Afghanistan honours "reflect the actions of all"

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Afghanistan honours "reflect the actions of all"

Post by Guest on Sun 09 Mar 2008, 11:06 am

The man who commanded British troops in Helmand province during the difficult summer of 2007 has been expressing his admiration for the men and women who served under his command.

Brigadier John Lorimer, pictured visiting his troops at the Forward Operating Base Arnhem, receives the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
[Picture: Cpl Jon Bevan RLC]

Brigadier John Lorimer MBE commanded 12 Mechanized Brigade - a multi-national force of over 7,000 troops - during their six-month tour of duty in the harsh and dangerous environment of Helmand province. Today, Brig Lorimer, late of the Parachute Regiment, has been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his contribution to the UK effort in Afghanistan in 2007:

"It's a fantastic honour and I'm absolutely delighted," he said, "it reflects what 12 Mechanized Brigade achieved during Op Herrick 6. It was a real team effort so really it represents the actions of everyone within the Brigade."

Brig Lorimer's citation says that "under his inspiring leadership, and despite suffering significant casualties, the force measurably improved the security situation in Helmand":

"The thing that I remember most is the utter professionalism of the soldiers within the force," he continued, "irrespective of rank or cap badge or experience, their humility, compassion, courage, both moral and physical, were extraordinary and they were a real honour to command.

"In a six-month operation there are always times of frustration, times of hope and recognising when things are going well. You just have to balance out the highs and the lows."

In terms of achievement Brig Lorimer feels it's too early to assess the real impact which his men and women made in southern Afghanistan:

"It's probably a bit early to determine; what we mustn't do, is look at it in six-month chunks. We need to look at it in a broader context. I think we kept the campaign going in the right direction; there was always an intention from the Taliban to launch a spring offensive but that never happened, because we were on the front foot, we took the fight to them and never allowed them to gain the initiative."

A number of Brig Lorimer's soldiers have also been honoured today. One of those is Private Paul Willmott, of The Mercian Regiment, who receives the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his work in Helmand:

"I'm speechless but also overwhelmed and happy that I've been chose from my Regiment," he said.

During a patrol in the Upper Gereshk Valley, Pte Willmott assumed command of his section in the most testing of circumstances. He recalled what happened:

"In the first incident, we came under small arms fire and RPGs and one of my colleagues was shot - he was right beside me at the time. I had to strip him and evacuate him. I was the last man out with him. In another contact a couple of months later, I was hit by an RPG which injured me and I was sent to Camp Bastion for the last month of my tour.

"I believe we achieved a lot in Helmand, we gained a lot of ground, took out a lot of enemy, helped the Afghan Army, and we improved things for local people."

Lance Bombardier Michael Frew, Royal Regiment of Artillery, aged 26 from Dundee, receives the Military Cross (MC):

"I was shocked when I heard the news," he said. "I didn't expect anything like this. But now it's sunk in I'm quite chuffed."

LBdr Frew receives his award for "his extraordinary bravery, application of firepower and tenacity to succeed in the face of perilous danger":

"We were ordered to take a bridge but when we got there we were ambushed by enemy fire and although we made a couple more attempts they kept us back," he explained. "So we stayed on our side of the bank and engaged the enemy with small arms fire, heavy guns and mortars. That lasted a few hours and once the firing had died down we went for the bridge again.

"Once we got over, still taking sporadic fire, we assaulted the compound they were in, fought our way through and then we stayed and defended that position for a day-and-a-half. We took fire throughout the day and night, they kept engaging us on and off.

"Then we received orders to go back over the bridge. Obviously the bridge was the main killing area for the enemy and as soon as the first half of the section began to cross, the Taliban opened up on us in a big way, so we had to start giving fire back. We needed to get to the far side of the bank as that was the safest place to be. So I ran across the open ground, back over the bridge, and got to the other side where I was able to hit them from the flank again which reduced their firing a lot and slowed them down. That allowed the rest of the platoon to get across the bridge safely."

LBdr Frew described what it was like coming face-to-face with the Taliban:

"It's either you or them. They are a determined enemy, they do have a go, but either they get you, or get them. It's as simple as that."

Corporal Donald Campbell's story is another example of exceptional bravery and determination in the face of the enemy. Cpl Campbell, Corps of Royal Engineers, aged 26 from South Uist in the Hebrides, drove an unprotected civilian plant vehicle into hostile fire in order to enable his colleagues to continue an assault.

His citation says that "Campbell is awarded for his incredible act of pre-meditated bravery, intentionally driving an unprotected piece of large plant machinery into an enemy killing zone, whilst under very intense accurate fire for a considerable amount of time, he carefully placed a fascine into a ditch enabling an armoured advance":

"I'm really surprised and shocked to have got this award," he said. "I was attached to the Infantry Assault Unit and was called forward in my vehicle to bridge a ditch, all the time under fire. I had to get out of the vehicle, undo the straps on my bucket, then get the pipes to lay across the irrigation ditch to allow the infantry through and carry on with the assault."

Meanwhile Captain Ruth Earl, Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, aged 34 from Stoke on Trent, is awarded the MBE. She receives her award for "her immeasurable support to the task force".

From a pair of temporary shelters in the brutal summer heat of Camp Bastion, Capt Earl, responsible for over one thousand pieces of equipment and commanding a sub-unit exceeding one hundred and fifty soldiers - despite her relatively junior years and experience, sustained operations in a way that few others could match:

"When I found out I was absolutely speechless, it was something I had no idea was coming and obviously I'm feeling delighted," she said proudly. "My role was to command the Task Force Helmand Light Aid detachment, essentially a group of men and women from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Our job was to ensure all the equipment used by the Task Force, from weapons through the various different types of vehicles, was fit for purpose so they could be used for the operations.

"The days of relentless heat in the summer were difficult and, at best, damaging for morale. For the tradesmen working on the vehicles it was incredibly difficult for them to pick up their tools and work in 40 degrees heat. But as a team the Light Aid Detachment achieved a lot, both at Camp Bastion and at the Forward Operating Bases. We ensured the troops had the equipment they needed for the operations they were conducting."

Major Martin David, Grenadier Guards, was the operational mentor and liaison team commander mentoring the 1st Kandak Afghan National Army. Maj David is awarded the Military Cross for his "determination, bravery and inspirational leadership whilst leading from the front which inspired the Kandak to ever greater feats of military prowess resulting in a defeated enemy, having conceded five kilometres of territory":

"I'm feeling very surprised, honoured and humbled," he said. "I take it as an honour for the whole company that I commanded out in Afghanistan for their bravery and tenacity during their operations.

"I remember the friction created by working with an army that's not as professional as ours, whose soldiers have considerable cultural differences from ours and whose commanders were quite weak. There's no doubt they were brave but they needed commanding and that's where we had to step in so instead of mentoring, as we were supposed to do, we ended up commanding them into battle. That was interesting as all dialogue was through interpreters.

"We achieved a lot, bringing increased security to the towns of Gereshk and Sangin and brought large swathes of the Upper Gereshk valley along the Helmand River back under Government control thereby creating the right conditions for governance, reconstruction and development to take place."

TA soldier gets Military Cross

A forklift truck engineer from the West Midlands has become the third TA soldier to be awarded the Military Cross in 15-years. Private Luke Cole, of the 4th Battalion, The Mercian Regiment, aged 22, was honoured for his conduct during a fierce fire fight in Afghanistan, in which he was shot twice. Pte Cole was serving with The 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment, when the incident took place on a night patrol during which he was shot in the leg in a fire fight against the Taliban.

Despite his injury, Pte Cole returned fire, protecting himself and another wounded member of the patrol. While he was crawling over to give first aid to another member of the patrol he was shot again. Showing remarkable courage, he continued to go to the aid of the other wounded soldier to administer first aid and pass information on what was happening over the radio. Pte Cole then waited until a more seriously injured colleague had been evacuated before being rescued himself. Two men were killed and six others injured during the encounter.

Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Yardley TD, Commanding officer of 4 Mercian, said:

"I have known Luke for a number of years and he has always struck me as a calm, intelligent, professional soldier who enjoyed the excitement of being in the Territorial Army.

"As the Territorial Army approaches its 100th anniversary in April, it is particularly poignant to think of all the members of the TA who have served in previous wars and conflicts around the world.

"Pte Cole has shown the ability of the Territorial soldier to operate alongside his Regular counterparts as a part of that fighting unit. To hear what he did during that night in Helmand province makes all members of 4 Mercian proud to know him and we would like to congratulate both Luke and all members of 2 Mercian on what was a very difficult and challenging operational tour."

Provided By: MOD -


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