No Medals for "Strap-On Marines" in AFG Apache Rescue
« on: September 08, 2007, 21:48:43 »
Remember "Strapped onto the wings of an Apache - RM rescue fallen comrade under fire" from earlier this year?
The latest: no medals the strap-on Marines - shared with the usual disclaimer....
Marines tied to helicopters snubbed in rescue medals
Michael Smith, Sunday Times (UK), 9 Sept 07
THREE Royal Marines who embarked on one of the most daring rescue missions of the war in Afghanistan – by strapping themselves to the sides of attack helicopters – have been denied medals.
Their treatment is at odds with the decorations handed out to airmen and soldiers on the same mission. The pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross, their co-pilots the Military Cross and an army officer also strapped to a helicopter the Military Cross.
This weekend army officers suggested that the marines were the victims of double standards, and had been snubbed because their superiors had written less glowing citations.
The decision has sparked a caustic debate among service personnel on Army Rumour Service , an internet forum. A number suggested such heroism was nothing out of the ordinary for the marines. One former sailor calling himself “Ancient Mariner” wrote: “I believe it’s covered in week 7 of the [Royal Marines’] course at Lympstone [Devon], just after the ‘leaping over tall buildings in a single bound’ module and before they learn to make bullets bounce off their chest.”
A former marine, posting as Old Booty, added that the medals were unimportant. “What is worth more, to become a corps’ legend and go down in history as ‘one of those nutters on the Apaches’, or a medal?”
The MoD used the operation in January to demonstrate how brave British troops in Afghanistan were, with one commander describing it as a “heroic leap in the dark”. “It was an extraordinary tale of heroism and bravery,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Rory Bruce.
But while the airmen and soldiers received full recognition, the three marines – Warrant Officer Class 1 Colin Hearn, Marine Gary Robinson and Marine Chris Fraser-Perry – received nothing.
The rescue occurred after Lance-Corporal Mathew Ford was wounded in an attack on Taliban leaders meeting in Jugroom Fort, south of Garmsir in Helmand. The attack was repulsed but Ford was left behind.
The Apache attack helicopter pilots suggested they could fly in, but with room for only a pilot and co-pilot on each helicopter the rescue team would have to be strapped to the sides.
Despite the danger, there was no shortage of volunteers. Hearn, a regimental sergeant-major, insisted he go. “I’m a Royal Marine, he’s a Royal Marine – there was no way we were ever going to leave him.”
Captain Dave Rigg, 30, an army engineer, was also one of the first volunteers and Fraser-Perry, 19, from Southport, Mer-seyside, said: “I felt it had to be done. I would expect the same done for me.” The fourth volunteer was Robinson, 26, from Rosyth, Fife.
They knew the Taliban would be waiting. They were disorientated when they jumped off the helicopters and one of the Apache co-pilots, Staff Sergeant Keith Armatage, ran to help, brandishing his pistol.
The five men now on the ground managed to find Ford, but he had died of his wounds. The Taliban fired on the two Apaches on the ground and the crew tried to fire back while a third Apache provided covering fire.
The team brought back Ford’s body strapped to the side of one of the helicopters, but had no time to strap themselves back on. They clung to the wings all the way back to Camp Bastion.
Rigg received the Military Cross, but the failure of the three marines to get a medal for their bravery was raised in a letter to Navy News this month by Lou Armour, a former marine.
The MoD refused to comment.