Father and son are brothers in arms
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While many Royal Anglian soldiers training in Kenya are missing their loved ones, at least one pair of soldiers have their nearest and dearest close at hand.
Because while a lack of mobile phone and internet coverage keeps many families apart, Colour Sgt Richard “Mole” Stevens is training alongside his son, Pte Daniel Stevens.
Both have served in Afghanistan and know what it means to fight the same cause while putting aside family fears to focus on their separate missions.
Colour Sgt Stevens, 39, was the army recruitment officer at Magdalen Street in Norwich between 2006 and 2009, and has also fought in Northern Island, Bosnia and Iraq.
Those experiences provided the inspiration for Pte Stevens to follow his father into the army. The former Sprowston High School pupil joined the Vikings at 17 – but had to wait for his next birthday before he could join his new comrades in the conflict zone.
Colour Sgt Stevens worked in battalion HQ during the last tour, while his son was out on patrol with his company.
“Obviously I’m very proud of him,” he said. “This is a family regiment, so to have your son serving with you makes a lot of sense. Sometimes on operational tours I am a worried father, but I’m also a soldier who knows what’s going on out there. But you have got to put that out of your mind. It is the job he chose and it is what he wanted to do.
“People often say that because I am in the army it must be easier. But it is the complete opposite. It is not easy for any parent to have a son in the army, but for civilians there is an element of ignorance to it. They don’t get to constantly hear the chat on the radio like I do. I heard a contact report come through when one of our blokes was killed. It was not until afterwards that I realised it could have been Daniel. It is always in the back of your mind.”
Pte Stevens, 19, said: “With my dad having been in the army since I was born, I had seen a lot of army life and I wanted to experience it for myself. I had never been abroad before I went to Afghanistan. It is a lot more exciting than here, but being a young 18-year-old it was quite nerve-wracking. But it opened my eyes.
“I knew my dad was in Battalion HQ where there was not that big a threat, and where I was at the time was one of the worst places to be.
“When I first turned up I was the daddy’s boy and every time I walked past an officer it was: ‘Ah, go and give your dad a big hug’. But it was just banter.”
Color Sgt Stevens said he did not see his son in five months in Afghanistan, until they met at Camp Bastion while preparing to return home.
“I gave him a big man-hug and his mates all went, ‘Ah, daddy’s boy’. But I just said, ‘Are you not going to hug your mum when you get back, then?’”
Colour Sgt Stevens, who now lives in Elmswell, near Bury St Edmunds, said he hoped his son’s career would progress at least as far as his own. In the meantime, he hopes to settle their major ongoing argument – which one of them is the better shot.
“One day we will get on the range and settle this once and for all,” he said.