Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Australian SAS Trooper Awarded the Victoria Cross

An Australian soldier has been awarded the Victoria Cross for action in Afghanistan in June 2010.  Lance Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, 32, received the highest award for valour for actions in the Shah Wali Kot area of north Kandahar.  This is in addition to a Medal of Gallantry received in 2006.

The actions for which Corporal Roberts-Smith earned his VC took place on June 11 last year after helicopters landed his troop near the village of Tizak in Afghanistan's Kandahar province to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.
The VC citation states the unit was immediately pinned down by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from elevated Taliban positions, and two soldiers were wounded. . . .
As Corporal Roberts-Smith headed toward a small building that provided some cover, he saw an insurgent ready to engage his patrol so instantly shot him dead at point-blank range.
He then showed his own position to the insurgent machine gunners to draw fire away from his patrol, enabling his patrol commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the guns.
"Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position, killing the two remaining machine gunners," the citation reads.
Corporal Roberts-Smith went on to attack other positions and he and another patrol member killed more insurgents as his troop, no longer pinned down, cleared the village of Taliban. . . .
Corporal Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for bravery in June 2006 when his patrol was manning an observation post under insurgent attack near Afghanistan's Chora Pass.
At one point, while alone in an exposed position, he used his sniper rifle to stop the advance of 16 insurgents and held his position while under fire from other militia until air support arrived.
An earlier account provides some details that help one to better visualise the scene:
The sight of the 202cm [that works out to over 6’7”] Australian warrior coming at them must have shocked the bearded Afghans. . . .  During that fight, according to comrades, "RS" tore a Taliban fighter off his back like an insect, stood on his throat and shot him dead.
How fortunate we are that he is on our side.  Roberts-Smith becomes the most highly-decorated member of the Australian Defence Forces.

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