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Why We Follow: The Power and Perils of Belonging

Why We Follow: The Power and Perils of Belonging

by Langley Sharp MBE

Past Head of the Centre for Army Leadership, British Army

Jun 11, 2024

Compendium

In 2013 I had the privilege of commanding a joint British/Afghan counterinsurgency task force. Our mission was to disrupt Taliban safe havens and, in so doing, supporting the protection of both Afghan civilians and coalition forces in Central Helmand. On 22nd August one of my junior commanders, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Josh Leakey, undertook an act of bravery that was to cement his name in British military history. A few hours into a routine search operation with our Afghan partners and United States Marine Corps (USMC) allies, an element of the 300-strong force found themselves surrounded by Taliban fighters. Pinned down by extremely accurate enemy fire and with communications failing, a USMC officer was shot and wounded.

Reading the situation and knowing that their comrades were in grave danger, Leakey and his sniper team decided to seize the initiative. Having crossed open ground under fire and with the casualty secured, Leakey proceeded to fight back. Twice more he exposed himself to mortal danger, running up and down a steep hillside to get the silenced machine guns into action. Carrying a mounted gun on his back, with an all-up weight of over 100lbs, he faced an intensity of fire that saw bullets ricocheting off the frame of the weapon.

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