07 November 2012

Australian VC awarded for Afghanistan

ZUI this article (dated 1 Nov 12) from the Melbourne Herald Sun:
AN AUSTRALIAN infantry soldier who repeatedly broke cover in a hail of Taliban gunfire and helped clear the way for the rescue of casualties has been awarded the nation's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross.
Corporal Daniel Keighran, 29, from Nambour in Queensland, had the medal pinned on his chest by the Governor-General at a ceremony in Canberra today attended by the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, military top brass and other dignitaries.
Corporal Keighran was involved in a firefight between Taliban fighters and Australian and Afghan troops. He repeatedly broke cover to draw fire, allowing the enemy locations to be identified and neutralised.


Defence force chief David Hurley said the battle near the village of Derapet in Oruzgan province showed there was nothing simple about war.
"Battles are frightening, confusing and confronting. But there are also moments of crystal clarity.''
Corporal Keighran "deliberately and repeatedly'' drew intense enemy fire away from other members of his patrol, General Hurley said.
"Despite the enemy bullets biting into the dirt at his feet he returned fire and provided critical information about the insurgents' positions,'' he said.
Corporal Keighran acted with exceptional clarity and composure and helped turn the fight in our favour, General Hurley said.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who met with Corporal Keighran and his wife yesterday, expressed a "tremendous sense of pride".
Corporal Keighran had been modest about his "amazing acts of valour", Ms Gillard said.
"To you Corporal Keighran, here today, despite your modesty we acknowledge those acts of valour," the Prime Minister said.
"We acknowledge them because it is always important to accurately record the history of our nation and what makes our nation and these acts of courage speak to who we are as Australians."


Warrant Officer Keith Payne, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of gallantry in the Vietnam War, also attended the ceremony.
Corporal Mark Donaldson, who was awarded the honour in 2009, attended the ceremony. SAS Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, the last recipient, was unable to attend but his wife Emma was at the ceremony.
The Victoria Cross for Australia is the "decoration for according recognition to persons who in the presence of the enemy, perform acts of the most conspicuous gallantry, or daring or pre-eminent acts of valour or self-sacrifice or display extreme devotion to duty."

 ZUI also this article  from news.com.au. The citation for Keighran's VC, along with his official biography, can be found here.

************* *** *************


Corporal, 6th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment

Born: 18 June 1983, Nambour, Queensland
Died: TBD

Citation: For the most conspicuous acts of gallantry and extreme devotion to duty in action in circumstances of great peril at Derapet, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan as part of the Mentoring Task Force One on Operation SLIPPER.
Corporal Keighran deployed to Afghanistan in February 2010 with the 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. On 24 August 2010 he was a member of a partnered fighting patrol with soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 205th (Hero) Corps which was engaged by a numerically superior and coordinated enemy attack from multiple firing points in three separate locations. The attack was initiated by a high volume of sustained and accurate machine-gun and small-arms fire which pinned down the combined Australian and Afghan patrol and caused a loss of momentum.
In the early stages of the attack, and upon realising that the forward elements of the patrol needed effective fire support, Corporal Keighran and another patrol member moved under sustained and accurate enemy fire to an exposed ridgeline to identify enemy locations and direct the return fire of both Australian and Afghan machine guns.
On reaching this position and with complete disregard for his own wellbeing, Corporal Keighran deliberately drew enemy fire by leaving the limited cover he had and moved over the ridgeline in order to positively identify targets for the machine gunners of the combined patrol. After identifying some of the enemy firing positions, Corporal Keighran, under persistent enemy fire continued to lead and mentor his team and move around the ridge to both direct the fire of the Afghan and Australian machine gunners and to move them to more effective firing positions.
As the intensity of enemy fire grew, Corporal Keighran returned to the crest of the ridgeline to identify targets and adjust the fire of Australian Light Armoured vehicles. His actions resulted in the effective suppression of enemy firing points, which assisted in turning the fight in the favour of the combined patrol. Moving to a new position, Corporal Keighran deliberately and repeatedly again exposed himself to heavy enemy fire to assist in target identification and the marking of the forward line of troops for fire support elements whilst simultaneously engaging the enemy. Realising that the new position provided a better location for the patrol’s joint fire controller, Corporal Keighran moved over 100 metres across exposed parts of the ridgeline, attracting a high volume of accurate enemy fire, to locate and move the fire controller to the new position. He then rose from cover again to expose his position on four successive occasions, each movement drawing more intense fire than the last in order to assist in the identification of a further three enemy firing points that were subsequently engaged by fire support elements.
During one of these occasions, when his patrol sustained an Australian casualty, Corporal Keighran with complete disregard for his own safety, left his position of cover on the ridgeline to deliberately draw fire away from the team treating the casualty. Corporal Keighran remained exposed and under heavy fire while traversing the ridgeline, in order to direct suppressing fire and then assist in the clearance of the landing zone to enable evacuation of the casualty.
Corporal Keighran’s acts of the most conspicuous gallantry to repeatedly expose himself to accurate and intense enemy fire, thereby placing himself in grave danger, ultimately enabled the identification and suppression of enemy firing positions by both Australian and Afghan fire support elements. These deliberate acts of exceptional courage in circumstances of great peril were instrumental in permitting the withdrawal of the combined Australian and Afghan patrol with no further casualties. His valour is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.

Photograph © Commonwealth of Australia 2012

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