27 Sep 12. A young Royal Engineer who displayed coolness and selfless courage whilst clearing an IED-infested area of Afghanistan’s Helmand province is amongst a number of gallant service personnel to be recognised in the latest Operational Honours Awards list.
Sapper Matthew Garey of 39 Engineer Regiment, whose Queen’s Gallantry Medal was announced last week, remained calm whilst carrying out his clearing duty which allowed a bridge to be constructed that has since improved local conditions.
During attempts to build the bridge, aimed at increasing security and improving commerce in the local area, a number of IEDs had been detonated, injuring a number of searchers and preventing progress from being made. Four previous attempts had been made before Garey’s unit was deployed to clear the area
For five mentally and physically exhausting hours, Garey purposefully placed himself in harm’s way, negotiating a myriad of channelled areas which were prime locations for IEDs to be present. Without dwelling on his personal safety, the 24-year-old searched painstakingly, often with no more than his fingertips, for the slightest sign of an IED ahead of his team. Finding a deeply-buried command wire in his path provided the final piece of the jigsaw that told the story of a complex, multiple-lED attack, planned to hinder progress and prevent freedom of movement along the route.
But this was just one episode in a six-month tour spent searching for improvised explosive devices in difficult and dangerous circumstances. Throughout his tour Garey showed awe-inspiring courage and his conduct was extraordinary, personifying his astonishing and exemplary level of gallantry.
Also amongst those recognised in the Operational Awards list published today is Lance Corporal Sean Jones, who took decisive action when faced with a well-organised insurgent ambush. Leading a bayonet charge, the 25-year-old seized the initiative back from the enemy and pushed them into retreat.
Lance Corporal Jones deployed to Afghanistan in Oct 11 as an Acting Corporal. On the day in question, Jones had deployed to a village as Second-in-Command of a small patrol. Its mission was to draw out insurgents who had been intimidating the local population and enforcing a curfew, enabling them to plant IEDs aimed at killing local Afghans and Coalition troops.
As the patrol moved north through an open field, it was engaged with accurate and heavy small-arms fire simultaneously from the north and east. Jones rapidly confirmed the location of the enemy positions and calmly directed fire onto them, but his team had lost the initiative as the insurgents fixed the patrol with fire from the north and moved to outflank and overwhelm them.
First engaging one of the insurgent positions with a 66 mm rocket, quick-thinking Jones recovered the situation by ordering his men to fix bayonets, then breaking cover, leading them across 80 metres of open ground. He directed two men to provide fire support before preparing a hand grenade for the final assault; the speed, aggression and audacity of his attack forcing the insurgents to fall back in disarray.
Jones demonstrated unflinching courage and extraordinary leadership in the face of extreme and tangible danger. He epitomised the best qualities of the British infantry, displaying gritty determination, controlled aggression, tactical cunning, and complete disregard for his own safety, and has been awarded the Military Cross.
Sapper Garey and Corporal Jones’s honours are just two of more than 107 awards for gallantry and meritorious service included in Operational Awards List 39, which covers the period between September 2011 and April 2012. Many of those recognised served with 20 Armoured Brigade, which deployed to Afghanistan in September 2011, but awards also go to others involved in operations in Afghanistan, elsewhere overseas and in the UK.
The majority of award recipients are Army personnel but the Royal Navy