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An Army expert who has cleared more roadside bombs than anyone else in history has been awarded the George Medal. Sergeant Major Karl Ley, 29, made safe 139 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the Taliban during a six-month tour of Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
This was more than twice as many as any other bomb disposal expert, and his medal citation praised his "sheer determination, guile and awesome bravery". On one operation he defused 42 IEDs within just 72 hours, and at times he had to clear bombs with insurgent mortars and gunshots landing as little as 30 metres away from him.
But Sgt Maj Ley, a married father-of-three from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, modestly played down his courage under fire: "If you're being shot at, you get down on the deck. So you might as well get rid of the bomb while you're down there."
Asked what went through his head when he was defusing a Taliban bomb, he said: "We really do just see it as a job, something that needs to be done. I'm generally thinking of my next meal more than anything else."
The soldier, who has been promoted since his tour of Helmand, was hailed for accepting an "incredibly high" level of personal risk to make routes safe for his comrades and Afghan civilians.
A total of 131 servicemen and women - most of whom served in 11 Light Brigade's bloody tour of Afghanistan between October 2009 and April this year were awarded honours, nine posthumously.