2 MERCIAN served in Helmand, Afghanistan, for six months from April to October 2009 under the command of 19 Light Brigade.
It was the second time the Battalion has served in Afghanistan since 2006, having also served under its previous title, 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, in the summer of 2007.
Three soldiers from 2 MERCIAN were awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross at the Palace on Friday, 9 July 2010, while four received the Military Cross, and the Battalion’s former commanding officer was awarded an OBE.
One of three soldiers to receive the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross was Sergeant Marc Giles. He was on a joint patrol with warriors (soldiers) of the Afghan National Army (ANA) in Basharan to the north of Lashkar Gah when they were ambushed by the Taliban.
His commander was trapped in the killing zone and Sergeant Giles took command. Within minutes, an ANA warrior serving with the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) commander was seriously wounded. Sergeant Giles dashed across open ground, grabbed the casualty, threw him over his shoulders, and ran with him back across the killing zone to the emergency rendezvous.
As a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) drew close to the fight, Sergeant Giles went to guide them with two Warrior vehicles but was almost immediately blown off his feet and thrown violently against a compound wall. Composed, calm and fully aware of the danger the entire patrol faced, he ordered the QRF to halt and co-ordinated the patrol’s defence; then, still recovering from the effects of the bomb-blast and under sporadic small arms fire, he personally conducted the clearance operation to mark a safe route and reunite the patrol with the QRF.
Lance Corporal Kyle Smith, from Arnold in Nottingham, was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his actions on the fourth day of Operation PANCHAI PALANG (PANTHER’S CLAW).
That day saw him demonstrate remarkable courage and presence of mind, potentially saving the lives of two comrades and enabling his company to destroy an insurgent position.
Following an ambush by insurgents which immediately caused four casualties in his section and was rapidly followed up by heavy small arms fire, LCpl Smith coolly assessed the situation and single-handedly engaged the insurgents before administering first aid to the nearest casualty and dragging him into cover - courageously exposing himself to enemy fire over 100 yards (90 metres) or so of open ground in the process.
Having reached the safety of cover, he immediately returned to extract a second casualty, again placing himself in the line of fire, and applied a tourniquet to stop heavy bleeding before dragging him to safety.
Also awarded a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross was Sergeant Alan Dennis from Melbourne in Derbyshire. He was second-in-command of an OMLT operating from Patrol Base (PB) Jaker, near Nawa - an isolated location no more than 500 metres away in all directions from the enemy’s forward line. His team was deployed to conduct a joint patrol with warriors of the ANA, and whilst patrolling the Helmand River Valley his team was ambushed. Sgt Dennis’s example and initiative brought the ANA into the battle which saved the patrol from defeat. He was calm and collected under intense fire and displayed cool courage.
A Military Cross was presented to Major Neil Grant, from Clifton in Nottingham, who trained and led the Brigade Reconnaissance Force through some of the most dangerous and bold operations on Op HERRICK 10. He conducted operations deep within insurgent-controlled areas and was at the forefront of deliberate operations - most notably during Op PANCHAI PALANG.
Also recognised with a Military Cross was Captain Edward Brown from Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire. He commanded an OMLT at PB Jaker. The only manoeuvre force was Captain Brown’s OMLT and a platoon of warriors from the ANA. Captain Brown’s bravery and commitment were sustained for months; he took the fight to the enemy at every opportunity and his leadership inspired the OMLT and the ANA.
The Military Cross was also awarded to Private Alexander Kennedy of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, who was involved in his company’s deliberate operation to clear an area of Garmsir. His multiple suddenly came under ferocious small arms fire and a fellow soldier was caught in the first burst and dropped to the floor, shot through the legs. Private Kennedy immediately crawled to the injured man and administered first aid.
Taking control of the rest of the section, Private Kennedy directed their fire and ensured that they were engaging the enemy positions. This suppressed the enemy, allowed the casualty to be extracted, and the rest of the multiple to move into cover. This is all the more impressive from a private soldier with six months’ experience in the Army. He acted with a level of leadership and situational awareness far above that expected of a private soldier, demonstrating selfless bravery and a cool head under fire.
Corporal Craig Adkin, from Carlton in Nottinghamshire, also received the Military Cross for his selfless and courageous actions when on patrol with his company in Babaji. Following a rocket-propelled grenade strike, Cpl Adkin, the company medic, immediately pushed forward to locate the casualties and exposed himself to great danger.
Having assessed the situation, he decided to run across 100m of open ground under fire in order to reach and treat the casualties. Knowing that further casualties remained in the killing area, he again crossed the open ground, which was still under heavy fire, in order to provide first aid and triage to the other casualties. Subsequently, all casualties were safely extracted and the insurgent position destroyed.
Lieutenant Colonel Simon Banton, former Commanding Officer of the Battalion, was awarded the OBE. His citation stated:
During a six-month period, over a violent summer in Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel Banton has acted as chief mentor to the 3/205th ANA Brigade. His has been a complex and dispersed leadership challenge which has served to lay the foundations for embedded partnering.
The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross is awarded in recognition of acts of conspicuous gallantry during active operations against the enemy.
The Military Cross is awarded in recognition of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land.
The OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) is awarded for a distinguished regional or county-wide role in any field, through achievement or service to the community.