Explosive life of brave bomb disposal hero

BOMB DISPOSAL HERO: Counter-terrorism specialist Major Chris Hunter speaking at the AFC Business Director’s Lunch at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium

The amazing life and career of the ‘real life Hurt Locker star’ – bomb disposal hero Major Chris Hunter – was told to 100 businesspeople from across the region at the AFC Business Director’s Lunch.

He was keynote speaker at the event held at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium by AFC Business, commercial arm of the Premier League club, and hosted by Chairman Jeff Mostyn.

Major Hunter, whose gruelling missions in Iraq inspired the Hollywood blockbuster film, told his story from joining the Army at 16, serving with specialist counter terrorism unit and being deployed in operational theatres such as The Balkans, Northern Ireland, Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

He was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his actions in Iraq, worked as a senior intelligence analyst at the Ministry of Defence and was seconded to COBRA, the Cabinet Office’s emergency response committee, at the time of the 7/7 London bombings.

Major Hunter, who also found time to author books about his exploits in the most dangerous places on Earth, continues to work as a counter-terrorism consultant, and returned to Iraq after the lunch, where he trains locals in bomb disposal.

A main thrust of his speech was to show how his experiences in the high-pressure, high stakes world of bomb disposal and intelligence led him to develop the skills, psychologies and life-or-death decision-making processes and translating them to the current needs of the commercial world.

During a question and answer session conducted by interviewer Harvey Thorneycroft, Major Hunter referenced psychometric testing, communications, fear of failure, motivation, soft skills, dealing with mavericks and leadership.

He spoke of the military’s OODA loop decision action cycle, referencing his time in Iraq where every decision made could have been his last.

He said: “In any given activity to observe the atmospherics, you orientate your resources or your focus, you make a decision then you act – then you observe, orientate, decide act again. Your competitors will be doing exactly the same thing so your decision action cycle has to be faster than theirs in order to achieve success.”

“Fear comes in many forms and the most common one is fear of failure. I think this is misplaced. Sometimes you have just got to make a decision and if Plan A doesn’t work there are another 25 letters in the alphabet.

“Where I have seen amazing people be hugely successful is when they have been prepared to take a risk, albeit a calculated risk – and the reason others have not been successful is usually because their fear of failure has curtailed them and they have not been prepared to take a gamble.”

Peter Lamb, from Savills Planning which was sponsoring the event for the third time, gave an overview of the economic powerhouse that is the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole region.

The BCP Council area is the 12 largest in England with a population of 394,000, bigger than Cardiff, Southampton, Brighton and Portsmouth and just 14 per cent smaller than Bristol.

He spoke of the area’s strengths, including the tourism industry – which is worth £10.7 million annually and supports 12,000 jobs – AFC Bournemouth, Bournemouth Airport, Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth, which have 23,500 students and a 22 per cent graduate retention rate.

Mr Lamb, based in Wimborne, also listed the challenges faced by what he described as Urban Dorset – infrastructure, roads, productivity – which is significantly below Bristol and Southampton – and unaffordable housing.

Opportunities include improving connectivity, building more homes and top quality commercial floor space, attracting more tech companies and repurposing unused retail space.

AFC Business, the free to join business club with almost 1,800 members, is the engine for all the club’s commercial activities.

It was launched in 2009 and gives members exclusive offers at AFC Bournemouth, access to events and is a great chance to meet local businesses.

AFC Business’ five main partners are Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dorset Mental Health Forum, Hill Osborne and Strategic Solutions.

The next AFC Business event is an Al Fresco Evening on Friday, August 2 which includes dining and the Cherries’ pre-season friendly against Serie A giants Lazio.

For further information about the business club, email your details to Aysia Smith at aysia.smith@afcb.co.uk.