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© 2012 David French

On Friday 07th September my wife Liz and I had the privilege of attending the Queens Birthday Honours and Awards Investiture Ceremony at Government House, Darwin, to witness Corporals Ryan Avery and Marc Danieletto receive their awards from our tour as Combat Team - Charlie, Mentoring Task Force 2.
Avery and Danieletto
The simple and heartfelt ceremony conducted near dusk overlooking Darwin Harbour was an appropriate setting for recognising not just those individuals from the Army and Combat Team - Charlie, but also the other recipients who included a Doctor with a long history in working in the regional communities and islands, a fireman and a young navy cook who found herself at the forefront of a crisis assisting boat people whose vessel had foundered near Christmas Island.

For all those efforts, and amongst the distinguished and learned elders of the Territory, it would not be too much of a stretch to say that the soldiers of the 5th Battalion garnered the most attention. If nothing else, this is a mark of respect and admiration that the Darwin community holds Defence members, even if at times we test the friendship a little.

Corporal Avery was the first of all to receive his award, and the reading of his citation brought back some memories of the at times desperate fight we found ourselves in on that day in Derapet on 04 December 2010. This action, which is already the subject of some paragraphs in the Combat Team - Charlie article on the association web page, demonstrated the bravery, tenacity and teamwork for which the Australian soldier has become known throughout our Army's history. While Ryan was the only soldier officially recognised from that day, he wears that medal for all the lads who fought that day and on others. Ryan's citation reads:

For acts of gallantry in hazardous circumstances on 04 December 2010 while a sniper team member in Mentoring Task Force Two on Operation SLIPPER in Afghanistan.

Corporal Ryan Avery is an exemplary soldier whose courage and selflessness under fire allowed the safe withdrawal of his patrol in the face of significant enemy forces.

Corporal Avery's fearless action in repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire to better engage his opponents and protect the lives of his patrol mates was an inspiration to all.

Marc Danieletto was an excellent Junior Non Commissioned Officer throughout the tour, thoughtful intelligent and also a bloody good enough shot who with the rest of his sniper team put the fear of several gods into the Taliban in the district.

Marc's performance was marked by a great understanding of how his piece fitted in the larger picture and by always finding a way to get the job done. Perhaps the finest example of this was during a planning session for a patrol to identify and neutralise Taliban commanders in the Tangi Valley and work out their methods of movement. My brief to Marc was essentially:

"What I want you to do is to take a small four man sniper team well behind known enemy front lines, near a village where we nearly had our clocks cleaned a week or so ago, climb a large mountain with little cover and concealment, and then after we pick a fight on the other side of the valley, engage and destroy any enemy you can, thus exposing yourself to the attentions of the enemy without a whole lot to back you up."

"Sure no worries Boss. I'll come back with a plan."

He might have been thinking of suggesting something else along the lines of seeing if I could commit an unnatural act upon myself but he knew the job and made sure it got done. Marc's efforts were fundamental in developing our understanding of the insurgents in the Tangi Valley and it was from information gathered from his patrol reports, combined with some clinical analysis from our S2 CAPT Dean Callas, that uncovered the 'Jesus nut' that had not been exposed in eight years of Dutch and French deployments in the area and allowed us to destroy the Taliban as a force within the Tangi Valley. Marc's citation reads:

For distinguished performance of duty in warlike operations and in action as a sniper team leader with Mentoring Task Force Two on Operation SLIPPER in Afghanistan.

Corporal Marc Danieletto displayed leadership, courage, tactical skill and selflessness in the face of the enemy that inspired excellent performance from his fellow soldiers and directly contributed to the destruction of the enemy's capability and the protection of Australian and Afghan soldiers in combat.

The recognition of these soldiers, along with Bombardier David Robinson with a Medal of Gallantry, and Captain Scott Stort with a Distinguished Service Medal, are representative of the efforts of all of the Combat Team - Charlie soldiers in Deh Rawood district. We operated far from other Australians, working to two separate American Battalions - our brothers who we fought with and who became our family also - and as our efforts were reported under the names of those two Battalions and not as Mentoring Task Force Two these honours represent our footnote in history in the development of the 1st Kandak, security within Uruzgan Province and the Australian Army.

These soldiers will wear those honours for us all. There were many other brave acts and performances of a distinguished nature which go unrecognised - but we could reward them all - and Marc, Ryan, Scott and David will bear the burden of that as well as the privilege of wearing those medals. I am sure they are more than equal to the task.

MAJ David French It was the greatest honour to lead the men of Combat Team - Charlie during our tour. To paraphrase a famous poem, the soldiers of that team went where others feared to go and did what others failed to do. While few were recognised, all were worthy.

MAJ Dave French
OPS Officer 5 RAR (Mech)
(Formerly OC Combat Team Charlie, Afghanistan)

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