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Australian Commandos receive decorations for gallantry.



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DEFENCE MEDIA RELEASE

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CPA 316/06 Sunday, 26 November 2006

AUSTRALIAN COMMANDOS RECEIVE DECORATIONS FOR GALLANTRY

The Governor-General His Excellency MAJ GEN Michael Jeffery, AC, CVO, MC, joined with Prime Minister of Australia the Hon John Howard, MP, the Hon Dr. Brendan Nelson, MP and the Chief of the Defence Force ACM Angus Houston AO, AFC, to welcome home Eastern Australia-based

members of the Afghanistan Special Forces Task Group (SFTG) in a ceremony at Tobruk Lines, Holsworthy Barracks today.

The soldiers, predominantly from the Sydney-based Fourth Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) (4RAR(Cdo)), formed part of the 200-personnel strong SFTG operating in Southern Afghanistan since late last year.

During the ceremony the Governor-General and Prime Minister praised the professionalism and courage of the SFTG who were involved in some of the most ferocious fighting since the Vietnam War during their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.

The dangers faced by the SFTG were highlighted by the presentation of Australia’s first Star of Gallantry and a Medal for Gallantry to 4RAR(Cdo) members by the Governor-General.

Commando Sergeant “A” and Commando Corporal “B” were decorated for gallantry in recognition of their outstanding actions, leadership and bravery in Afghanistan.

During the awards presentation the Governor-General praised the actions of the two soldiers and described them as being “in the highest traditions of the Special Operations Command-Australia, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.”

The Governor-General also announced the awarding of a Unit Citation for Gallantry to combat elements of the SFTG, whilst the Task Group as a whole has been awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation. These awards will be formally presented at a later date.

Media Note: An edited version of the individual award citations is attached. The identities of the Gallantry award recipients and full details of the actions in which they were awarded will not be publicly released for operational security reasons.

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AUSTRALIAN ARMY

TO BE AWARDED THE STAR OF GALLANTRY

COMMANDO SERGEANT “A”

For conspicuous gallantry in action and leadership as a Commando Section Commander in the Special Forces Task Group, whilst deployed on Operation SLIPPER 2006.

During the conduct of an operation in Southern Afghanistan in 2006, a combined Coalition Force conducted a Direct Action mission against a target in the Oruzgan Province. Upon insertion, the assault force, provided by another Coalition partner, was soon surrounded and suffered two soldiers wounded and one soldier killed in action.

A Commando Reaction Force was deployed and tasked to assist the extraction of the assault force by securing the helicopter landing zone and covering their withdrawal. As Sergeant “A’s” section was the lead element of the Commando Reaction Force, he received the most intense weight of fire from the Anti-Coalition Militia.

Upon arrival at the landing zone the Commando Reaction Force immediately came under a heavy weight of rocket and small arms fire from multiple flanks. Due to the requirement to secure the extraction site, the Commando Reaction Force held the position for over an hour. Sergeant “A” was responsible for securing the northern flank, repelling a number of assaults whilst being engaged from ranges as close as 50 metres.

Once the extraction was complete, the Commando Reaction Force began its return to base. The Anti-Coalition Militia had anticipated the Commando Reaction Force’s extraction route and had prepared a series of ambushes to prevent their safe return. As the lead vehicle commander, Sergeant “A” led his section with distinction and courage. Critically, he was the first to be engaged at each of the ambush locations. In each instance, Sergeant “A” led his section to assault and clear opposition from the route in a rapid and aggressive manner, despite the frequent heavy and effective fire. On one occasion, with absolute disregard for his own safety, Sergeant “A” personally conducted an assault on a machinegun position not more than 30 metres to his front. This action resulted in the neutralising of the threat from the Anti-Coalition Militia allowing the Commando Reaction Force to continue their manoeuvre.

On at least two other occasions, whilst being engaged from positions as close as five metres and receiving multiple bullet strikes on his vehicles, Sergeant “A” was forced to fight his way through ambushes by driving directly through the killing ground, which he did without hesitation. These positions were neutralised through the use of small arms fire and fragmentation grenades. Through his outstanding leadership and composure under fire, he successfully manoeuvred his section and led the Commando Reaction Force through several ambush locations, returning them to base without injury.

During the operation, Sergeant “A” led his section with distinction, displaying multiple acts of conspicuous gallantry whilst in combat with the Anti-Coalition Militia over a protracted period of time. His actions directly contributed to the success of the mission and ultimately the safe return of the Commando Reaction Force. His conspicuous gallantry in action was of the highest order and is in keeping with the finest traditions of Special Operations Command-Australia, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.

AUSTRALIAN ARMY

TO BE AWARDED THE MEDAL FOR GALLANTRY

COMMANDO CORPORAL “B”

For gallantry and leadership in action as a Commando Team Commander, of the Special Forces Task Group whilst deployed on Operation SLIPPER, Afghanistan in 2006.

During the conduct of an operation, Corporal “B’s” commando platoon was tasked to carry out the clearance of an Anti-Coalition Militia sanctuary in the Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan. The platoon was partnered in support of a Coalition infantry company. At approximately 1pm the infantry

company came under heavy rocket propelled grenade and small arms fire on multiple flanks resulting in six wounded and one soldier killed in action, effectively halting their advance. Through thick vegetation, facing large numbers of dispersed Anti-Coalition Militia and under heavy fire, the commando platoon commenced manoeuvring to provide assistance to the element which was pinned down. During this move, the commando platoon received a volley of four rockets which impacted in the centre of the platoon’s position resulting in six Australian soldiers wounded in action. Unknown to the Commander at the time, Corporal “B” had also been wounded in the foot by fragmentation from the rocket propelled grenade barrage.

In order to regain the initiative, Corporal “B’s” team was tasked by the Commando Platoon Commander to assault forward and clear a group of compounds from which they were receiving Anti-Coalition Militia fire. Under these daunting conditions Corporal “B” commenced this task without hesitation, completing a rapid and aggressive clearance of numerous threat compounds. Once achieved, Coalition elements were free to continue with the battle providing the necessary time to effect the back loading of the wounded by helicopter to the Forward Operating Base.

Throughout the afternoon, numerous and relentless probing attacks by a determined opponent followed. Corporal “B” displayed extraordinary leadership and courage, inspiring his team and the remainder of the commando platoon to repel the continued attacks. He then successfully led a team to infiltrate the Anti-Coalition Militia held territory killing several Anti-Coalition Militia. Only after the engagement had been completed and the threat to the platoon subsided did Corporal “B” inform his Commander of the fragmentation wound that he had sustained during the original contact earlier that day. Corporal “B” was then evacuated to the Casualty Collection Point where he was provided with medical treatment and later extracted.

Corporal “B’s” actions as a Commando Team Commander were testament to his leadership, fortitude and sense of duty to his team and the platoon. His determination to continue to lead his team during the battle in extremely hazardous circumstances despite being wounded ensured that the commando platoon regained the initiative and contributed significantly to a decisive victory. His gallantry and leadership in the face of the enemy has been of the highest order and in keeping with the finest traditions of Special Operations Command-Australia, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.