Stuart Tootal

The author of the Sunday Times bestseller Danger Close – Leading 3 PARA in Afghanistan, Stuart was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his outstanding leadership and gallantry for commanding the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment (3 PARA) in Afghanistan in 2006.

The first British unit to be sent into Helmand province in southern Afghanistan in 2006, 3 PARA’s mission was heralded as a peace support operation, but the Taliban thought differently. With just 1,200 soldiers, Stuart held a disparate number of isolated locations against relentless attack in an area that two years later was held by ten times the number of NATO troops. Resources were stretched to breaking point and 3 PARA became engaged in an intensity of combat not experienced by the British Army since the Korean War.

The award of 32 gallantry decorations to 3 PARA, including a Victoria Cross and George Cross, are testimony to the ferocity of the fighting, management of extreme risk and the life and death decisions which Stuart had to make on a daily basis, as he led his people in the most challenging of environments.

Promoted on his return from Afghanistan and tipped as a ‘future head of the British Army’, Stuart also talks about the ethics of leadership and his own very personal decision to resign from a highly successful military career, in response to the poor treatment of his wounded soldiers on their return to the UK.