Australia recently awarded the Victoria Cross to a Special Air Service (SAS)Corporal known to us only as Ben to protect his identity as he is still operational. "Ben" is legendary among the special operations community (already decorated for his valour in other operations in the Chora valley, Afghanistan). Authors on this blog have done joint service with this group of men and hold them in the highest regard (for their courage, professionalism, skill at arms, and their singular ability to clear out a pub). One of our favorite Aussie bloggers, Tim Blair, had this up on his blog/opinion site on the The Daily Telegraph (Australia). Reader Bill L. says that this graphic is sure to send the anti-military left over the edge...
Last year, members of a platoon of the 2 Commando of the SAS Regiment were in Shah Wali Kot, Afghanistan, to track down senior level Taliban commanders and other significant targets (like IED factories, command and control cells, etc). They received word on a high level target who was among several hundred Taliban and got a lift from the US into the area of operation. Soon, they engaged the enemy and came under heavy machine-gun fire. The situation was dire.
Via the Daily Telegraph (Australia), here is what he did to receive his country's highest honor:
...A man mountain of a West Australian called Ben, or "RS" to his mates, had taken out three machinegun positions single handedly. His comrades said it was the most extreme example of conspicuous gallantry since Albert Jacka VC jumped into a trench full of Turks at Gallipoli in 1915, killing seven with his rifle and bayonet.
"He just tore into the enemy," one of his mates said.
"He is the epitome of the Spartan soldier. It was only a matter of time before he would demonstrate his true ability."...
Update: So, I had this post in draft until this morning when a few more Aussie readers sent me the news that his identity has been revealed. I don't know if the reveal was with the permission of the MoD or not. It is not doubted that the Taliban would find extreme value the death of Corporal "Ben". Regardless, here is the rest of the story about "Ben".
The Herald Sun has published "Ben's" identity as Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith ("RS" to his friends). He is from West Australia and is married with two children.
Here is his full Citation for the Victoria Cross (awarded 2011):
For the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril as Patrol Second-in-Command, Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.
Corporal Benjamin Roberts Smith enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 1996. After completing the requisite courses, he was posted the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment where he saw active service in East Timor. In January 2003, he successfully completed the Australian Special Air Service Regiment Selection Course.
During his tenure with the Regiment, he deployed on Operation VALIANT, SLATE, SLIPPER, CATALYST and SLIPPER II. Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions in Afghanistan in 2006.
On the 11th June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar Province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.
Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from multiple, dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fires from three machine guns in an elevated fortified position to the south of the village. Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Corporal Roberts Smith and his patrol manoeuvred to within 70 metres of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative.
Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. Corporal Roberts Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40 metres, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure.
As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine 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.
His act of valour enabled his patrol to break-in to the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machine gun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Wali Kot District to retreat from the area.
Corporal Roberts Smith’s most conspicuous gallantry in a circumstance of extreme peril was instrumental to the seizure of the initiative and the success of the troop against a numerically superior enemy force. His valour was an inspiration to the soldiers with whom he fought alongside and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.
You can learn more about Corporal Roberts-Smith here at the Herald Sun - citations (including the award from 2006) and bio provided.
Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith of 2 Commando of the Special Air Service Regiment is definitely an Aussie hero (and ours too) and Someone You Should Know.