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 is announced today, 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 and Royal Air Force are also represented. For example, Flight Sergeant Niall Hanson, a Royal Air Force Search and Rescue winchman, is honoured for his actions in the recovery of a kayaker trapped in treacherous white water in the UK.
As well as recognition of outstanding gallantry, Operational Awards List 39 also includes recognition of meritorious service.
Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond MP, said:
The awards announced today show the UK’s Armed Forces at their most excellent. The circumstances in which they were earned and the levels of gallantry recognised are, in many cases, difficult to comprehend. Quite rightly, Britain is a country which holds its Armed Forces in the highest regard and these awards can only go to reinforce that sense of pride.
Notes to editors
A full list of those honoured can be found in the London Gazette tomorrow. The website is http://www.london-gazette.co.uk
For more information about this press release, contact Lt Col Nick Short or Craig Mowat in the Ministry of Defence Press Office on 0207 218 3257.
Background information on Operational Honours
Following acts of gallantry or meritorious service, recommendations for honours and awards are made by commanding officers. These are then passed up the chain of command for consideration.
In the case of operational honours the theatre commander is able to judge each citation against others in his command and to comment on them. From there the citations that are endorsed are passed to the overall operational commander, for example the Chief of Joint Operations in Northwood for further comparison before being passed to the MOD Armed Forces Operational Awards Committee.
This committee, which is chaired by the Defence Services Secretary, has as its members, the Naval, Army and Air Secretaries and the Deputy Chief of Joint Operations – all 2 star officers who have had considerable operational experience themselves, recommends which awards should be made and in what quantity.
These recommendations are then considered and endorsed by the MOS Services Honours Committee, which is chaired by the 2nd PUS, before being submitted to Her Majesty, The Queen through the Defence Secretary for her approval.
There is an additional step for recommendations of the two highest awards – the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. VC recommendations are endorsed by the VC Committee comprising the Permanent Under Secretary and the Service Chiefs of Staff. Those for the George Cross are endorsed by members of the George Cross Military Committee, which is a sub committee for the Honours and Decorations Committee.
A similar system is used through national command chains for the State awards at the Queen’s Birthday and New Year Honours Lists. At any time during this staffing chain recommendations may be upgraded or downgraded to ensure that awards are made at the correct level. The system ensures that consistent standards are applied to ensure there is no diminution of the value of awards.
The system for the award of Decorations and other Honours to Service personnel underwent a major revision in 1993, when the practise of having in some categories of award, different medals for Officers and other ranks were discontinued. Thus for example the Military Medal is no longer awarded to Non Commissioned Ranks, who instead are now eligible for the Military Cross which had previously been reserved for Officers and Warrant Officers.
All awards, except for membership of Orders, can be given posthumously.
Where a medal is worn by an individual more than once, the second and subsequent awards are denoted by a Bar worn on the medal ribbon. Thus the phrase DFC and Bar (sometimes shortened to DFC*) denotes the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross twice to the same individual.
Hierarchy of gallantry, leadership and bravery awards for active operations (in presence of the enemy)
Victoria Cross (VC)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (for command and leadership)
Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) (for gallantry)
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) (at sea)
Military Cross (MC) (on land)
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) (in the air)
Mention in Despatches (for bravery, no post-nominal)
Hierarchy of gallantry and bravery awards for non-active operations (not in presence of the enemy)
George Cross (GC)
George Medal (GM)
Queens’s Gallantry Medal (QGM)
Air Force Cross (AFC)
Queen’s Commendation for Bravery
Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air
(both for bravery, no post-nominal)