Soldier's military skills recognised
Pte Andrew Wastell, of Spt Coy, said he was surprised when he received the champion soldier award on August 22, after the 7RAR military skills competition.
“I’m not the best at anything, more of a jack of all trades,” he said. “My section and I put a bit of study in heading up to the battalion comp and the section came fourth.”
He received the highest individual score on the tab data, in shooting, general military knowledge and medical stands.
Sgt John Smallacombe, 7RAR Operations and Training Sergeant, was involved in organising the competition and said Pte Wastell was the clear winner.
“The individual assessments were not just based on the soldiers’ skill levels, but also on the soldiers’ temperaments and demeanour throughout the competition,” he said.
Pte Wastell deployed to Afghanistan from August 2013 to January 2014. He was embedded as an infantryman within the Force Protection Platoon with the Kabul Support Unit at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy.
“It was a really good experience working with the Brits,” he said. “Some were Scottish so we had a bit of trouble communicating with them on the radio at first.”
Pte Wastell recalled going with a New Zealand sergeant to a meeting with the RSM of the ANA 2 Kandak.
“After the meeting we came out for handshakes and to say goodbye and we started getting shot at from behind,” he said.
“One of the other guardian angels had a round hit his magazine and another one scrape his body armour and the Kiwi sergeant got shot in the foot.” Pte Wastell said he turned around and saw an Afghan soldier about to follow up on his first burst so he neutralised the threat.
Pte Wastell said the next part was the hairiest. “We were in the middle of an Afghan battalion and they all formed up around us,” he said. “We called in ‘man down’ to get an extraction ASAP – they weren’t far away, but there was a big crowd between us and them. “It was a curious crowd rather than a hostile one.”
Pte Wastell said it all happened pretty quickly. “My actions were all instinctive – I didn’t actually think about it until later,” he said. “While it feels good being recognised for the incident, I was only doing my job and wasn’t expecting anything.”
For his courage and actions that saved his mates’ lives, and supported the achievement of the mission,
Pte Wastell was awarded a CJOPS gold commendation.