Operations in Afghanistan

Ranger Aaron McCormick killed in Afghanistan

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Ranger Aaron McCormick, from 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, serving as part of Combined Force Nad 'Ali (South), was killed in Helmand, southern Afghanistan, on Sunday 14 November 2010.

Ranger Aaron McCormick (All rights reserved.)
Ranger Aaron McCormick (All rights reserved.)

Ranger McCormick had been helping to clear an area of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during a security patrol in Nad ‘Ali when he was killed in an explosion.

Ranger Aaron McCormick

Rgr McCormick, aged 22, came from Coleraine in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. On completion of his recruit training, he joined 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment (1 R IRISH) at Tern Hill, Shropshire, in January 2008.

Rgr McCormick was posted to A Company, where he served with distinction for two-and-a-half years. His professionalism, selflessness and enthusiasm were well known across the Company and the Battalion. Rgr McCormick had served once before in Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 8, and was quickly identified as a quality soldier. Voluntarily, he took on the responsibility as the lead Vallon (mine detection) man. He would be the first man on any patrol, showing the strength of character and courage that he would come to be known for.

Faugh-A-Ballagh! (‘Clear the way!’), is the Regiment’s motto, and Rgr McCormick was a man who truly cleared the way.

Despite a relatively short time in the Army he was able to offer guidance and advice to the newest members of his unit, often over a brew and having a chat about ‘Star Wars’; he was a huge fan.

Rgr McCormick was very well educated and had aspirations to complete a degree in education in the future, a career to which he would have been well suited.

Always ready with a smile, Rgr McCormick was always at the centre of the ‘craic’ and he will be sorely missed by all members of The Royal Irish Regiment. He leaves behind his mother, Margaret, his father, Lesley, his sisters, Callie-Ann and Tammy, his brother, Michael, and his girlfriend, Becky. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

Ranger Aaron McCormick of the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment was a star pupil throughout his school career, had a huge circle of close friends across the community and to his family was the perfect son, brother and uncle.

At Macosquin Primary School near Coleraine in County Londonderry teachers soon recognised his huge thirst for education and reading and we were not surprised that he soared through his exams to take a place at Coleraine Inst. There Aaron continued to soak up all his education and also to develop what would become a huge interest in music. With nine GCSE ‘O’ Levels and three GCSE ‘A’ Levels under his belt many thought he would head to university and become a teacher.

But his parents Lesley and Margaret knew that Aaron would do as he always did - consider all the options and make up his own mind.

As a young boy he had occasionally spoken to his parents of joining the Royal Air Force. Later it was to be family links with the former Royal Irish Rangers that pulled Aaron towards a career with the Army.

As his father Lesley explained:

He did consider university but in the end decided he wanted to make his life with the Army. We neither encouraged nor discouraged Aaron. He would make up his own mind and we knew he would be totally committed to making it a success.

At an Armed Forces Open Day the recruiting team looked at Aaron’s qualifications, personal skills and determination:

They suggested right away that he should go for officer recruitment and consider training at Sandhurst. But Aaron was determined to start as a private soldier beginning as a Ranger with the Royal Irish Regiment,” said Lesley.

For both Lesley and Margaret McCormick their sons decision was not a total surprise but they had the concerns that so many parents share:

We were so proud of Aaron and stood by him knowing the commitment he gave to everything he wanted to do,” said his mother, Margaret.

Of course we were concerned and anxious but we all supported him. Aaron was the perfect son, brother and uncle. He gave so much of himself in everything he did and he loved to be here with his family and friends. He also loved being with his many friends in the Royal Irish Regiment.

His brother Michael, sisters Tammy and Carrie-Ann are shattered and feel such a loss. And there’s also his niece, four year old Tamara who carries Aarons photograph proudly telling everyone it’s her uncle.

As a young man Aaron’s interest in music and dance led to him forging close friends across County Londonderry. At Coleraine Inst he first learnt to play the clarinet and had recently saved up to buy a saxophone. It was finally purchased just a few weeks before he left for this, his second tour of duty in Afghanistan:

He had been giving the money to his mother to save for him,” said father Lesley. “We got it for him just one week before he left for Afghanistan. He had mastered the clarinet and seen the saxophone as his next musical step.

Since news broke of Aaron’s death the family home within the close knit village of Macosquin has witnessed his popularity from far and wide:

Aaron always made friends wherever he went,” said Lesley. “He never wished harm for anyone and loved to be with his friends both at home and those within the Royal Irish Regiment.

He wanted to excel in everything he decided to do, even dancing. He won competition after competition for jive and rock and roll. He was so popular in being invited to that many formals that he found it cheaper to buy a Dinner Suit than to keep renting one. Aaron had that sort of cheeky personality that disarmed people and he made so many close friends.

We have lost a perfect son - the community has lost a perfect friend,” Lesley added.

Lieutenant Colonel Colin Weir MBE, Commanding Officer, 1 R IRISH, said:

Ranger Aaron McCormick was the epitome of the Irish Infantry soldier: tough; selfless; good-humoured and full of compassion. Today, there is a gap in our ranks which no ordinary man could fill. He was the best of his country and we mourn his loss. Today, we have a heavy heart. Tomorrow, in his honour and because it is right, his brother Rangers will steel themselves once again, will step out on patrol, and will face down the enemy. This place is already better for Aaron having been here; we will now build on his good work with renewed determination to win.

At 22, Ranger McCormick was something of an Afghan ‘old-hand’, looked up to by the more junior Rangers and relied upon by his commanders. In his many battles he was unfailingly brave, and perhaps more tellingly, he was brave even when the adrenaline was not flowing. In full knowledge of the danger, he was determined that he would be the front man on every patrol, and the first man out of the gate of the checkpoint. He died as a result of an operation to confirm the presence of an IED; a vital first step to clearing it and protecting the lives of local civilians and soldiers alike.

Ranger Aaron McCormick was a son, brother and companion of whom his heartbroken family and friends can feel intensely proud. This regiment does not forget, and we will continue to pray for him and his loved ones.

Faugh A Ballagh

Major Jamie Humphreys, Commander of A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

I had the privilege of commanding Ranger Aaron McCormick since May 2010. At only 22 years of age he was already an experienced soldier with a bright future. Very popular within the Company he was very much a soldier’s Ranger. He was a shining example of all that is great about commanding Irish soldiers; strong willed, good humoured, faithful and as brave as they come. His experience from his previous tour in Afghanistan was well known and he was forever passing on his knowledge to the more junior members of the Company.

He had demonstrated throughout our pre-deployment training that he was totally committed to his job as the point Vallon man for his multiple, and it was in fulfilling this role that he was so tragically killed in action. He was a vital member of his rifle platoon, based in a particularly challenging area of southern Nad ‘Ali.

It was typical of Ranger McCormick to have insisted on being the Vallon man, as he believed he was the best man for the task and wanted to ensure that the soldiers with whom he patrolled were as safe as he could possibly make them. A qualified infantry assault pioneer, he was well aware of the dangers he faced. He chose this role when he could have avoided being so close to the action and this was characteristic of the dogged determination he displayed. This willingness to do the hard graft and share danger was his hallmark, and the courage that he displayed on a daily basis will never be forgotten. He was a fine example of a Royal Irish soldier.

The death of Ranger Aaron McCormick is a massive blow to the Company but it can not compare to the grief now felt by his family, girlfriend and friends. He was a credit to his family and a first class Ranger in A Company 1 R IRISH. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts and prayers here in A Company are with his loved ones at this most difficult of times.

Rest in Peace young Ranger, your fellow Rangers in Afghanistan will drive on even harder now, as we know this is what you would want.

Faugh A Ballagh!

Captain Dougie Beattie MC, Battle Captain, A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

I had the privilege to serve alongside Ranger McCormick in southern Nad ‘Ali and it was with a sense of shock that I heard he had been killed. We had worked closely together on many patrols over the last two months and I was very impressed with his professionalism, compassion, humour and above all courage.

He was a larger than life character, a giant amongst men and he sacrificed his life to ensure the safety of his colleagues and the local Afghan population. Although he will be sorely missed by his many friends and colleagues, none of this will compare to the sense of loss felt by his family. Our thoughts are with them as we continue the work Mac was so passionate about and gave his life for.

Capt Toby Whitmarsh, Second in Command, A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

I first met Ranger McCormick when I joined A Company as a new subaltern. Confident, battle-hardened and immensely capable, he was a daily reminder of what a privilege it is to command in this battalion.

From the moment his platoon touched down at the Checkpoint they were effectively under siege. Surrounded by hostile compounds on all sides they took the fight to the insurgents from the start, driving them away from the population and further and further into the shadows. Ranger McCormick was central to this effort and will be sorely missed.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Nicky Roberts, Ex Company Sergeant Major, A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

It was November 2008 when I first met Ranger Aaron McCormick on taking over A Company as the Company Sergeant Major. The Company had just returned from Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK 8. He was a quiet young man and a popular member of the Company who had a great confidence and a maturity about him for someone so young. He was extremely experienced from his tour of Afghanistan having served with 9 Platoon Ranger Company in Sangin in 2008 and was always ready share his experience throughout the Company on return.

Nothing was a chore to Ranger McCormick and he was always keen to help out; whether it be for a duty or to take a place on a patrol. He leaned in to every task put to him with professionalism and a sense of humour.

The death of Ranger McCormick is intensely sad and will be felt Battalion wide. He will be remembered by all and is testament to both A Company’s motto ‘Spectamur Agendo’ (Judge us by our deeds) and the Regimental motto ‘Faugh A Ballagh’ (Clear the Way). Thoughts go out from the Battlegroup and we are thinking of his family and girlfriend during this testing time.

WO2 William Roy, Company Sergeant Major, A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

I first met Ranger Aaron McCormick in May 2010 as the Company were undergoing pre-deployment training for this deployment . Ranger McCormick had been away attending an assault pioneer course and his return was the first opportunity I had to get to know this promising young soldier. Despite his young age, he demonstrated a maturity beyond his 22 years and this was commented upon by the instructors at the School of Engineering. He was able to utilise these pioneer skills to enhance the remainder of the Company pre-deployment training.

His enthusiasm and dedication for his chosen profession earmarked him for the job of point Vallon man. As such he was responsible for clearing a safe route on patrol for his fellow soldiers, a responsibility he readily accepted. It was during the conduct of these duties that Ranger McCormick tragically fell in action on the morning of 14th November 2010.

The death of Ranger Aaron McCormick leaves a massive void within the Company; the courage he displayed on patrol on a daily basis is an example to us all. He was a credit to both his family and his home town of Coleraine. He will be sorely missed by all who met him and A Company is the better for having known this remarkable young man.

Lance Corporal Christopher Griffiths and Rgr Stephen McEntaggart who served alongside Rgr McCormick in A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

Words cannot describe him - you have to have known him. Good soldier and great friend, he will be a huge loss to A Company. He will be truly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. ‘Spectamur Agendo’.

LCpl William Hull, who served alongside Rgr McCormick in A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

I had the honour of knowing Ranger Aaron McCormick and working with him since I arrived in A Company. Me, Aaron and Ranger Graham were told to attend the assault pioneer course and Aaron was looking forward to it. It was something he told me that he always wanted to do and when we went down to the course and you could tell that he wanted to do well. As the course went on, Aaron stood out and he was always stepping to the front to go first on all the tasks. The instructors could tell that he was keen and he was popular among all the people on the course. I will not only remember the good times we had at work, we also had some good nights out that were very memorable. He finished very high on the course and was a credit to all of us in the R IRISH. All my thoughts go out to you, his family and partner at this darkest of times.

“Rest In peace mate, you will never be forgotten.”

Rgr David Callaghan who served alongside Rgr McCormick in A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

We were in the same section in Kenya for some of our training, and had good times in the desert. In camp we both watched every Star Trek film from the first one to most recent one, even though he preferred Star Wars he would always be willing to watch ‘Trek for us! Last time I saw him was in Check Point TANOOR and he had just received fiive parcels. He was ecstatic and showed me pictures of his family and girlfriend, Becky. Aaron was a great friend and someone I could always rely on. He will be greatly missed by all of his friends and family and will never be forgotten.

Rgr Daniel Jackson, who served alongside Rgr McCormick in A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

Aaron went by many names, but to his friends he was ‘Jedi’. He was a great friend who will be missed by all close to him. He was always around for you if you had any problems (as long as you provided mug and brew). I, along with his family and friends, will never forget Aaron. My thoughts are with his friends and family.

Rgr Neil McClory, who served alongside Rgr McCormick in A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

I first met Aaron on the first Sunday I arrived at the Battalion in 2008. He had just returned from his leave after his first deployment to Afghanistan, and instantly made all of us new lads feel welcome.

Over the last two years we have had many good times together, whether it was spending a weekend in camp or heading out to the town and cities around Tern Hill. He will always be remembered within the Company as ‘the Jedi’ for his love of Star Wars films.

He will be remembered by all of the Company as a close friend that would always stop and take the time to talk to you. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him and I know everyone in the Company is thinking of his family and girlfriend back home during this difficult time.

Rest in peace.

Rgr Ian McKergan, who served alongside Rgr McCormick in A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

I had the privilege of working with Ranger Aaron McCormick in everything he did throughout his army career. He was a good and determined soldier and these qualities showed from a very early stage in basic training which we completed together. His first thought was always about the remainder of the troops and if they were happy he was happy; and this made him a model Rangers’ Ranger.

This was not his first tour of Afghanistan, on 25th March 2008 Ranger McCormick and I deployed as part of 9 Platoon Ranger Company. We were the two junior Rangers within this platoon and it didn’t take long for Aaron’s qualities as a lead Vallon man to shine as he took the whole responsibility of clearing the safe lane solely upon his shoulders. He was the best man for this job and I always felt safe in the knowledge that he cleared the way.

Rest in peace mate.

Rgr Thomas Smyth, who served alongside Rgr McCormick in A Company, 1 R IRISH, said:

Aaron was a close friend and it was a privilege to know him and share a room with him. I will never forget his humour and remember his bed-space at Tern Hill being surrounded with pictures of his family and friends. He will be missed by all who knew him and will be fondly remembered.

The soldiers who served alongside Rgr McCormick in Checkpoint TANOOR said:

It was a great shock and with great sadness we had to say goodbye to a great friend and colleague. He was a real friend, always professional and a great soldier. He died ensuring the safety of his fellow Rangers. Our hearts go out to his family and friends, their sense of loss must be unimaginable. Mac was a respected and integral part of our call-sign. He will be missed and never forgotten.

May we continue the fight to ensure his death was not in vain and his memory, through us, will live forever as we remember him as a true Irish Ranger and a hero in all our minds.

Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, said:

I was saddened to hear of the death of Ranger Aaron McCormick. He has been described by his colleagues and commanders as a courageous soldier who was always willing to put himself in harm’s way to protect his colleagues when on patrol. He excelled on his recent course, and had been marked out as having a bright and full career ahead of him with the Royal Irish Regiment. My thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends at this tragic time. He will be remembered and his sacrifice will not be forgotten.