Medals "a symbol of the achievement of our soldiers"

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Medals "a symbol of the achievement of our soldiers"

Post by Guest on Sun 09 Mar 2008, 7:07 pm

Soldiers involved in some of the most intense fighting seen in Iraq since 2003 are amongst those honoured in today's Operational Honours and Awards List.

In 2007 attacks by local militias on UK troops increased dramatically. However, the personnel deployed in Basra City and the surrounding area continued to carry out their tasks despite the difficulties they faced.
2nd Battalion The Rifles, who were based at Basra Palace between November 2006 and May 2007, suffered a number of soldiers killed and injured during their tour of duty. The battlegroup's Commanding Officer, Colonel Justin Maciejewski MBE, has today been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his work in Iraq.

His citation says that he displayed "inspirational leadership of 2nd Battalion The Rifles during an exceptionally challenging tour. Under his command the Battalion maintained a high morale despite a massive amount of enemy small arms fire, mortar and rocket propelled grenade attacks and the deaths of 14 soldiers".

Col Maciejewski was pleased when he heard the news:

"I'm very honoured to be awarded the DSO," he said. "I very much feel that it's recognition for my battlegroup and everything they did over seven months in Basra City so I wear the award for them.
During a tour of duty that lasted seven months Col Maciejewski was constantly amazed by the efforts of his soldiers:

" The courage, endurance and tenacity of the Riflemen and Kingsmen (under my command) and the Private soldiers of the Staffordshire Regiment who were part of the battlegroup - what a privilege it was to command them in effectively what was battle."Despite the difficulties he and his soldiers faced against an enemy determined to thwart the UK mission in southern Iraq, Col Maciejewski believes a great deal was achieved by the soldiers under his command:

"We bought time for the Iraqis to find their feet, for the Iraqi Army and Police to get themselves organised so that they could in the long term take on the issue of security in Basra," he said. "Ultimately it's going to be them that sort the problems out in Basra but what they needed was time and new leadership.

"I look back and think what we did to train up the Army, for operations up in Baghdad as well as in Basra, and I realise now that one year, mid-2006 to mid-2007, was the key year where we had to just fight the enemy and buy time for the Iraqis. And that's what we did."

Major Ian Crowley, of The Yorkshire Regiment, served in Iraq during the same period as Col Maciejewski. He receives the Military Cross (MC) for his contribution to the operation, his citation stating that "Crowley inspired his company with his determination and courage throughout a relentless tempo of operations resulting in the detention of 18 high value targets, numerous militias and the recovery of substantial amounts of enemy weapons and explosives".

"I'm surprised and absolutely delighted," he said. "It's recognition of the work that C Company did during its tour on Op Telic 9. I remember the professionalism of my soldiers, the humour with which they carried out their tasks despite quite a high level of danger on the operations we did.

"We did a total of 47 strike operations into the centre of Basra during our tour and were engaged frequently during those incursions into the city but we were highly successful and I managed to bring out all of my soldiers, which was a major high for me. We did our operations in Snatch vehicles, on foot and occasionally insertion by helicopter as well. So it's really a genuine pleasure, that's my overriding memory of the tour, a pleasure in commanding the Yorkshire soldiers on that operation."

Maj Crowley believes the challenges his soldiers faced brought the best out of them:

"The biggest challenge for me was motivating (the soldiers) and planning in detail so that when we went into the city we were as well prepared as we could be to deal with whatever came at us. It's very difficult for the Private soldiers, particularly, going into a house and not knowing what's behind the door and being able to deal with whatever there was when we got there. Then, having dealt with that situation, securing the evidence and extracting ourselves safely. They were the biggest challenges, the planning and the execution.

"Both Ian Crowley and I feel very strongly that the honours we wear are a symbol of the achievement of our soldiers and what they did collectively in Iraq. There are many soldiers out there who aren't recognised here but whose work was fundamental to what we achieved in Iraq. We want these honours to be seen not for us as individuals but for the units we represent."

Colonel Justin Maciejewski

"I genuinely believe we set the conditions for what has subsequently happened in Basra. Our job was to detain insurgents, we did that successfully. From a personal level that was my biggest fillip from the tour, that what we went out to do we achieved successfully and in a highly professional manner."

For both officers these awards are for their soldiers just as much as they are for them as individuals:

"Both Ian Crowley and I feel very strongly that the honours we wear are a symbol of the achievement of our soldiers and what they did collectively in Iraq," said Col Maciejewski. "There are many soldiers out there who aren't recognised here but whose work was fundamental to what we achieved in Iraq. We want these honours to be seen not for us as individuals but for the units we represent."

Maj Crowley echoed those sentiments:

"C Company of 1 Yorks could not have done their job without the Warrior support from the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment and from Egypt Squadron, 2 RTR. They were absolutely fundamental in allowing us to get forward and do the job. I'd like to think that any recognition that I've got is for my Company and for the battlegroup as a whole."

"One of the the most intense gun battles in Basra since 2003"
Another of those honoured in today's list is Lieutenant Rupert Lane, also of The Rifles, who is awarded the Military Cross. Lt Lane's 24-man platoon was at the centre of the heaviest battle in Basra since 2003. According to the citation, "during the ferocious 4 hour battle Lt Lane moved from position to position in the face of the enemy, exercising decisive command, controlling fire, re-deploying his sections and organising casevac (casualty evauation). His personal example of courage and inspiring leadership enabled his platoon to prevent a decisive enemy victory that would have had far reaching impact on the UK's Iraq campaign".

"I was rather shocked but somewhat delighted when I heard the news," he said. "I knew nothing about it until yesterday morning when the Colonel called me in. I knew two of my Riflemen were up for awards and I thought I was just going in to pat them on the back as they came out, so I'm absolutely delighted and really chuffed for my boys.
Lt Lane's recollection of the incident, which took place at the Provincial Joint Coordination Centre in Basra City, is still vivid:

"It was pretty wild," he smiled. "It seems almost like a cinematic experience now, like we were in some kind of movie. It was pretty hairy, definitely. There had been no attack like it in that particular location ever before so it was completely out of the blue. It was the most coordinated attack that the militia had managed at all and to be attacked at an isolated outpost, when I had only 24 guys, by around 200 militia in what was clearly a very coordinated attack in an urban environment, made it much more diffiult for us to identify them. And with the firepower they had compared to what we had, the guys did absolutely superbly to hold their own and in fact defeat the enemy."

"My biggest concern was taking a serious casualty. We took a couple of minor ones, and quite frankly it was amazing we didn't take more. One of the guys was shot in the back and the bullet lodged in his body armour, and only two suffered minor injuries, which was astonishing. If we'd had a more serious casualty, evacuation would have been a serious problem because of our location at an isolated outpost right in the middle of the city. It would have been very hard to get the casualty out within the appropriate time so that was a major concern. In addition we only had so much ammunition and there were a lot of them and not that many of us!

"For the guys though it was awesome. At a very basic level fighting is what they joined the Army for and to have that experience is absolutely unrivalled. They learned a lot in a short space of time which soldiers 20 years ago wouldn't have had the opportunity to do, so I think I now have soldiers who are mature, though not necessarily when you get them home again! But they've grown up very quickly, and the battalion has learned an awful lot very quickly and will have benefited massively."

Provided By: MOD -


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