Airlifted deep into the heart of the African jungle in the midst of a bloody civil war, 26 men from the secret British unit X Platoon were sent into combat against 2000 heavily armed rebels.
Intended to last just 48 hours, the mission mutated into a 16 day siege.
Steve Heaney MC
Steve Heaney joined the British Army in 1986 initially as a boy soldier serving as a junior parachutist before completing adult training at Depot Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces. In 1987 he was posted to 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment. During his time in 3 PARA he saw active service in Northern Ireland where he was awarded a GOC’s commendation, and trained overseas in US, Cyprus and Kenya.
In January 1990 he undertook selection for X Platoon more formally known as the Pathfinders and aged only twenty became the youngest soldier ever to pass the rigorous selection process.
Trained in the skill sets required of an operator in this highly specialised unit including Weapons and Tactics, Covert Surveillance and Reconnaissance, High Frequency and Satellite Communications, Combat Medical Techniques and Trauma Management, Advanced Demolitions and Sabotage and Resistance to Interrogation.
Heaney was regarded as one of the most accomplished parachutists in the military and was at the leading edge of High Altitude Parachuting and helped to advance most of the techniques that are employed by Special Forces today such as High Altitude Low Opening (HALO), High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) and the space age High Altitude Parachutist Life Support System (HAPLSS): an insertion method designed to allow operators to jump from altitudes well above 30000 feet. Heaney was also responsible for the initial trials and development of the Military Tandem Master system and became one of a very select few to qualify in this technique.
During his decade long service in the Pathfinders, Heaney led training teams around the world to instruct foreign forces in the tactics, techniques and procedures required to operate as an advance force. He worked alongside and in conjunction with the Special Forces of every one of the UKs partner nations and was instrumental in the forging of relationships and the development of standard operating procedures. Heaney saw active service in Kosovo in 1999 and was the commander of the battle groups most demanding patrol during the initial liberation of the country. His patrol was the first team to cross the border from Macedonia into Kosovo operating beyond the reach and support of the remainder of the battlegroup’s assets.
Steve Heaney MC : Right
High on blood lust, Voodoo and drugs, the RUF rebels were notorious for their savagery.
In 2000 Steve Heaney was the Pathfinder Platoon Sergeant as 26 men of X Platoon were deployed to Sierra Leone as part of a task force responsible for the evacuation of entitled personnel from that country in the face of certain slaughter at the hands of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF); a murderous rebel organisation famed for their brutality and signature atrocity of amputating the limbs of men, women and children.
During this deployment the Pathfinders were tasked to stop the RUF advance towards the country’s airport and then to its capital Freetown. X Platoon, positioned in the village of Lungi Lol were deliberately exposed with the aim of enticing the RUF, believed to number 2000 fighters, to attack their position; the aim being to inflict such a blow that they would think twice about continuing their assault on to the capital. Originally planned to last just 48 hours the mission mutated into a 16 day siege, the Pathfinders working with the local villagers had managed to construct some hasty defences, consisting of battle trenches and rows of sharpened bamboo stakes, they forged homemade claymore mines from old food tins and shrapnel scrounged from the village.
On the 17 May 2000 the village was attacked by a significant rebel force, the Pathfinders engaged the rebels during a vicious close quarter battle.
Steve Heaney was awarded the Military Cross for his actions in taking control of the battle, becoming the first non-officer in the unit’s illustrious history to receive this decoration. The heroic actions of X Platoon at Lungi Lol stopped the RUF advance in its tracks and helped to restore peace to Sierra Leone.
Steve Heaney MC : 2nd from left
Steve Heaney took the decision to leave the Pathfinders in 2001 and having trained as a Close Protection Officer he went to work for an extremely high profile UHNW businessman in London. His role was to provide security and executive protection to the Principal and his immediate family whilst in the UK and holidaying abroad.
In 2002 Steve became a military and security advisor to the United Arab Emirates government, his role was to provide advice and training across the full spectrum of Dismounted Close Combat and Internal Security Operations; a position he held for 13 years.
Steve Heaney has written about the operation in Sierra Leone in his best selling book Operation Mayhem, his second book X Platoon also a Sunday Times bestseller, describes his early life, entry into the Parachute Regiment and then selection and service with the British Army’s elite Pathfinders.
Books by Steve Heaney MC (with Damien Lewis)
2000 Blood Crazed Rebels. 26 Elite British Soldiers. One Man's Explosive Story..