Four colleagues had already been killed that year, 2011, by crude explosive devices and Corporal Paul Vice was under no illusions.
“The ground is absolutely riddled with them,” he said. “Your luck is going to run out sooner or later. It’s not if, but when.
“Think of it like this. Five of you are travelling in a car which crashes. One will survive, one will die and the other three will have life-threat- ening injuries.”
They proved to be prophetic words. Just a week later the 31-year-old, who joined the Marines straight from school, was caught in a massive blast.
“I just remember being red hot,” he recalls. “Imagine flying through the air while you are on fire. I was shot like an arrow into a wall, breaking my neck. I couldn’t move but out of the corner of my eye I could see a massive pool of blood forming.”
The veteran of four previous tours to Afghanistan, who was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery earlier on that tour, thought he was going to die.
The main artery in his neck was almost severed and only the quick thinking of a fellow Marine, who pushed his knee into the gaping wound, prevented Corporal Vice from bleeding to death.
“I started thinking ‘this is it’. I was just trying to stay awake,” he adds. “I knew if I went to sleep I wouldn’t wake up.”