed to clutch on to a radio allowing him to request and co-ordinate the helicopter back-up.
He helped 13 British casualties to safety, all the time still under attack from the Taliban.
Tragically one British soldier died in the attack, Lance Corporal Jamie Webb, but was it not for the actions of Bombardier Collins the death toll would undoubtedly have been higher.
The citation which Bombardier Collins was presented with alongside his medal reads: “Through his quick-thinking, and effective use of Joint Fires assets, Bombardier Collins played a fundamental role in preventing the patrol base from being overrun by the insurgents and was undoubtedly responsible in part for no further fatalities being sustained.”
Bombardier Collins explained how he was praised for his work the day after the terrifying attack but then didn’t think anything more of it until he was called to see his Commanding Officer two weeks ago and told he was being awarded the Goschen Medal.
He was invited to a ceremony in Larkhill, Salisbury, last week, where he received the medal with his parents, Tom, the Mail’s chief photographer, and Cindy, watching on.
Bombardier Collins, who lives in Ashgrove Avenue, in the town, with his girlfriend Kirby Miller, 28, and three-year-old daughter Sophie, said: “I just did what I had to do on the day to protect myself and as many others as possible.
“I was told the next day I had done an excellent job and I thought ‘nice one’ and didn’t really think any more of it.
“But it was a proud moment to get that recognition and be told that I had been awarded the medal.”