Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
— Sir Winston Churchill

It’s a perplexing world when it comes to many things, but especially within the dynamic of constant warfare and perpetual bloodshed.  Men have been killing each other since the beginning of time and there is no end in sight to this horrific reality.  Unfortunately, it’s a necessity when evil men seek to take and pervert all that is good.  Men like Geraint Jones grew up with this understanding ingrained within them.  Something inside of Geraint spawned a deep and yearning desire to join the ranks of those who had gone before him in service of Great Britain.  Call it rich lineage, familiarity with tradition, or simply the desire to combat the destruction of democracy.  None of those points really need to be argued because the simple fact is, Lance Corporal Jones, a three-tour Iraq and Afghanistan veteran of the British Army, did his duty impeccably. 

The reason for joining doesn’t matter all that much when it comes to the actions of men who stand at the gate.  They might fight for “Queen and Country”, to avoid jail time, for college money, or a dutiful sense of purpose brought on by family ties… Either way, all models of soldiering have shown courage in the darkest moments amongst the most horrific of circumstances.  Our allies are to be looked at with the utmost of admiration.  Very often they serve countries that offer very little in support upon return from the battlefield.  As Americans, we need to offer them the same support we’d show our own because they too offered their lives in support of our way of existence.  Many of these brave men and women have never even experienced America, save for what’s shown through the media.  There’s a certain beauty contained in the faith to go forward in support of allies.  Let’s let Geraint do the rest of the talking though.     

Can you talk a little bit about growing up in Wales?

GJ: I grew up in a middle-class home and dad was an estate agent which is like a real estate agent here in the states, and mum was a pharmacist.  Neither of them had served in the military or anything like that.  Both of my granddads served in the Air Force.  One of them was in a bomber command group which was a part of the Lancaster Bomb Groups that flew over Germany and he got shot down.  He did a full tour with them which was crazy because they had a 75% casualty rate.  He signed up as soon as he was old enough to serve in the RAF right when the war was starting.  He transferred to the Army and he finished his time over in India in the war out there.  

He never talked much about it and he definitely didn’t push it on me.  He didn’t really start talking about those things until I started my time in the military then he’d talk to me a little bit about it.  He had a brother who joined up right at the end of the war.  He was at Dunkirk, D-Day, and all these other battles.  He was heavily decorated and served until he was in his 60’s.  He was basically married to the Army.  I used to really enjoy talking to him about his experiences.  I was obsessed with the Army as a child and playing soldiers.  I don’t really know why that was, though.  I never had it forced on me and we didn’t live close to an Army camp or anything like that.  I just felt like I wanted to do it from a very young age.  

I just remember as a kid rolling up my comforter and pretending it was a trench and things like that (laughs).  I don’t know where that came from but it was in me. I don't know where that stuff came from.  I wanted to be a pilot at first but as I started to get older I started to think about the Army.   The idea was that I'd go to the Officer Training Academy and that I’d become an officer.  That was the plan and I tried out for the board when I was 17 and I failed that board the first time.  I was told to come back in 18 months and looking back 17 year old me was not ready to be commanding anything at all (laughs).  At the time I was really bitter about it but now that I look back I think to myself, “Dude, you weren’t even ready to be a man yet.”  

At that point, I decided to go enlist in the Reserves.  I went to college, and when I was in college Iraq happened.  The idea was to stick with the Reserves through higher education then go do a commission and become an officer.  Then, Iraq started up.  There hadn’t been any wars for awhile so I thought to myself, “Shit, I want to get into this now.  I don’t want to wait to finish college and miss out.”  Then in 2003-2004, I started seeing my friends deploy and it made me want to go active duty.  I was over the whole officer idea at that point.  I volunteered as soon as I could to deploy but the Army being the Army took a year to finally get me in a unit that was headed to Iraq.

 

What do you think about the way you were raised helped you in your military career?

GJ: I think one of the greatest things about my parents was that even though they obviously didn’t want me to go to war, they never once tried to stop me from joining. I was just raised to be a good person and not being an asshole goes a long way in the military.  I didn’t have a hard childhood so there was a steep learning curve going in as an enlisted soldier.  Most of the guys in the U.K. are joining because they need a job and they have some rough backgrounds.  In one of our platoons we had two guys whose mothers had been murdered.  It was crazy how many guys had rough backgrounds.  I had a very soft background.  I played rugby and other contact sports growing up but when it came to emotional toughness I wasn’t tough at all.  

In some ways it helped me out because I think every unit needs a mix of different personalities and backgrounds.  You don’t want everyone to be a hard ass.  Sometimes you need someone with a softer touch.  Being involved in team sports from a very young age was also very helpful.  The most competitive team sport in the world is combat so being raised in sports helped me in that way.  I already knew a lot about teamwork when I joined the military.  In individual sports you don’t really have to think about others but when you play on a team it translates really well in the military life.  You have to actually think about your actions and how they affect the other person to your right or left.  

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Talk about your career advancement a little bit and why you decided to join the infantry.  

GJ: I’m not trying to diss the other occupations in the military, but when I think Army, I think of the infantry.  There was no other job in my eyes.  Infantry was the Army, the Army was infantry and that’s all I wanted to do.  There was never any doubt in my mind about being infantry.  The way that it works in the U.K. in the Reserves is a lot like the National Guard over here in the United States.  Your regiment kind of covers a specific territory and that’s the way it works.  You join a regiment and they recruit from that specific area.  My regiment had a history of over 300 years so there was a major lineage there.  Chances are if you’re joining a certain unit, you’re probably joining the same unit that your grandfather served with in WWII.  I thought that was really cool and I love that heritage.  You could join the Officer Training Corps and go to college but the recruiters told me that joining the Reserves would be a better way to go as far as training.  

They worked it so I could be a signaler so I could basically just be an understudy to the Platoon Commander.  There was a reasonably decent training budget in those days so we’d do a lot of training exercises in places like Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  Looking back on that training now, it seems so antiquated because we were essentially training for the Cold War and a Russian invasion.  We had some experience in terrorism from our war with Northern Ireland, but overall the understanding of terror was not a major one.  Essentially we were only training for conventional warfare.  I think conventional warfare training is always very important because that’s essential to soldiering but at the end of the day you also need to train with specificity. We carried everything in training and part of that training was covering major distances in full kit.  I remember doing patrol competitions within my unit and covering major distances to the point where we were essentially moving for two days straight.  It was raining, cold, and just horrible.  It’s the kind of stuff you can only do when you’re young.  You get to a certain age and inherit a little too much logic and start thinking, “This is just fucking stupid (laughs).”  I was in their ear all the time about getting into a regular unit that would see some fighting in Iraq.  Instead they put me in this composite unit that was doing force protection and I was pretty devastated by that. 
 

I’m not trying to diss the other occupations in the military, but when I think Army, I think of the infantry.  There was no other job in my eyes.  Infantry was the Army, the Army was infantry and that’s all I wanted to do.
— Geraint Jones (British Army, OIF, OEF Veteran)

What happened when you got to your unit?  

GJ: I wanted to be in a unit that was conducting strike operations and things of that nature.  Things were getting pretty hot in Iraq in 2006.  I wanted to be doing those door kicking missions in Basra, instead I was placed with a unit that was going to be guarding the Basra Airfield Base on the outskirts of the city.  I knew for a fact that wasn’t going to be an aggressive location and they weren’t going to be proactive in going after anyone.  I tried to get out of it as much as I could and get in with a different unit, but the choice was basically to go with them or not go at all.  I sucked it up and went out there.  I caught a lucky break when they needed one fire team to do protection for the EOD guys so I was thrown into that right off the bat.  That was awesome because we were constantly on the move.  

The whole situation in 2006 was kind of spiraling out of control because we were over-stretched in Basra.  We had two bomb disposal teams and they were constantly going out because we were finding IEDs all the time.  That was the first job in rolling out with those guys and that was absolutely crazy when I think about it now.  When you find an IED you’re essentially going to go dispose of something that’s purposely designed to kill you.  It’s not like, “I’m just going to go out on patrol and see what happens.”  When you’re going out to an IED location, you’re going to a position where the enemy’s purposely chosen that spot as a position to kill you.  
 

What was that like rolling up on a position for the first time? 

GJ: I remember heading out on that first mission outside the gates and they told us to look for large piles of trash where IEDs could be hidden.  We made our way outside of the base and it was essentially all trash everywhere (laughs).  Seeing the locals for the first time was weird too.  I’d traveled before quite a few times to different countries but being in that environment of a war-torn country was quite different.  We were in these vehicles called “Snatch Land Rovers” and they’re basically up-armored Land Rover Defenders.  I use that term “up-armored” very loosely because they were essentially useless on the armor side of things.  They weren’t allowed to be used in Basra City anymore because when they’d get hit, they’d basically get turned inside out.  We were just utilizing those vehicles on the main roads.  The team I worked with mostly covered Route Tampa.  We were with another bomb disposal team that was embedded with an armor unit.  They couldn’t use our vehicles to go out on missions because it was just fucking suicidal.  

We had this rack behind the driver with the electronic counter-measures in place.  The way this was designed by some asshole sitting in some lab somewhere was that you had to get these butterfly clips to sit perfectly on the bottom of the rack to work, and it was just something where even doing it in a classroom was really tough.  Doing it in a moving vehicle was utterly impossible.  It was just another kit fuck-up which was just a travesty and got a lot of guys killed.  You’d hear these things start to beep and you’d be terrified out on patrol because as soon as it started beeping you’d think, “As soon as that battery dies we’re going to die.”  I’ve got all this extra body armor on where I look like some stupid fucking medieval knight and it’s essentially non-essential extra armor that just gets in the way.  I finally changed the battery and I remember standing up and feeling something on my back.  I forced myself up because I just thought it was some vehicle strap and as I stand all the way up I feel my friend like frantically slapping me because I was actually between his legs and lifting him through the turret (laughs).  

So, here we are hurtling down some road in Basra at night and he’s about to go flying through the turret.  I’m betting we looked like complete assholes (laughs).  That was my first mission.  There was one point where we were going to get out and I didn’t hear on the comms that they’d changed their minds about dismounting.  So, I’m headed out of the vehicle through the back of the truck and I’m basically halfway out when I realize the tarmac is still moving beneath my boots (laughs).  That was my introduction to Basra.  I got pulled off that team though because they were finding out a lot of the NCOs in these Reservist units, just weren’t ready for those leadership positions.  It’s no offense to Reservists because I knew some really damn good soldiers but in this particular unit it was a bit of an issue with the difference in training.   I was a lance corporal and doing a full corporal, and sometimes sergeant’s job.  It pissed me off because they were getting the fucking pay and yet I’m doing their job (laughs).  They needed to move me to take over a section.

What was that like rolling up on a position for the first time? 

GJ: We were heading out on that first mission outside the gates and they told us to look for large piles of trash where IEDs could be hidden.  We made our way outside of the base and it was essentially all trash everywhere (laughs).  Seeing the locals for the first time was weird too.  I’d traveled before quite a few times to different countries but being in that environment of a war-torn country was quite different.  We were in these vehicles called “Snatch Land Rovers” and they’re basically up-armored Land Rover Defenders.  I use that term “up-armored” very loosely because they were essentially useless on the armor side of things.  They weren’t allowed to be used in Basra City anymore because when they’d get hit, they’d basically get turned inside out.  We were just utilizing those vehicles on the main roads.  The team I worked with mostly covered Route Tampa.  We were with another bomb disposal team that was embedded with an armor unit.  They couldn’t use our vehicles to go out on missions because it was just fucking suicidal.  

We had this rack behind the driver with the electronic counter-measures in place.  The way this was designed by some asshole sitting in some lab somewhere was that you had to get these butterfly clips to sit perfectly on the bottom of the rack to work, and it was just something where even doing it in a classroom was really tough.  Doing it in a moving vehicle was utterly impossible.  It was just another kit fuck-up which was just a travesty and got a lot of guys killed.  You’d hear these things start to beep and you’d be terrified out on patrol because as soon as it started beeping you’d think, “As soon as that battery dies we’re going to die.”  I’ve got all this extra body armor on where I look like some stupid fucking medieval knight and it’s essentially non-essential extra armor that just gets in the way.  I finally changed the battery and I remember standing up and feeling something on my back.  I forced myself up because I just thought it was some vehicle strap and as I stand all the way up I feel my friend like frantically slapping me because I was actually between his legs and lifting him through the turret (laughs).  

So, here we are hurtling down some road in Basra at night and my friend is about to go flying through the turret.  I’m betting we looked like complete assholes (laughs).  That was my first mission.  There was one point where we were going to get out and I didn’t hear on the comms that they’d changed their minds about dismounting.  So, I’m headed out of the vehicle through the back of the truck and I’m basically halfway out when I realize the tarmac is still moving beneath my boots (laughs).  That was my introduction to Basra.  I got pulled off that team though because they were finding out a lot of the NCOs in these Reservist units, just weren’t ready for those leadership positions.  It’s no offense to Reservists because I knew some really damn good soldiers but in this particular unit it was a bit of an issue with the difference in training.  I was a lance corporal and doing a sergeant’s job.  It pissed me off because they were getting the fucking pay and yet I’m doing their job (laughs).  They needed to move me to take over a section.

What do you remember about Basra specifically and what were the difficulties over there?  

GJ: Basra, at the time, was a city of about two million people so right off the bat you have a major populace which brings its own issues when you’re under strength.  It was predominantly Shia because by the time I got there most of the Sunnis had been run out of the town or killed.  Initially, there were a few British bases across the city and then a couple of logistics camps on the outskirts.  What was happening is that we were closing these smaller bases because they were getting absolutely hammered every day.  We didn’t have enough troops to maintain those bases.  It was a full blown insurgency with Jaysh al-Mahdi (Sadr’s guys) controlling that insurgency.  They had a lot of the local police working with them to the point that we didn’t work with the police at all.  They just couldn’t be trusted.  We had basically two battle groups trying to control and contain a city of two million people.  

Those battle groups were undermanned as well because a lot of people were leaving the Army as fast as they could.  We were supposed to have seven guys in the back of our vehicles and most times we’d have two.  The lead vehicle might have four if you were lucky.  The difficulties were caused by having a few different base locations on completely different sides of the city and essentially having to fight your way to re-supply these places that were in constant need.  These camps needed new supplies all the time because they’d expended so much ammunition and then utilized the rest of whatever they had for food and water and all that.  So, we had to travel all the way across this hostile city to deliver supplies.  We basically only had enough troops to run one operation a day and that operation would be a re-supply run.  Essentially, we were just doing our best to hold our positions.  And it’s a typical city with high-rise buildings and people packed in everywhere.  The other difficulty was just the terrain, the heat and the environment.  Just existing in those conditions are so tough. 

Were there any American units in Basra?  

GJ: We saw some American Special Operations units from time to time but Basra was our area of operation, so there wasn’t really an American presence to be spoken of.  The Danes chipped in on the first tour.  We’d see American units out on Route Tampa from time to time as well.  I was so unhappy with that first tour that I stayed on for a second tour.  I didn’t get to see much action on that first tour.  It was infuriating because there was a lot of action to be had in Basra.  I mean I remember standing in my guard tower and seeing this massive firefight kickoff in the city.  

You’re sitting in that position feeling like a complete limp-dick and some of the guys were okay with that.  I wasn’t.  I’d say there was a dozen of us or so that just wanted to be in every fight.  It was worse than being back in the U.K. in many ways, because you’re sitting there watching those tracers bounce around and vehicles flying around.  Then you see these guys come back into camp and they’re smoking cigarettes and if everyone was okay they’d be laughing and joking.  I’d see them and think, “You fuckers.  That’s what I want to be doing.”  I volunteered to stay on for a second tour.  I did a couple weeks back home for some retraining and went back out there.  
 

What was that second tour of Iraq like for you? 

GJ: The regiment I was going to be with took over while I was back in the U.K. and while I was heading back to England they were all coming into country.  It was night time and I could hear one of my best friend’s voices from back home on the tarmac.  I found him and I remember telling him how badly I wished I didn’t have to go back to the U.K. for a few weeks.  Whilst I was back home during that short amount of time, I remember seeing us taking our first casualties.  We had four fatalities during the first couple of weeks.  It was this really weird, almost surreal feeling because here I am back at home with my parents and we all know I’m going back to this place where things are starting to get really rough.  My unit was getting into 6 and 7 hour running firefights in the city.  That was common.  I couldn’t wait to get back in the fucking fight.  We were over-stretched in Basra.  They were having to open up an armored sleeve to get in and out of the city, so basically they were creating this protected route through the city.  We had to do that every time we were bringing a logistics convoy into and out of the city.  So when I finally got back to Iraq, I was basically going in as a straight swap because this unit had lost someone.  That first night I got there they were off for the night.  I creep into this tent where my new section is and take my time undressing so I don’t wake them.  As soon as I lay down in my rack, rockets start coming into the camp.  

It was actually a pretty cool introduction though because everyone woke up and all of a sudden I’m hearing one of my best friends from back home talking.  I then found out that he was going to be my driver.  It was really hilarious though because they just assumed I’d come over from the unit they were replacing so they thought I had all this experience in mounted patrols.  Truthfully, I was coming over from another unit and had absolutely no experience with our vehicles.  I was about to be a squad leader for these guys and I didn’t even know how to open the back ramp on our truck (laughs).  The other thing is I’d really never been into the city (laughs).  I had zero training in strike operations or what we were about to be doing all the time.  I had to learn everything on the move.  What it boiled down to was, I’d be the team commander in the lead vehicle and whenever they see a potential threat from the turret, we’d stop, get out, and move ahead to checkout the threat.  

That’s about as much training as you need.  We’d go up there, poke around, and kick it (laughs).  And you’re just hoping that it doesn’t blow up in your face.  I don’t know the conversion into fahrenheit but I can tell you it got up to 70 degrees celsius (158 degrees fahrenheit) in the back of our vehicles.  Half the time we’d be passed out in the back because of the heat.  You’d get out of the vehicle when you stopped, wander around to where your officer was pointing, then stumble back into the vehicle and pass out again (laughs).  Going out into the city was when things started getting more tasty as far as contact.  I remember one time I was supposed to take this team onto a rooftop and check things out from that position.  The house was empty and we made it out onto the rooftop.  As we look across, we start taking fire from across the way and all we see is a bunch of tracer rounds going right over our heads.  I just tell my guys, “Don’t worry guys.  That’s probably just some celebration fire going over our position.”  

My little brain just couldn’t deal with the fact that the enemy was engaging us (laughs).  It was too weird of a thing for my mind to handle in the moment.  And one of my guys says to me, “No, I’m pretty sure they’re shooting at us.”  The next thing you know Apaches come in and just smoke the treeline.  I was like, “Alright, looks like they were shooting at us (laughs).”  I was super chill in the moment because I just couldn’t get it through my head I was being shot at.  Even when the Apaches came in and smoked these guys I was thinking, “Ahh, that’s cool!” rather than, “Holy shit, they just saved my ass (laughs).”  Iraq for me was a very disorienting experience because it was what you called a “gunners war.”  The guys in our turrets were laying down 30 mm fire and just smoking people.  A lot of our trucks would come back to camp guns empty.  But, when you’re in the back of the vehicle you’re really just letting your gunners go to work from the turret.  So, you’re passed out in the back because of the intensity of the heat and every once in awhile your gunners are just getting after it from the turret.  It was very disorienting in that way.

I remember this genius brigadier general having this wonderful idea of going out with us.  He knew we were getting smashed every time we went out at night, so he thought of the bright idea to go out in the day.  Of course, there was a reason we went out at night.  The enemy could see you coming from miles away during the day so by the time you got there they were ready to go to work.  But, let’s just throw out logic and listen to the brigadier.  He never even made it out of the front gate because he went down with heatstroke in the back of our vehicle before we even left camp (laughs).  And of course we still had to go out on the operation.  One of our turret gunners was shot in the head that operation and luckily he survived it, but we shouldn’t have even been out there during the day.  We found out that one was a sniper and he was fucking good.  He ended up being responsible for a lot of British deaths.  Our main battle tanks were out in front of us because they’re the only thing that can stand the hits from IEDs.  It tells you something when we were going out with main battle tanks and basically a company of Warrior fighting vehicles.  

I remember looking out of the turret sometimes and thinking, “Fuck me, this looks like something out of Rommel (WWII) or Afrika Korps.”  It was a shit ton of firepower with us and we needed every bit of it.  That’s when it dawned on me about how fucked the situation was because you really couldn’t utilize this firepower in the way you needed to.  This city was basically two million people so threats could come from everywhere.  You’re not really dealing with that much of a frontline.  I remember walking out of my lead vehicle and thinking, “Alright, I’ve got all this firepower with me but right now that doesn’t really matter.  I’m all alone outside of my vehicle.”  In that moment you realize there are people watching you, sighting in on your position, pushing buttons and hoping their plans work to kill you.  I remember how ridiculous our IED operations were too.  Because our ROE (Rules of Engagement) were so soft out there it very often endangered British soldier’s lives.  We found this big box and of course our procedure would be to shoot this box if it looked like an IED because that was an easy and cheap way to disarm it.  Well our leadership called up to higher and was told, “No, don’t shoot that because it could cause a ricochet and result in civilian lives lost.”  

So, at that moment, I guess Iraqi civilian lives were more important to our country than British soldiers.  They told us that we had to go up and check it.  I knew I had to go straight down the road and really had no fucking cover.  We start moseying on down and I tell my guys to back off and just let me handle it.  Reason being, bringing more guys up to the IED could result in more casualties.  I walk up to this big ass box, open it, and there’s these big artillery shells packed in expanding foam.  I thought, “Fuck.”  At that point, I knew what I was seeing but it wasn’t quite sinking in.  I was really only half awake from the heat.  I literally thought, “Why the fuck am I standing here so long?  I should probably get back to the truck (laughs).”  So, I walk back to the vehicle, jump in, stick my head up out of the turret, let the boss know what it is, and ask for permission to fire on it.  There’s this huge fucking explosion and I only realize later in life, “The only reason it didn’t go off is because our counter-measures were in place and were jamming the signal.”  100% somebody was down the road yelling “Allahu Akbar!” and wondering why the fuck their button wasn’t working (laughs).  I guarantee there’s footage of me on some Iraqi hard drive looking like a complete dumbass walking up to this box (laughs).                   

We had four fatalities during the first couple of weeks.  It was this really weird, almost surreal feeling because here I am back at home with my parents and we all know I’m going back to this place where things are starting to get really rough.  My unit was getting into 6 and 7 hour running firefights in the city.  That was common.  I couldn’t wait to get back in the fucking fight.  
— Geraint Jones (British Army, OIF, OEF Veteran)

Do you remember some of the particular dangers of Basra?  

GJ: Basra Palace was pretty much the most mortared place in Iraq at the time.  I remember the palace being mortared something like 100 times in one day.  You had to move around in your gear just to move from place to place on your base.  One of my good buddies got hit by shrapnel in the back of his legs and luckily was close enough to the chow hall that he could stagger into the building before he collapsed.  The medics were able to slap a couple of tourniquets on and save him.  I remember bitching one time because I had an off night and our platoon sergeant told me to come fill some sandbags.  

We had a few rockets come into base while I was filling those sandbags and one of them impacted the metal sunscreen above our housing units.  The back half of the rocket went straight through my particular housing and absolutely shredded it.  I would’ve been dead for sure had I not been filling those sandbags.   We were getting constantly harassed all the time by small arms fire, rockets, and mortars.  That’s not to mention all of the potential for IED attacks every time you went into the city.  Our units would be strung out across the city almost constantly engaged in battle of some sort.  We also had all these smaller camps taking fire for hours on end sometimes.  I remember in particular there was a factory across from one of our camps with hundreds of windows, and they’d engage us from those windows for hours.      
 

Do you remember your first experience with loss? 

GJ:  My first feeling of loss was in those pre-deployment stages on my first tour.  I went through the training cycles with a couple of the same individuals and I got close to these two guys.  They went to a different unit than me but I stayed close to them and kept up.  One night their battalion got hit by a really bad daisy-chain IED attack.  It was like a three vehicle patrol and they all got lit up.  I was on guard and I saw one of their officers coming into camp.  He was totally white-faced and looking like he’d seen a ghost.  He’d been to the hospital to see the guys who were brought in.  I had this weird gut feeling and wanted to ask him about one of my buddies but decided it wasn’t a very good chance that he got hit.  A couple weeks later I got a letter from my friend and in it he said, “I’m doing good but Chris got his leg blown off and now he’s home.”  He’d been in the lead vehicle and everyone in that vehicle lost limbs or died.  

Up until that point, I didn’t even have personal injury insurance because I thought, “Nothing will ever happen to me.”  As soon as I heard about Chris I thought, “Jesus Christ, this is serious shit.”  With the Basra battle group, there was a steady rate of guys getting killed and injured but I didn't really feel it until it personally affected me.  You hear about it and you know something’s happening but it’s really hard to properly grasp until it hits you personally.  The battalion I was with on that 2nd tour lost four guys in the first couple of weeks before I even got there.  Everyone was grieved by that but I hadn’t personally known them so it didn’t affect me that harshly.  One of the guys was a best friend to guys that ended up being some of my best friends, so that was really weird because they had this special reverence for a guy I didn’t even know.  I was very fortunate to not lose a really close friend while I was there.  I lost some comrades but nobody super close to me.  
 

Can you tell me more about that second tour?  

GJ: I missed the first month which was actually the worst month.  We began to realize after awhile that we wouldn’t be able to hold onto all the bases within the city.  We started to close those bases one by one because we simply didn’t have the troop strength in a city of two million people, to maintain these camps.  Logistically, those were actually some tough trips because closing these bases took some time. We were running missions and picking up insurgents. Sometimes we’d be picking them up from SAS and sometimes from our own guys.  My platoon was kind of the support for those areas. A lot of people lost their lives going into the city because quite honestly anytime we went in we were getting smashed. The IEDs were getting really good at that point and even managing to pierce a main battle tank on one occasion, taking the driver’s legs off.  They were getting very sophisticated with the EFPs to the point where they had the angles so calculated that the penetrating device was coming up between the vehicle skirts on the tracks. They were fucking good at what they were doing at that point. What really happened after that point was really fucked up.

The British command went to the Jayish Mahdi and basically asked for a ceasefire.  They said, “We’ll leave the city in return for you not attacking our troops anymore.”  We went to pull out of Basra Palace and there wasn’t a single shot fired. The militia actually lined the route and picketed to make sure no offshoot militias started any trouble with us.  We essentially got waved out of town by the militia which was fucking humiliating. Then as we were leaving the city they fired like thirty rockets at us as like a big “fuck you.” We had a prison full of these fucking guys too and what happened next was we started releasing a bunch of them under our command’s orders.  All these fucking insurgents that we spilled blood to go get started getting released as part of a deal we made with the militia. The deal was absolutely never sanctioned by the Iraqi government and they knew nothing about it. The worst part about it was we were manning the gates as they let these guys go. So the guys that we had directly captured were leaving right in front of us.  We had to stand there and watch these guys walk away.

Even if you think it’s a smart political move to do this, have the fucking sense of leadership to let another unit come in and be the ones to release them.  They walked over this bridge to where all these trucks were and they’d start up with this celebratory gunfire. Now this gunfire was basically aimed at our camp and coming into our base.  Nobody was allowed to return fire because they said it was celebratory. It was absolutely fucking infuriating. At that point, we all really wanted to leave Iraq. I remember there was this big operation we were supposed to go on which was going to take us into the Shia Flats which was basically Basra’s version of Baghdad’s Sadr City, and our mission was to deliberately clear that area.  We were fucking pumped because anytime you’d go into this area you’d get smoked. They were doing estimates and we knew we were going to lose some guys but we were pumped. We knew we were fucking good so we knew that we’d fucking smoke them as a concentrated force. I sum up my Iraqi tours as basically walking in front of the lead vehicle and being a human tripwire (laughs). So, with this particular operation, I was going to go in and prove myself as a soldier.  This operation got taken off the table of course.

We had different colored routes throughout the city.  So for instance, the operation would be dictated as, “You guys are going to travel down the red route until we hit an IED or find an IED at which point we will use the i-star to follow the people back to their house and then we’ll plan an operation to capture/kill.”  That made sense on paper but when you’re the guy on the lead vehicle it makes you feel extremely fucked. I remember grabbing these folded rubber things from the Platoon Sergeant and I said to him, “What are these?” He told me to not ask questions and put them in the back of the vehicle.  It turns out they were body bags.

I was like, “Oh cool, we get to carry our own body bags (laughs).” It made you realize how fucked the situation was. Sometimes guys would run out of the briefing room throwing up because we were basically being told that we’d stay out until we hit an IED.  You know how sometimes in football you know you’re going to get hit but you just have to take that hit. It’s like that except worse. That second half of the tour was just frustrating because you know the city is going to shit and you know the bad guys are still prevalent, but there’s nothing you can do because of your command.  We started going into the desert to makeup range packages. At that point we were just all thinking, “If we’re doing range packages just send us home.” Right after we left, American forces came down with an Iraqi division and took the city back.

I felt so ashamed. It wasn’t our fault. Our command embarrassed us and we were never let off our leash.  Our Rules of Engagement were basically “immediate threat to life” or nothing at all. Basically, they’d have to be shooting directly at you in order for you to have a chance to return fire. We’d have to call in American Apaches because our British helicopters were so restricted on returning fire. Our i-star in the air above us would see basically a platoon of guys coming right at us and we weren’t allowed to engage until they began engaging us.  So basically the enemy always had the offense. I had to actively think about returning fire and whether or not that would land me in prison. It was fucking bullshit.

All these fucking insurgents that we spilled blood to go get started getting released as part of a deal we made with the militia. The deal was absolutely never sanctioned by the Iraqi government and they knew nothing about it. The worst part about it was we were manning the gates as they let these guys go. So the guys that we had directly captured were leaving right in front of us.  We had to stand there and watch these guys walk away.
— Geraint Jones (British Army, OIF, OEF Veteran)

Talk about the relationship between American troops and British troops.  

GJ: Military is all built on tradition.  You have a regimental tradition and regimental pride.  There’s a major tradition built around the United States and the United Kingdom working together going all the way back to when we fought each other (laughs).  All of the big endeavors like WWI, WWII, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even the peacekeeping missions we’ve done together. We share a common language so in these environments where we’re both out of our comfort zones in another culture, we get along and fight well together.  I can meet Marines here in San Clemente who were in the same towns as me in Afghanistan on the other side of the world. It’s fucking crazy because we basically had the same experiences and feel the same way about those experiences. It’s not as true with all nationalities and with all of our allies.  I think Americans and Brits are very much aligned in the military.

The Marines I see around here remind me so much of British soldiers. I can’t think of any instance where we had a negative experience with American troops. When we were on tour in Afghanistan we used to walk to Camp Leatherneck because the food was much better.  We’d be walking and our own troops would just drive by us. All these little man-fucker POGs would just drive right past us and every single time an American vehicle would drive by, they’d offer to give us a ride. It never failed. We’d swap kit with them all the time too. We’d have hardly anything to offer except maybe a beret, and we’d come out of their accommodations with all this fucking kit (laughs).  American guys would swap anything for insignia or patches. There’s just this long tradition and it really keeps getting stronger and stronger the more we fight together.

I believe other successes are coming in my life but I don’t believe they’ll be any better than what I achieved in the military.  We can’t make our group inclusive and just work with other veterans. I think that’s a completely arrogant attitude to take on. It’s like if I had this attitude coming into writing a script for a military movie of,  “I’m a fucking veteran so I know more about this than anyone else,” when there’s a guy working with me who’s been writing scripts for 34 years. It’s very arrogant to think I know more than that guy, even if I have that firsthand experience of being a soldier.  On the other hand, I think we do have to be thankful that we have the launchpad of the military to get into these other fields. There’s a certain perspective it gives you that can’t be duplicated. I don’t think you should try to put those combat experiences too far behind you because when those experiences need to be brought back up for present day things, you may have just blocked it all out.  It’s nice to be able to draw off of those memories and say to yourself, “Well fuck me, I used to do much harder things in my military career. This isn’t that hard.”

Even things as simple as kitting up (putting on all of your gear) that you did every day is so much harder than anything else we do as civilians on a day to day basis. So, when you’re in your house and the AC isn’t working properly maybe you don’t fucking bitch about it so much.  But, you can’t react with that kind of gratefulness if you’ve blocked those things off. There’s a fine line there between just constantly reliving past military glories (laughs) and forgetting everything completely and blocking it all out.  I’ve been working on some Afghanistan stories here lately for my book, and I’ve felt completely better through the experience of simply writing about it all.  I realize I don’t have it bad in my civilian issues.  Here I am worrying about a breakup after a long relationship, and I’m suddenly recounting all these memories of losing team members in a combat zone.  You start to realize things aren’t as serious here in the civilian world.  

I remember hearing this one particular passage as a child growing up.  One of the verses was “...They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them nor the years condemn, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them...”  That’s kind of being used on Remembrance Sunday which is like the same as Veterans Day here in the states.  It’s usually read by a veteran from the Second World War who’s highly decorated.  Then everyone at the assembly repeats, “We will remember them.”  It’s deeply ingrained in our culture.  Now when I see a sunset I think about how lucky I am.  Sometimes, it’s kind of heavy because I think about all I have and those guys are dead.  I realized at that moment how fucking lucky I was to have all the things I have.  The biggest positive effect in our lives from our military service is just realizing how lucky we are to have what we have in a free lifestyle.  Every single one of us is guilty of taking things for granted some days, but hopefully, we do it less than your average civilian.  
 

Talk about your tour of Afghanistan and Helmland Province.  

GJ: What happened when I got back from Iraq, is that I had quite a long leave built up.  I did the back to back tours so that collectively built up my leave.  I had a gut full of the military after Iraq and at that point I kind of figured I was done with the military.  I wasn’t really doing the stuff I wanted to do.  I went back to being a reservist and started working at a gym.  But then I distinctly remember seeing some footage of Afghanistan on the TV and thought, “Oh man, that looks pretty fucking good (laughs).”  Then, my unit that I was on that second tour with got flagged for Afghanistan in 2009.  I thought to myself, “Alright, I’m not missing this fucker.”  

The idea, at the time, was that I was going to start training with North Wales Police and I was going to become a Police Officer and go that career route.  I told my family, “The police cancelled my position so I’m going to Afghanistan instead (laughs).”  That wasn’t true at all and it wasn’t what they wanted to hear either because Afghanistan was starting to get really hot by then.  I went back to my unit and I was supposed to go with this one company but they were already halfway through their tour.  I requested to go with A Company because that was my old unit and they hadn’t left yet.  That way, I could get a full tour.  I went to pre-deployment training on my own because the unit had already done most of their training cycle.  

There was another individual replacement I became friends with named John.  We became really good friends through that process and he deployed a couple weeks ahead of me.  He deployed with the Welsh Guards and was killed before I got there.  I attended his funeral in the morning and that afternoon I left for Afghanistan.  I already knew after Iraq what was on the line going out there.  Every single company that was coming back from Afghanistan was losing guys.  Every day there was something on the news.  We were the first in Helmand Province.  A couple weeks before Johnny died, H., this guy who was one of the most loveable, funny characters from our unit was killed.  We were having a briefing once and he ran through the middle of it naked with a respirator on (laughs).  It was funny because his father was a Regimental Sergeant Major or something like that, but he was always cutting up.  Everyone loved this guy so much.  He’d often be in trouble for doing these super hilarious things.  We knew what we were getting into. I flew out to Afghanistan in the summer of 2009 and the first week or two we were out there, we were just getting climatized at Camp Bastion.

Every couple hours it seemed Chinooks would come to the hospital, and we had this thing called, “Op Minimise,” where they would turn the phones and internet off to stop word of the casualties leaking.   There was this big operation going on at the time called “Operation Panther’s Claw”, where guys were fighting for days just to clear out 500 meters of the green zone.  We finally got our orders to leave at head out to Musa Qala.  It was supposed to be like a 14 or 16-hour drive in our armored vehicles.  Once again, we were in the Warrior fighting vehicles which is a lot like a Bradley.  I remember one of my friends, who had done quite a few Afghanistan tours between ‘06-’09 had said, “Don’t go out in the Warriors because the Mujahadeen had been fighting armor with the Soviets so they know exactly how to take it out.”  I remember him telling me that before I went to Afghanistan.  The first week or two was kind of nuts.  The 16-hour drive ended up taking a few days, and we lost a truck and two AFV’s on the way, including mine.  We had one of those specialist IED sweeping vehicles in front of us but I guess it missed it.  It was the second time in two days this truck had been blown up.  I hadn’t been in it the first time.

Getting blown up was crazy.  One second I was drifting in and out of sleep, the next I had dust forced down my throat, I was choking, and I felt like I’d been kicked in the head. We started shouting at each other.  My team in the back was okay but there was no response from the turret or the driver.  I climbed out the back, and thankfully there was no follow up with small arms like we had been told to expect. Both guys in the turret had been knocked out but one was coming around.  The other couldn’t feel his legs.  I checked on my driver. He was hurt really bad, and I thought he was dead.  I went through my drills anyway, and he started to breathe.  He was really badly hurt, but we got him and the other casualty onto a Chinook and to the hospital.  I thought he would live, but we got news a couple of days later that he had died of his wounds.  That was fucking tough.  It still is fucking tough.

I checked on my driver. He was hurt really bad, and I thought he was dead.  I went through my drills anyway, and he started to breathe.  He was really badly hurt, but we got him and the other casualty onto a Chinook and to the hospital.  I thought he would live, but we got news a couple of days later that he had died of his wounds.  That was fucking tough.  It still is fucking tough.
— Geraint Jones (British Army, OIF, OEF Veteran)

We started getting into contacts, quite often from our sangers. We were living primitive, no running water or electric. It was what I had always wanted from soldiering, patrols, shooting, all that good shit. One day we walked into the wrong area and got hit in an L-shaped ambush as we crossed open ground. One of my best friends went down almost instantly, shot through the neck. He went down but he returned fire. He got an award for that, which is quite right. I remember those bullets clapping by my head and I had another of those ‘I can’t believe this is real’ moments. I was carrying the GPMG, which is the 7.62 mm machine gun, and ran to get up the front of the patrol. I started laying down fire and having the time of my life.

At one point my buddy who was spotting for me spotted two guys breaking from a compound and running for green zone. I lead them with two bursts and they ran straight into it. One was sprawled out and done. I’m not sure what happened to the other but I hope he crawled into some bushes and died. I don’t have any regrets about pulling a trigger. They came to fight and it’s big boys rules. I remember high fiving my buddy when we saw the guy was laid out and done. I shouted something about it being for my driver who had died in that IED strike. Honestly, I just wish I knew for certain I killed more of those fuckers. That was the only confirmed I got. Most of the time you were returning fire onto compounds, and you couldn’t really see the individuals. They were fucking good at using cover.

The tour started to get frustrating as we were getting funneled everywhere by imposed restrictions from our command, and as a company, we went finding and hitting plenty of IEDs.  We ended up staying the night at this FOB (Forward Operating Base) where they had 105mm artillery pieces to support the Musa Qala area.  Whilst we were there we noticed there were eight Warrior vehicles that were already K-Killed (catastrophically damaged) from the company we took over from.  I thought to myself, “Fuck, that’s half of a company’s vehicles.”   I got there to Helmand in July so things were really kicking off.  Most of the time in Iraq we were taking potshots and we were just being harassed constantly.  In Afghanistan, it could be company levels of the Taliban coming to assault our positions.  With the way the terrain was in Musa Qala, we could find good ways to work around IEDs because of it being a lot of open fields.  Now the problem was, there were so many of these damn things out in these open fields that there was a good chance you were going to hit them at some point.  The Taliban was super smart in that area because they began transitioning from big devices to just your little 5 lb. toe poppers.  

They knew they could take more people out of the fight by just taking a guys leg rather than killing him with a massive blast.  We lost another guy to an IED and when I went on R&R we had another IED attack where the driver got really fucked up.  He was a South African guy who was just as strong as a fucking ox, and I think he truly lived just from a consummate strength of will.  Now my friend who was shot through the neck went to Camp Bastion, came back and his first patrol back his vehicle got hit by an IED.  He gets shot through the neck and then his next vehicle patrol he gets blown up.  We were on a patrol shortly thereafter and we patrolled up to the top of this hill, where we were subsequently ambushed with the main weapon being an AGS-17 (Automatic Grenade Launcher).  

Nobody was killed in that ambush but I watched someone go into complete shell-shock and lose it.  That affected me worse than anything to see someone just completely lose their mettle.  The rest of the tour was just on and off ambushes and attacks.  At one point, we tried to make the push further south into Taliban-controlled territory.  I put a lot of rounds downrange during that tour.  I was just telling my friend Sebastian the other day about one day when we built this little toilet out of wood.  I was in there just jerking off when we had an RPG round go by and I just heard the “whoosh” as it passed.  I thought to myself, “I’m just going to sit here and take it if it comes (laughs).”  It was a dud luckily.  You get very blase about it at a certain point and I remember stepping on what I thought was IEDs just to see if it’d go off. Somedays you were just too tired and pissed off to care. That sounds crazy now but that’s how it was. You could get pushed passed a point of giving a fuck about your own life.
 

It was summer fighting season so you kind of just getting used to being around death and the possibility all the time.  But, every time we’d push south things would just go off again because they were waiting for us.  We were lucky that we didn’t take too many casualties. An inch here or there and you maybe lose a team to an IED or a guy to a bullet. You get unlucky or unlucky on a half dozen occasions and that’s the difference with you losing a couple of guys or twelve. I say a couple because no infantry company out there was getting so lucky that they lost nobody. That was just the hard truth. By the time I got to the end of the tour I actually wanted to stay, which might sound crazy.  I was living the life of a soldier and I loved it.  I volunteered to do back-to-back tours which was denied but I wanted to be there.  

I joined because I wanted action and it felt like a real infantryman’s war.  At the same time, I felt like we were always kind of on the bubble, unable to affect things the way we really needed to.  I’ve been shot at, mortared, hit with an IED, and in some ways, I still feel like a fraud as an infantryman.  I’ve read some stories about people on your blog having to do some very hardcore things, but I guess there are always going to be better stories.  As a soldier, I think it’s natural to want those better stories because you want the danger.  That same trip that took us so long by convoy into the country, took us almost no time at all on the way out.  The Taliban aren’t fucking stupid, mate.  They saw us leaving in our up-armored vehicles and didn’t block us from leaving.  We didn’t hit a single IED on the way out.  We took a couple potshots but it was probably just some pissed off farmer.  

What were the differences between Iraq and Afghanistan? 

GJ: In both places, there were a variety of attacks.  It might be a single round, widowmaker, a scoot-n-shoot, a victim operated IED, or single mortar round.  And sometimes, it would be a well-coordinated attack where you’re getting hit by daisy-chained IEDs followed by a smashing RPG attack.  Other times it would just be hit and run, guerilla style.  I found that to be the case in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  We were obviously spread too thin in both places.  In Afghanistan, our unit wasn’t dealing with any very long firefights but in Iraq, our unit was sometimes dealing with 5 or 6-hour firefights.  The attacks in Basra, Iraq were often more sustained.  It was just a real mixed bag in both places.  I remember Basra Palace just being mortared constantly throughout the day at times.  It definitely changes with the seasons as well.  You get more fighting in the summers in Afghanistan for sure but that was true in Iraq as well.  The small arms engagements would cook off more often during the summers.  

I think in both places the traditional or non-traditional IED attacks were most commonplace, tactically speaking.  I know Afghanistan traditionally was more of the shooter’s war, especially when you’re looking at 2006-’07.  I had friends over there who were in units that were laying waste to swaths of Taliban fighters because they’d gotten close enough to basically storm the patrol base walls.  By 2009 they’d just realized that harassment was the way to go.  Why stand and fight against us and lose scores of fighters, when you can harass us and achieve an even better result?  It’s a tactically smart move.  The majority of our small arms engagements were harassment or when we tried to push into enemy territory.  In those southern skirmishes, they’d stand toe-to-toe and fight us.  They understood that the best tactic was to IED our track vehicles then let us fuck ourselves (laugh).  They’re not stupid.  They understood that for the most part standing against us on a line was a fucking stupid way to do things.  They’re not going to take out the British Army.  We’d just kill them in droves.  But, they were good at knowing the territory, smashing us with a couple of IEDs, then picking us off in an ambush.  
 

Talk to me about the transition in leaving the Army.  

GJ: The big struggle was kind of accepting the fact that my life as a soldier was over.  Having grown up always wanting to be a soldier, then actually doing the job, it’s still very hard for me to accept that my time in the Army is over.  I’ll never get to be a soldier in combat again.  Just talking about it right now I think, “Fuck me… I’ll never get to do the coolest job in the world again.”  If you were to ask me my identity, I’d still identify as a soldier.  That’s the biggest struggle for me, to be honest.  In Manchester when that bombing at the Ariana Grande concert occurred, I was a couple of blocks away.  I saw the ambulances going by and thought there was a bad wreck.  

Then, I found out what happened and I felt fucking terrible that it happened right around the corner.  I went into town the next day to lay some flowers down and I saw all these people crying.  I started to think, “Fuck me, I’m supposed to be one of the people stopping these things from happening.”  I tried to explain it to this girl I was with at the time and she just couldn’t get it.  She didn’t understand why I was disappointed that I couldn’t stop the attack.  That was my job as a soldier in defending others and killing people that do those kinds of things.  Accepting that it’s over is difficult.  I have a lot of things to look forward to in life but I still go back in my head and miss those things.  

You’ve obviously had some pretty tough days, post-service.  What are some of the difficulties you've faced since leaving the service?  

GJ: Sometimes, things just kind of creep up on you on those hard days.  On a day like today when I’m feeling good, I can’t even really get into my own head and realize what makes the bad days.  It’s hard to understand why I have those terrible days.  Everything about being a soldier is sacrifice and I think when I’ve had suicidal thoughts it usually ties into me feeling like I’m a burden on other people.  I won’t have any bad thoughts for months at a time, then there are days when all I can think about is suicide and that just comes from feeling like a burden to society.  The best thing to do in that scenario in my head is to make society better by not being there anymore.  It’s never been about escaping horrible thoughts in my head.  It’s the fact that I lose my temper, I yell, and I can’t go have a drink without getting fucking shit-faced.  I don’t want other people to have to suffer.  Then, I just simply remind myself that I’d actually be hurting my family and friends much more by taking my own life.  That’s usually what brings me back down to earth.  

What were some of those coping mechanisms?  

GJ: Drugs have been an issue for me and that usually starts with drinking.  What I’ve found in that process though, is that if you’re feeling bad and using drugs/alcohol to get over it, you’ll just end up feeling worse.  Even if you’re the happiest person in the world, you’re going to take some type of drug then eventually have to come down.  That’s the tradeoff for the high.  That’s why they call it a fucking come down.  It makes it so much worse in those moments.  The few times I get night terrors nowadays is mostly when I’m on drugs.  The chances of me having those terrors is so much higher when I’ve been on drugs.  I don’t really mess with it anymore but there was a period where I was self-medicating with MDMA regularly.  I think my longest stretch was about 40 days of self-medication with no breaks.  I only stopped at that time because I went broke.  That was the longest binge.  

I don’t really mess with it anymore but there was a period where I was self-medicating with MDMA regularly.  I think my longest stretch was about 40 days of self-medication with no breaks.  I only stopped at that time because I went broke.
— Geraint Jones (British Army, OIF, OEF Veteran)

I was getting away with it because I was in Hollywood and I had all of these club connections.  I was going out to the club and using these drugs then coming back to the house and continuing to self-medicate.  I remember doing this with people I didn’t even like but it gave me an excuse to use again.  I’d be awake for three to four days straight.  At the end of it, you know you’re going to have to confront these things so you just keep using because that way you don’t have to come down.   It was terribly unproductive.  It’s the same with alcohol as well.  Drinking can be a good experience but masking emotions is never a good reason to drink.  Any time I’ve gone out a few days in a row, I start to ask myself why I’m going out.  It’s important to perform those self-checks.  I’ve had those days where I put away a bottle of vodka by myself and I realize, “That’s not for fun.  You just wanted to drink to mask things.”  The knock on effect of all that is you continue to feel worse.
 

What would your suggestion be to the guys really struggling?

GJ: Get outside and be in nature more often.  Part of the reason I can have this conversation with you right now is the calming effect of where we are.  We’re watching the waves crash in at sunset and that’s pretty fucking awesome.  Being in nature is therapeutic and sitting here and talking to you is therapy.  It’s a Catch-22 though, I don’t know if I’d ever talked about it without the cocaine.  As a soldier, I’d start talking about it and I’d breakdown.  The last thing you want as a soldier is to start crying because I felt like it made me appear weak.  So, in order to cope with that I’d try drugs and that would make it easier to open up.  That might sound terrible but it’s the truth.  Now that I’ve started going to therapy, I can talk about it without the coke.  You need to get to that place where you’re not relying on other stimulants to make the talks easier.  I’m glad I did drugs at this point in my life so I could realize they’re not helpful, rather than doing it when I felt better.  This might sound strange but doing drugs actually made me realize I needed help more than I even thought.  It kind of accelerated the process of realizing that I was a in a terrible place.  I ended up getting therapy at 33 instead of waiting ‘til 63.          
     
 

What do you enjoy about your time in America? 

GJ: 2012 was my first time in coming to San Diego, and I'll be really honest that I’ve always had a love affair with America.  I enjoy your football, love American history, and reading about history in warfare.  I still feel like American offers the best opportunities across the world.  There are problems in the United States of course, but there are problems everywhere.  I feel like this is the place where you can make the most of yourself.  I’m not a big fan of blind patriotism but I do love the patriotism here in America.  I also love the fact that it’s a super power, militarily speaking.  There’s so much pride in the military here and I really enjoy that.  There’s a little bit of everything here.  You have mountains, beaches, desert, lakes and rivers.  I absolutely love California and it fits my kind of ideology pretty well.  It just feels like the right place for me to be.  I put in for my visa so I could live out here more permanently.  I definitely feel like this place is my home and I’m proud to be here.  
 

Can you talk about what led you into writing and why it’s so important to you?

GJ: Let me be clear that given the choice between writing and soldier, I’d choose soldiering (laughs).  Just like the military though, writing has always been a part of me.  I feel that it’s in my DNA and I’m just meant to do it.  I left my life as a soldier because quite honestly there weren’t a lot more combat tours.  I wasn’t interested in being a barracks soldier so I knew it was time for me to get out.  A lot of my writing is a part of my history in the military, so I get to write about my experiences now either directly or indirectly.  Through these characters, I’m basically allowed to write about who I want to be or who I aspire to be.  I actually enjoy writing about those bits in the barracks where the soldiers are screwing around.  The battle scenes actually bore me but it’s part of the required writing in order for the book to be a whole piece.  


 

Can you talk more in-depth about your books and some of the things you’ve accomplished as a writer?  

GJ:  I’m a co-writer of James Patterson who is one of the world’s biggest authors. There’s a book I’m currently working on called “No Way Out” and that’s about British soldiers in Afghanistan in 2006. They were basically under siege at close quarters for months. It’s an incredible story and I’m very honored to have had a part in telling it. I have a series of historical fiction novels with Penguin Publishing, and that’s my take on life in the Roman army told from the grunt level. I’ve also done some screenwriting, and my own Afghanistan memoir will be published in 2019. I talk about the tour, but I hope that what will set it apart is the full disclosure when it comes to things like my PTSD and drug abuse. If one person learns from it and changes their life in a positive direction, then it will have been a success in my eyes. 
 

Geraint's story is unique just like every soldier or marine's, but the commonalities amongst infantrymen are startling.  Gez's post-military successes are the incredible product of a vigorous driving force few can understand.  This drive is the same instrument that propelled him throughout his decorated military career, where he saw battle in both theaters of combat.  However, Jones' struggles still find him from time to time.  His acceptance of this fact highlights his understanding of PTSD and battlefield trauma.  Sometimes, there's no escaping those inner demons.  Geraint still lives as a soldier and he would honestly tell you that he's content to remember those times as the times when he was making the greatest difference.  That says a lot about the man who's since found major prosperity as a co-writer for one of the most renowned authors in the world.  

Our brothers-in-arms don't just serve the United States of America.  They serve an all-encompassing ideology that defends against the destruction of certain democratic values we hold as vital to the maintenance of our freedom.  Gez proudly served his own nation but even more than that, he served the brotherhood of liberty we value so dearly.  That type of service is so incredibly inspiring.  Think about going to war with an enemy of your ally because of that indomitable fraternal bond.  Men stepping overseas and sometimes losing their lives because of that faith in alliance.  It’s an absolutely beautiful element of our association with our partners in Great Britain, Australia, Denmark, etc… I’d like to dedicate this first blog to those of our British partners who’ve been killed in the Global War on Terror. The pledge of the project today and every day moving forward is to pay our respects to those lost, by displaying the narrative of those still living. Cheers to our brothers in arms across the pond.  Check out Geraint on Instagram: @grjbooks.