Glasgow Warriors forward Lewis Bean fought the Taliban in Afghanistan and admits troop withdrawal is ‘frustrating’

Having served in Afghanistan and fought against the Taliban, Glasgow Warriors forward Lewis Bean finds himself agog as he watches the news these days.

Lewis Bean at the Glasgow Warriors kit launch at the Scottish Rugby Store in Glasgow. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS
Lewis Bean at the Glasgow Warriors kit launch at the Scottish Rugby Store in Glasgow. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

The second-row was involved in tours of duty in Kabul and Helmand Province and remains a corporal in Second Battalion the Rifles.

Watching the end days as western allies withdraw their military presence has been a “frustrating” experience for the 29-year-old who lost colleagues in the conflict.

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Currently taking a sabbatical from the Army, Bean has concentrated on his rugby career in recent years and, after a successful loan spell at Glasgow last season, the Yorkshireman has returned to the Warriors on a permanent deal from Northampton Saints.

Lewis Bean, left, and Stafford McDowall model the Glasgow Warriors kit for the 2021-22 season. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

Recent events in Kabul have brought his time in active service back into sharp focus. Having joined up as a teenager, Bean travelled all over the world with the Army, but it was in Afghanistan that he was operational.

“Operational tours means conflict, and you are going into an area where there is fighting,” he said. “Obviously Kabul has just been taken back by the Taliban. My first tour was in Helmand Province back in 2011 and my second tour, I think it was three years later, was in Kabul. So it’s quite interesting listening to the news about places I’ve been and it’s now all overrun - it’s pretty crazy.

“In 2011 we were on Operation Herrick 15. We were pretty much against the Taliban, down in Helmand, trying to push the Taliban stronghold out. It was pretty full on, if I’m honest, it was in the height of the Herrick campaign.

“It was pretty scary. I think I was 19 when I went over there. My platoon was fairly young but everyone was really excited to get over there and do a job.”

The loss of friends and comrades during the conflict was an inevitable part of army life but no less distressing for that, particularly given the youthfulness of his platoon.

“It is pretty tough. But obviously you’ve got a job to do out there and you just get on with it really. It’s not nice when lads get hurt or get killed, but you just kind of crack on and get through it.”

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His second visit to Afghanistan saw Bean based in Kabul where the nature of his duties changed.

“On my second tour we were basically training the Afghan army and Afghan officers to try and make them a better army,” said Bean, who was speaking at the Glasgow kit launch. “We were providing security for the universities and the students who were trying to learn to become soldiers. They were getting attacked quite a lot of the time so we provided the security over there. That was my role pretty much.”

The final evacuation this week of US forces from Kabul has been poignant for many and Bean seemed at a loss for words as when asked about the Taliban’s return to power.

“I don’t really know what to say. All the hard work that was put in and all the money that was spent and lives lost, it’s a bit of a shame. But people get paid a lot more money than me to make bigger decisions than me. I just had to do what I’m told. It’s a bit frustrating.”

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