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Kim Hughes GC

Bomb Disposal Expert, International Best Selling Author, and Public Speaker


Often I would look up and take a moment. Reflecting on my surroundings, I’d always wonder why it was so quiet, even in the throws of battle the silence was deafening. From the sun beaten plains of the Afghan desert, with epic views of the Hindu Kush, to the rainy streets of West Belfast, I always found myself alone. It was the job, as a Bomb Disposal Operator you’re it, the furthest guy forward, nothing but you and that eerie silence for company. At times the loneliness was so overwhelming, I had to give myself a metaphorical slap around the face to bring me back into the room. The nights were often the same, reflecting on the day, the bombs I’d pulled out of the ground, sometimes whilst scrubbing the blood of fallen comrades from my uniform. Death visiting my dreams was to become a constant and I would sometimes force myself to stay awake just for one night without reliving my own demise. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my job, and struggled to find something else that gave me the same rush, the same excitement, and the same unrelenting fear all at once. Walking towards a threat that could literally turn you into red mist in a fraction of a second - whilst everyone else is running away from it, is one of the most surreal things you can possibly imagine. Yes we train for these things, apply threat assessment and sometimes wear protective equipment - sometimes, but knowingly putting yourself in harms way isn’t an easy feat, and takes a lot to get your head around. I have lived some of my darkest moments on the battlefield, from watching friends disappear in front of me - just seconds after having some of the most random conversations, to recovering the bodies of fallen soldiers, to watching innocent children pass away when they played too close to an indiscriminate Improvised Explosive Device. Sounds daunting right! War and conflict takes its toll, and it is very easy to fall into a downward spiral of despair if you stop for just a second too long to think about it. Often we have to reach rock bottom to enable ourselves to be able to stand up, shake it off and continue, and resilience plays a massive part in that. Everyone responds differently to the experiences and circumstances they are presented. There is no right or wrong way to characterise those responses, there can’t be. Everything is relative to that moment right then and there, to that individual. We all have a story, the journey that’s gotten us to where we stand today and it’s not been easy, in fact it’s been hard as hell - both physically and mentally. From the baggage that occupies our minds late into the evening, the stress of maintaining an equilibrium across work, life and relationships, to our own internal demons. A persons ability to be resilient is defined by their character, their motivation and their strength to pick themselves up during times of hardship and move forward. In order to be strong, first you have to accept that you’re weak, everything after that tends to sort itself out.

Kim Hughes GC
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