Sergeant Keen was serving as a communications specialist with 245 Signal Squadron, Royal Corps of Signals, attached to Battle Group (South). The Battle Group is currently deployed on Operation CHAKUSH (or ‘hammer’), a deliberate operation to defeat the Taliban in the Upper Gereshk Valley, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.
The operation was in its fourth day of fierce fighting when Sergeant Keen was killed in an indirect fire attack on a compound near the village of Mirmandab. He and his team were reorganising themselves in a secured area after acting in support of the Afghan National Army, when a single mortar round landed next to Sergeant Keen.
Despite being located with the Regimental Aid Post and receiving immediate medical treatment, sadly Sergeant Keen’s injuries were too severe and he died.
Sergeant Barry Keen, aged 34, was from Rowlands Gill, Gateshead, and had spent nearly 18 years in the Army having joined in August 1989; his long and industrious career included tours in Bosnia and Northern Ireland.
Lieutenant Colonel Steve Vickery, Commanding Officer 14 Signal Regiment, said:
During his six month tour in Afghanistan, Barry had thoroughly proved himself as a dedicated soldier with a flair for helping others. This trait had been strongly evident throughout his career and typified a man who always thought of others before himself.
“Modest to a tee, he was respected by all who met him. He died doing the job he loved - helping his fellow soldiers perform their duties in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
It is also a mark of his quality that he had recently been selected to attend specialist communications training; he was due to commence his intensive training in September at Blandford Camp, Dorset.
The news of his death has been received here in the Regiment with great sadness, but also with a fierce determination to complete our tasks and to be a force for good in Afghanistan.
This Regiment and the Army are a close-knit family which has pulled together in this difficult time. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and his wide circle of friends.
Lieutenant Dave Phillips, his Troop Commander, said:
Sergeant Keen was the epitome of a Royal Signal senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO). An inspirational figure within the Troop, he was widely respected and well liked by all. The soldiers he worked with looked up to him and would willingly deploy alongside him. As his Troop Commander I relied upon his knowledge and experience on an almost daily basis, not once did he let me down.
Sergeant Keen will be missed by all those that knew him, not only as a tradesman and a soldier but as a friend.
Friend and comrade Sergeant Bruce Morrison said:
Baz was a good guy who would always put a smile on your face and lift your spirits. We used to make the most of the bad times with our outrageous banter. He will be sorely missed as a soldier but even more as a friend.
Staff Sergeant Daz Edge, his friend and colleague, said:
Baz was one of those people who naturally brought out the best in all those he worked and had contact with. He was most happy when deployed onto the ground and was not shy in making his feelings known when he was left in barracks while others were out.
“An excellent team commander and operator, Baz lead his team from the front and died carrying out his duty whilst under fire. The Squadron will be so much less without him and all those who knew him will undoubtedly feel his loss greatly.
A good mate for a lot of years and a colourful character with an infectious laugh, Baz will not be forgotten.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Gaz Robinson, another friend and colleague, added:
My friendship with Baz goes back about 15 years and I cannot begin to describe my emotions at this time. I can honestly say that he has changed not one bit since I first met him. He was a quality soldier and tradesman who had the ability to make you laugh out loud with his jokes and stories.
“Even though Baz was a SNCO, he was, and always will be, one of the lads. I will never forget the friendship we shared.”
Defence Secretary Des Browne said:
Sergeant Keen was an experienced and professional soldier, and I am deeply saddened by his death. He died on an important mission supporting the Afghan National Army to bring security and stability to their people.
“My thoughts are with his family, friends and comrades at this most difficult time.”
Sergeant Keen’s family have provided the following statement:
The devastating news of Barry’s death has come as a shock to our family. Our only comfort is that he died doing a job that he loved and that he believed in.
We now need time to come to terms with our loss, and request as much privacy as possible at this difficult time.