The Special Air Service Regiment and the 2nd Commando Regiment, have been awarded a Battle Honour for their outstanding performance in the Shah Wali Kot Offensive of May to June 2010.
The Battle Honour Eastern Shah Wali Kot is awarded in due recognition of extraordinary heroism, exemplary combat performance and the relentless destruction of a highly trained and fanatical Taliban enemy of numerical superiority within the extremely inhospitable region of Eastern Shah Wali Kot, Afghanistan, during the period May to June 2010.
The Australian Special Operations Task Group Rotation XII, which included combat elements from the 2nd Special Air Service Squadron of the Special Air Service Regiment, Alpha Company Commando Group from the 2nd Commando Regiment, and supported by the Incident Response Regiment and the United States 101st Airborne Division, Task Force No Mercy, is awarded the Battle Honour Eastern Shah Wali Kot in due recognition of extraordinary heroism, exemplary combat performance and the relentless destruction of a highly trained and fanatical Taliban enemy of numerical superiority within the extremely inhospitable region of Eastern Shah Wali Kot, Afghanistan, during the period May to June 2010.
Tasked with a mission of vital operational importance within Regional Command – South, and of strategic significance for the International Security Assistance Force, from May 2010 the Task Group conducted a series of daring daylight helicopter-borne raids, deep into enemy territory, to destabilise local insurgent networks and to identify key Taliban leaders. Often resulting in fierce engagements with the enemy, these deadly shaping raids created fractures throughout the command and control architecture of the Taliban.
During the early hours of 10 June 2010, immediately realising a tactical opportunity, Alpha Company Commando Group audaciously established an attack by fire position inside the insurgents’ strong hold of Chenartu. Shortly after first light, the enemy surrounded the commandos and employed sophisticated tactics in an attempt to overrun the commando positions throughout the day. Holding their exposed positions doggedly under heavy and sustained attack, the commandos, determined to regain the initiative, launched several aggressive counter attacks against the assaulting enemy. Surprised by the ferocity of the commando response, combined with having lost significant numbers of fighters, the enemy withdrew to the village of Tizak to conduct deliberate planning for the destruction of the isolated commando company.
Receiving intelligence that a high level Taliban commander had now been drawn to the village of Tizak, a troop from the 2nd Special Air Service Squadron deployed by helicopter to conduct a kill or capture mission on the morning of 11 June 2010. Upon landing in Tizak, the troop was immediately engaged by a maelstrom of small arms fire and a stream of rocket-propelled grenades from insurgents in the village and the surrounding high ground, resulting in two friendlies being wounded in action and four helicopters sustaining battle damage. Despite being outnumbered four to one and suppressed under a hail of machine gun fire, the troop inched forward until they were again checked and fixed by the interlocking fire of three machine guns. Drawing on the deepest reserves of collective courage, combined with notable acts of individual valour and gallantry, the initiative was regained, allowing a subsequent break-in of the enemy’s defensive position. Exploiting a tenuous tactical foothold, the troop unflinchingly cleared the remaining depth positions in close-quarter combat throughout the remainder of the day while being relentlessly supported by U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters from Task Force No Mercy. At the conclusion of the battle, late on the evening of 14 June 2010, a significant number of high-level Taliban commanders, a significant and disproportionate number of enemy fighters were killed, and the remaining enemy were routed and fled from the region.
The extraordinary heroism and exemplary combat performance displayed during the Shah Wali Kot Offensive resulted in a major enemy supply line from Pakistan into Kandahar being destroyed and the Taliban in eastern Shah Wali Kot being rendered ineffective. The battlefield orchestration, courage, gallantry and determination displayed by the combat elements of the Special Operations Task Group Rotation XII, under extremely adverse and hazardous conditions has set them apart, and by their achievements they have brought distinguished credit on themselves and the Australian Defence Force.
Introductory comments by the Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO at the Battle Honour Eastern Shah Wali Kot Media Round Table, Canberra, 9 May 2013.
Check against delivery.
Imagery from the media round table is available from the Defence Image Library.
Welcome to all of the journalists who have attended today and thank you for your interest in the operations of our people.
We are here today to recognise the outstanding performance of members of the Australian Army’s Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan. It is my great privilege to announce that two of these units, the Special Air Service Regiment and the 2nd Commando Regiment, have been awarded a Battle Honour for their outstanding performance in the Shah Wali Kot Offensive of May to June 2010.
Tomorrow, I will have the privilege of presenting the 2nd Special Air Service Squadron with the Battle Honour Eastern Shah Wali Kot and, subsequently, on 19 June the same honour to the 2nd Commando Regiment. Let me now tell you about the significance of the award itself.
A Battle Honour is the public recognition and commemoration of an outstanding achievement on the battlefield by a unit or formation of the Australian Army. This is the first Army Battle Honour to be awarded since the end of the Vietnam War. Customarily, the honour links the unit’s performance to a specific geographical location, hence the name Eastern Shah Wali Kot.
It is important to emphasise that while this award recognises the exemplary courage and professionalism of a particular group of soldiers in the most extreme circumstances, it also pays an enduring tribute to the entire Australian Defence Force (ADF) commitment to this long and complex conflict. Australian soldiers, sailors and air force members who have served in Afghanistan have upheld the reputation of the ADF. More importantly, they have given some of the best years of their young lives to improving the lot of some of the poorest, most disadvantaged people on earth.
The reason it has taken a number of decades since the last Battle Honour is because the nature of warfare has changed. I asked Army’s Battle Honours Committee to review the process for awarding honours. The guidelines now accommodate the current warfighting environment.
The Battle Honours Committee has begun analysing all deployments of Australian units or sub-units that have occurred since the end of the Vietnam War. Through this process, the Shah Wali Kot Offensive was identified for consideration. It is entirely appropriate that this is the first Army Battle Honour since the Vietnam and I was pleased to provide my endorsement.
Congratulations to all of the members involved in the Shah Wali Kot Offensive, including the supporting elements, our talented engineers, signallers and headquarters staff. It was a job well done and the outcome was decisive. Apart from the large number of insurgent casualties inflicted, a significant quantity of insurgent weaponry was captured. Also, a major insurgent supply line from Pakistan into Kandahar was and remains disrupted and the insurgency in the region was rendered ineffective for the 2010 fighting season. These outcomes allowed ISAF to progress security and stability operations in and around Kandahar City.
This wider security operation was the main effort in Regional Command South during the 2010 fighting season and Australia’s Special Forces’ contribution was highly regarded. The SOTG success in Shah Wali Kot, when added to the successful April 2010 Offensive in Gizab, significantly degraded insurgent threats to the South and North-East of Uruzgan. This reduction in insurgent threats allowed the Mentoring Task Force to focus on effectively partnering with the ANA’s 4th Brigade personnel in the Mirabad and Chora Valley regions.
I would now like to introduce the SOTG members here today who will tell you the story of the Shah Wali Kot Offensive, which led to the Special Air Service Regiment and the 2nd Commando Regiment being awarded this Battle Honour.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Burns, the Commanding Officer of the Special Operations Task Group at the time of the offensive will now brief you on the conduct of the operation. After this presentation, Lieutenant Colonel Burns, together with Major M and Sergeant Garry Robinson, both members of the 2nd Commando Regiment and present at the Shah Wali Kot Offensive, will be available to answer your questions.
Lieutenant Colonel Burns…
The Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO has presented the Battle Honour Eastern Shah Wali Kot to the 2nd Special Air Service Squadron of the Special Air Service Regiment at a parade at Campbell Barracks, Swanbourne attended by the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith MP on Friday, 10 May 2013.
The battle honour had previously been announced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard MP and the Minister on 26 March 2013.
Eastern Shah Wali Kot is the first Army Battle Honour awarded since the end of the Vietnam War and was awarded by the Chief of Army to the Special Air Service Regiment and to the 2nd Commando Regiment for their outstanding performance during the Shah Wali Kot Offensive in Afghanistan from May to June 2010.
“This is an exceptional achievement for the Special Air Service Regiment and typifies the professional excellence that is synonymous with the unit,” Lieutenant General Morrison said.
“That this is the first Australian Army battle honour awarded since the Vietnam War is an indication of how rare such awards are.
“The supporting elements of Special Operations Task Group Rotation XII including the engineers, signallers, logisticians and headquarters staff should also be proud of their contributions to the Shah Wali Kot Offensive, which are also recognised through this battle honour.”
The Special Operations Commander, Major General Gus Gilmore, DSC, AM said the battle honour is a well deserved recognition of the skills, teamwork and professionalism of Australia’s Special Forces in Afghanistan.
“The Shah Wali Kot Offensive achieved a very significant outcome for the coalition’s Afghanistan campaign and it was only achieved through the superior leadership and skills of Australia’s Special Forces,” Major General Gilmore said.
“I am particularly proud of this battle honour because it recognises the courage, dedication and professionalism displayed at all levels by those Special Air Service troopers and 2nd Commando Regiment soldiers involved.”
The Commanding Officer of the Special Air Service Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel G (member’s identity protected) said it was a mark of distinction for the unit.
“Everybody within the Special Air Service Regiment is quietly proud of our long-standing and ongoing service in Afghanistan,” Lieutenant Colonel G said.
“Being awarded a battle honour is a significant achievement for the Special Air Service Regiment and for all those 2 Squadron members involved in the Shah Wali Kot Offensive.”
The efforts of the Special Air Service Regiment and the 2nd Commando Regiment during the engagement were highly commended by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Command for the contribution the Shah Wali Kot Offensive made to the overall ISAF effort to disrupt insurgent activities in the traditional Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
The battle honour will also be presented to the 2nd Commando Regiment on 19 June 2013, at an official parade marking the unit’s birthday.
Imagery from the presentation of the battle honour to the Special Air Service Regiment is available from the Defence Image Library.