Sunday, March 27, 2011

British Medic Among Those Awarded Medals For Heroism in Afghanistan

L/Cpl Kylie Watson
The article below describes the heroism of Lance Corporal Kylie Watson and Royal Marine Mark Jackson, both of whom were awarded medals for heroism in Afghanistan. I was honored to serve with soldiers from the United Kingdom during my tour in Iraq in 2004. They are an extraordinary group of warriors.

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Courageous Army medic awarded Military Cross

By Brian Brady, Whitehall Editor
Sunday, 27 March 2011

An Army medic who put herself in "mortal danger" to treat a wounded Afghan soldier under heavy Taliban fire has been awarded the Military Cross, Britain's third-highest medal for gallantry.

Lance Corporal Kylie Watson, who gave the casualty medical care in exposed open ground for 20 minutes before getting him to a helicopter, is one of more than 130 servicemen and women commended for bravery in the latest military honours list.

The medic, who also made a 100-yard dash through enemy fire to help another Afghan soldier, was praised for her "immense courage [and] willingness to put her own life at risk".

L/Cpl Watson, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, stemmed the soldier's bleeding despite being hampered by other Afghan troops, and got the injured man to a helicopter landing site 200 yards away.

The incidents were a vivid illustration of the pressures faced by medical personnel on the front line of the battle against the Taliban. Nine months ago, L/Cpl Watson herself gave a graphic account of the casualties she had to deal with, in an interview with The Independent.

"The first time a bullet went through the side of this guy's face and exited on the other side," she said, during Operation Black Prince, which targeted insurgents in Helmand province. "He suffered some injuries to his jaw but nothing more serious. A little later a guy who was standing on a sangar [watchtower] got shot in the arm."

L/Cpl Watson's MC was awarded for her actions during the same tour, when she risked her life under enemy fire to help the Afghan soldiers. In the second rescue, she delivered life-saving first aid to a soldier who had been shot twice in the pelvis.

Her citation said: "Watson's immense courage, willingness to put her own life at risk and absolute bravery saved the life of one warrior and acted as an inspiration to her platoon and their Afghan National Army partners."

Other servicemen honoured include Royal Marine Mark Jackson, awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross after picking up and throwing back an enemy grenade before lying on a comrade to shield him from the blast.

Marine Jackson was on look-out duty at a remote patrol base in Helmand province on 24 August last year when he heard a metallic thud and saw a cylindrical object rolling towards the feet of a fellow sentry.

Immediately realising it was a home-made hand grenade, he grabbed it and threw it back – at the same time leaping on his comrade to protect him.

His medal citation said: "Improvised grenades such as these are notoriously volatile and this one could have detonated at any moment. Jackson was well aware of the risk, his only thought was for the life of his comrade who, had he hesitated for one moment, would have been killed."

The awards were announced as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed British troops working with Afghan police had chased insurgent fighters out of an area of Helmand and destroying a huge cache of their weapons. The MoD said Popalzai Kalay had been cleared by soldiers from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, together with Afghan police. The aim was to pre-empt an anticipated spring offensive by insurgent fighters in the area.

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We are indeed fortunate to have allies like those in the United Kingdom.

Charles M. Grist

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