Steve Heaney

Pathfinder

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Steve Heaney joined the British Army in 1986 aged just 16. In 1987 he was posted to 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment.

In January 1990 he undertook selection for X Platoon more formally known as the Pathfinders, an elite, covert reconnaissance unit that until 1999 officially did not exist nor was it formally recognised by the MOD. Aged only twenty he became the youngest soldier ever to pass the rigorous selection process that mirrors that undertaken by SAS volunteers, it also involves completing Resistance to Interrogation training.

Steve saw active service in Kosovo in 1999. Spearheading NATO’s forces, his patrol was the first team to cross the border from Macedonia into Kosovo tasked with locating and reporting on Russian and Serbian troop movements.

In 2000 Steve 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 massacre 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 where 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 by their commanders 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 who were surrounded worked with the local villagers to construct some hasty defences, consisting of battle trenches and rows of sharpened bamboo stakes to create a ‘pungi field’.

In the early hours of 17 May 2000 the village was attacked by a significant rebel force, the Pathfinders engaged the rebels during a vicious close quarter battle; the first jungle fighting the British Army had conducted for over 40 years. With no reinforcements available to support them the Pathfinders were forced to fight on alone. Steve Heaney was awarded the Military Cross (MC) for his courage and leadership under fire, becoming the first non commissioned 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, saved the villagers and helped to restore peace to Sierra Leone.

As an established motivational and after dinner speaker Steve delivers corporate speeches applying his military values to the business environment, his speeches are full of inspirational tales of hardship, dedication, overcoming adversity, risk and high adventure as well as invaluable business lessons.

Steve Heaney has written about the operation in Sierra Leone in his Sunday Times bestselling book Operation Mayhem which is currently under option as a major motion picture, his second book titled X Platoon, also a best seller was published in 2015.

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