Colonel Stuart Tootal DSO, OBE

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It is a great privilege for me to be able to bring this story to you for the Famous Faces section, so that it can be immortalised forever on Parachute Regiment web pages. It is vitally important to recognise, that when a leader of men resign their commission in defence of those very same men’s conditions of service, the sub standard equipment they had to endure, and the treatment of his wounded soldiers, true character comes to the fore. The men that served under him in 3 PARA Battle Group in Afghanistan during 2007 have nothing but total respect and empathy for what he did to show his disgust for their treatment..... a great Commander of the Parachute Regiment.
Here is his story:
Stuart joined the Army in September 1987. After completing officer training at Sandhurst he joined the 1st Battalion Queens Own Highlanders in Germany where he initially served as a mechanised infantry platoon Commander.

During his time with the Battalion he completed 2 tours of Northern Ireland and also commanded the Queens Own Highlanders Reconnaissance Platoon during the 1991 Gulf War.
He left the Battalion after a tour as the Adjutant and served as an instructor at the Armoured Reconnaissance Division before being sent to Cambridge University to study for a Master in Philosophy in International Relations. This was followed by 2 years at the Army Staff College where he studied for an MA in War Studies before completing a 2 year tour as Major in Army Plans in the Ministry of Defence.
Stuart commanded B Company of 1 PARA during the period 2000-2002 as an attached officer to the Regiment before becoming the Battalion’s Second in Command. His time with 1 PARA saw additional tours in Northern Ireland and a return to Iraq when 1 PARA participated in the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003. Stuart transferred into the Regiment at the end of his tour with 1 PARA and took a short sabbatical to study Counter-Insurgency at Kings College, London as a visiting research fellow.
Stuart was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and posted as a Military Assistant to the Assistant Chief of General Staff in the MOD in 2004 where he was awarded the OBE.

He was selected to command the 3rd Battalion of The Parachute Regiment in 2005. This included commanding the first UK Battle Group of 1200 soldiers to be sent to Helmand Province in Southern Afghanistan in 2006, for which he was awarded the DSO. The fighting that 3 PARA participated in during their six month tour of duty in Afghanistan has been described as the most intense combat the British Army has experienced since the Korean War. It involved 498 engagements with the Taliban and the expenditure of over 479,000 rounds of ammunition. Fifteen members of the Battle Group were killed in action and another 46 were wounded in combat. The numerous Gallantry awards for the Battle Group included a posthumous Victoria Cross and George Cross. The Victoria Cross awarded to Corporal Bryan Budd VC was an outstanding feat of courage and summed up by Stuart Tootal at the time:
Cpl Bryan Budd was an outstanding young man who had quickly risen through the ranks in the Regiment. Extremely popular, he had a calm and professional manner that inspired confidence in all that worked with him; a natural leader. Bryan died doing the job he loved, leading his men from the front, where he always was.

"Bryan was proud to call himself a Paratrooper and we were proud to stand beside him. One of the very best in all respects, he will be sadly missed by all his comrades in 3 PARA and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time."

The award of the George Cross to Corporal Mark Wright GC was also ably summed up at the time of his death by Mr Tootal:
"Corporal Wright died attempting to save the life of a fellow paratrooper who had been injured in a mine incident. He did so in complete disregard for his own safety whilst fully aware of the dangers to himself. His actions were typical of the type of man Corporal Wright was.
"Quietly determined and passionate about his profession, he possessed exceptionally high moral and physical courage. In the words of his best friend, he was a ‘fun loving Jock who loved the military and was up for anything and everything’.
"Due to attend an advanced promotion course, he had a very bright future ahead of him and had already been identified as someone who would go far. Unfortunately his promising career was cut tragically short.

"With the loss of Corporal Wright we have lost a trusted and valued friend. He set and maintained the highest of standards in accordance with being a Paratrooper. He will be very much missed by all of us."
On returning to the UK, Stuart set up the 3 PARA Afghan Trust Charity. The charity provides support to the seriously wounded soldiers and the next of kin of those members of 3 PARA that were killed in the fighting.
Following his promotion to full Colonel in 2007 after relinquishing command of 3 PARA, he resigned from the Army. The poor treatment of his wounded, poor pay of his junior soldiers and the lack of equipment for operations were sighted as major reasons in his resignation letter, which subsequently attracted widespread media attention.
Even to date, Commanders who continue to see no improvement of the issues raised by Stuart and others in theatre, resign in disgust, with the Commander of D Squadron 23 SAS resigning on the 1st of November 2008 whilst on operations in Afghanistan.
Stuart is currently pursuing a career in corporate banking security. He is also a media defence and security commentator and has lectured regularly on leadership in complex environments to a number of business organisations. He is a trustee of the 3 PARA Afghan Trust and remains active in raising funds for Armed Forces charities.
It needs nothing further from me to sum up the respect this man has within the Regiment, from all rank and file.
He led his men into ferocious engagements with the Taliban, and witnessed firsthand the many brave acts carried out by them, and only he was qualified, as a Commander, to direct pressure on the Ministry of Defence to realise their failings in not providing his men with the right equipment and treatment of his wounded, in carrying out their operational tasks. He showed his disgust by doing the only thing left open to him in defence of his men, which in itself was a brave thing to do in the political climate of the time. He resigned his commission in a completely unselfish and magnanimous act for which he has nothing but total respect from his peers.
He endured what his men too endured, during his time in Afghanistan, in just being a Paratrooper. He led his men and took the fight to the enemy with a tenacious fighting spirit on many occasions that, truly reflects the unique training and bravery of The Parachute Regiment soldier as a whole. I would like to thank him for his honesty and complete integrity in supplying me with the story of his far!!
We would like to wish him well in his new chosen career and hope his example has inspired those who head our Military and our country to ensure the future operations of our troops are provided with all the equipment they require and fully deserve.
"A mans man"

Gil Boyd

Video interview by Patrick Bishop on the 3rd of October prior to his resignation link: