A FORMER army sniper is supporting and helping those affected by war through his weekly podcast.
Hugh Keif, from Warwick, began recording his podcast H-Hour in May to share experiences and provide advice and emotional support to the military community.
The 36-year-old began training in Colchester in 2000 before his first posting to Northern Ireland the following year. Hugh went on to serve in a number of war-torn countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Uganda.
But after shrapnel from a grenade affected his hearing in Afghanistan in 2006, he left the army to work in security and began working to help protect oil workers in Iraq from potential attacks.
During his time on the frontline, his brain was always occupied with ‘work’ and there was no time for fear or to question the situation.
But the dad-of-two revealed his podcast was now helping to bring previously suppressed emotions to the surface.
Hugh said: “It’s only recently I began facing my emotional experience of the situation. The podcast is kind of therapeutic for me as well as for my guests. Mental health comes up a lot.
“I started it because I wanted to help out veterans. I struggled and if I could have had the information I’m sharing, it would have made it easier for me during my ups and downs. Even if it’s just one conversation or one sentence which could help someone out then I feel like I’m doing something.
“There’s nothing better than sitting down with someone who’s had similar experiences. I really enjoy it.”
Hugh’s guests range from ex servicemen and women, their partners and families who had lost someone at war.
One of his more emotional podcasts was with Nick Dunn, one of the ‘Chennai Six’ – a group of men guarding the Indian Ocean from pirates who were jailed for four years after being arrested and detained on weapons charges. They were freed in November following a series of appeals.
Hugh said: “The government wouldn’t help him, he was locked up for nothing, it was a political nightmare. His mum got really sick because of it. “It was just horrific from being wrongly called a criminal to four years of his life down the pan.
“He was crying, I was crying, even the sound technician was crying.”
And another guest the former commander found particularly inspirational was the father of Warwickshire soldier Conrad Lewis, who was shot dead by an Afghan sniper in 2011.
Hugh said: “Conrad’s dad is one of the strongest people I know. The resilience of people is amazing it always surprises me every time and the kindness of people. The family does a lot for charity. They are non-stop relentless and help anyone without question. And I get to speak more and more to these kinds of people – it’s refreshing.”
Hugh who knew Conrad and others who had died in battle, said despite his own emotional turmoil he had no regrets about his time on the frontline.
He added: “If you can help stabilise a province or country and help get them a democratic government society, if that’s the reason you went then your intention is good.
“It may not last – you can’t change a culture in ten years, yet alone a few months. But if I went to Afghanistan for three months and came across the Taliban attacking tribal elders or extorting a village for money and not letting children get education, and we were able to give assistance and supplies – then for that two weeks they had an easier life and that improvement may have saved lives.
“It’s better than nothing to be able to show them what can be done and what can be achieved.
“I would encourage anyone thinking about joining the army to do it. You’ll be a better person for it.”
Visit www.charliecharlieone.com to listen to Hugh’s podcast which can also be found on iTunes and Spotify.