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Northern heroes honoured for actions in Afghanistan

Various soldiers who hail from northern England were amongst those recognised for their actions while deployed to Afghanistan in the Operational Honours List published last week.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Soldiers prepare to leave the security of their compound

Soldiers prepare to leave the security of their compound during operations in southern Afghanistan (stock image) [Picture: Corporal Mike O'Neill RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

Among them are Major Paul Dupuy, for leading the development of the police force in Gereshk, Staff Sergeant Andrew Johnson, for managing the construction of a major road link under enemy fire in Afghanistan, and Sergeant George Moitt, for his leadership under fire while surrounded by insurgent fighters in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.

Major Paul Dupuy

Major Paul Dupuy, aged 35, from the Royal Regiment of Artillery, who comes from Topcliffe, Thirsk, is to be made an MBE for leading the development of the police force in Gereshk, the second-largest city in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Major Dupuy was appointed senior police mentor in the Nahr-e Saraj district at very short notice, having originally deployed to Afghanistan as a battery commander in March 2010.

With only a small team to help him, he set about developing an effective force of 240 police officers in Gereshk, a troubled city of 80,000 people. Facing organised crime, terrorism and the insurgency, Major Dupuy brokered a security plan to make best use of the police and help the Afghans develop their own solutions.

He co-ordinated the police contribution in a significant operation to clear IEDs, and helped to secure the eastern side of the city, including the vital hydroelectric power station.

His citation commends him for his enormous energy and commitment. It reads:

He has stabilised a failing security situation and made a significant operational impact on the campaign plan by supporting effective Afghan governance.

Major Dupuy said:

I am both delighted and surprised to be awarded an MBE. Recognition and gratitude needs to be given to the team, not only to myself, for the hard work and sacrifices made in stabilising the region. “It was hugely rewarding to see the work we had achieved over several months. I felt proud walking away seeing a noticeable difference in the security for the local population, which wouldn’t have come about if we hadn’t built up trust with the Afghan police force by living and working with them daily.

Staff Sergeant Andrew Johnson

Staff Sergeant Andrew Johnson, 33, from the Corps of Royal Engineers, who comes from Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, has been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS) for managing the construction of a major road link under enemy fire in Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Johnson was at the forefront of the construction in one of the most dangerous areas of Helmand province. The road now links communities in Nahr-e Saraj with those in Lashkar Gah, enabling security, commerce and regeneration in the region.

This was no mean feat, and involved constructing an eight-kilometre route through enemy-held territory littered with improvised explosive devices, as well as crossing many rivers and streams. Much of this work was carried out under enemy fire.

Staff Sergeant Johnson’s citation reads:

As work began and numerous technical problems came to light, it was his technical skills that provided imaginative solutions, without which the road would have ground to a halt.

He forced the pace and maintained the standards, working on the ground when he could easily have done the job from the comfort of an office. As progress was made, insurgent pressure against the build grew, with construction often completed under fire.

He has provided energy, enthusiasm and leadership despite the huge number of obstacles and difficulties the road has faced.” Staff Sergeant Johnson said:

I am honoured, and really shocked to have received this award because I was just doing my job. We were deployed for several months and it was a completely different experience to what I had expected. It was tough at times working in the intense heat, and when our designed route kept getting changed and adapted to suit local plans.

But it finally all came together and it’s really rewarding to be recognised for the contribution we made over there.

Sergeant George Moitt

Sergeant George Moitt, 30, from The Mercian Regiment, who comes from Eastham, Birkenhead, is to receive a Mention in Despatches for his leadership under fire while surrounded by insurgent fighters in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.

Sergeant Moitt led the defence of an isolated checkpoint that came under a ferocious onslaught by a determined enemy under cover of a raging dust storm.

Ten of his mixed platoon of 30 British and Afghan soldiers were wounded in the opening seconds of the battle in a devastating barrage of gunfire and grenades from at least five enemy positions.

A dust storm had been raging for 36 hours and, as a result, no airborne surveillance systems had been able to spot the enemy build-up:

We’d faced three or four days of constant fire into us from various directions, testing our defences,” said Sergeant Moitt.

The platoon sergeant’s actions are all the more remarkable for the fact he was injured earlier in the tour after a grenade was thrown over a wall. He spent weeks recovering in Camp Bastion before rejoining his men, later being caught up in the checkpoint onslaught.

With insurgents attempting to break into the compound, Sergeant Moitt had to ensure the defences remained firm while the casualties received medical attention, also calling in supporting fire from mortars and artillery. He and his men held off further grenade and small arms attacks from close quarters for at least an hour until air support and reinforcements arrived. He said:

The insurgents were so determined to get to us. I had to get more men up on the roof to help the sentries and there were casualties to deal with and extract.

Our first exit was well barricaded and they tried to get into our secondary exit. From then on it was a shooting match. It was so surreal.

Support fire then helped to see off the insurgents and Sergeant Moitt remembers sitting down with his men afterwards and thinking about what happened:

It was nervous laughter really,” he said. “It was hard to comprehend. I couldn’t show any shock to the men because I was the leader, the sort of mam and dad of the group.

When I told my wife I was getting the award she said, ‘you idiot’, the same thing she said when I got blown up. She didn’t realise what had actually happened and what I’d been involved in. Obviously, my family are all very proud.

The citation for his award says that Sergeant Moitt’s leadership undoubtedly prevented his position being overrun and ensured that none of the casualties died. It reads:

Calm, assured and utterly steadfast, he ensured his small team stood firm against a well-coordinated and determined enemy attack.

Updates to this page

Published 30 March 2011