THIS time last year Matt Baldwin was on the front line fighting in Afghanistan. These days the former soldier can be found in the front office of a local beauty salon.

For Matt, 37, is now helping his girlfriend, Emily Awdry, run her new business, Harbour Beauty in Christchurch.

He said: “If someone had told me a year ago that I would be working in the beauty business, I would never have believed them.

“But the army teaches you a lot of core skills – you are taught to think on your feet and to be reactive, so I’m keen to try a new line of work.” Sgt Baldwin, who has just won an award for his bravery in the war, admits it has been a steep learning curve.

“I didn’t know the first thing about the beauty industry but I’ve learnt to put it in my own terminology now so I can understand such as Shellac which is a bit like armoured plating for nails.”

Matt was in the army for 18 years and has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been blown up five times and shot at once.

He was awarded a Mention in Despatches for helping a team under enemy fire reach safety and ensuring the successful evacuation of a seriously injured comrade.

“If I was a cat I would certainly have used up my nine lives by now, so it is nice to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet,” he said.

His girlfriend Emily, 40, says Matt is a big hit with her clients.

“They love him. We make a good team. He is good when it comes to management and IT and I look after the business side. Matt would do anything – he sometimes looks after reception, although I’m not sure he would want to get involved with any of the beauty treatments.”

Matt adds: “It’s nice to be able to spend time talking and getting to know people now rather than shooting at them!”