Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 1 2009 Contents 15
It’s a great honour to receive the VC. You
couldn’t be more overwhelmed and proud as a
soldier, especially an Australian soldier to receive
the highest military award you can get. And now
as a recipient, there’s lots of responsibility and
tradition that goes along with that, so I’m going to
uphold that, as well as be a soldier in the Army.
I don’t feel any different to what I was. I still
feel like Mark Donaldson and still want to be like
Mark Donaldson to my mates. Obviously, [my life]
has changed and there’s lots of things that have
come out of this and there’s places I’m going to
have to go and people I’ll have to see, which is
a great honour as well. But I don’t really feel any
different to being me, to being a dad and being a
soldier and being a mate.
Being the first one in 40 years since Keith
Payne and first the first Australian VC since they
changed it in 1991; it’s going to be quite significant
and you’re going to have to expect that. And being a
soldier, you’re not really trained to look after media
but it’s just another job and you just get it done.
Memories of 2 september
It was a long day and long afternoon. A couple
of days beforehand we’d been working pretty
hard. We’d done some patrols and had quite a few
successes, and in that morning we’d had some
success on the mission we were doing.
With the terrain, it was the only way we really
could come back [to base] with the vehicles. There
was high ground to the north and to the south
was the green belt, and there was about 300-400
metres of just the dash and the desert in between,
and that’s where they caught us. There was
nowhere else to go really.
Afghanistan is hot and dry and rocky and
there’s no cover from the trees or the mountains
there’s just nothing there to protect you. The
way we were travelling back to base, the sun was
in our eyes and that’s when they caught us out.
They came from two different directions and then
towards the end of it, it was coming from three
directions, so there weren’t many places to hide.
We didn’t see that many [of the enemy], but
from the amount of fire that was coming down,
there was obviously a fair number of them. They
had the low ground and superior high ground
and the green belt below for cover. That’s where
they live and what they do is move around, so it’s
not going to look any different to us if they walk
around with a shovel.
The fire fight
I guess it’s like if you get a DFSW [Direct Fire
Support Weapons] Platoon to put up a gun line
and have it concentrated on one area and then
run through that. And then you’ve got the 84mms
shooting into the same area. At the heaviest parts
of it, that’s probably what it was like.
You’d be on this side of the car and you’d start
getting targeted and your only other cover was to
run around to the other side of the car, so we’d
run around and you’d get shot from that side as
well. So it was just constantly moving around and
getting shot at.
Honestly, it was just like a normal contact,
so blokes just started firing and moving and that’s
what you’re trained to do – just fire and move. We
just tried to regain the initiative and fight back.
That’s pretty much where it went from there. We
just kept fighting from then on.
I was too busy trying to spot blokes and trying
to see what where it was coming from. I was
defence magazine ›
The following is his story, in his words:
I don’t really feel any different to
being me, to being a dad and being
a soldier and being a mate.
lefT: governor-general of the commonwealth of Australia, Her excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, Ac, congratulates Trooper Mark donaldson, Vc, at
his investiture ceremony. at government House. Photo: WOPH Steve Dent RIgHT: from left: Minister for defence the Hon. Joel fitzgibbon MP; Prime
Minister of Australia, the Hon. Kevin Rudd MP; Mr Keith Payne Vc; Trooper Mark donaldson Vc; Mrs emma donaldson (with daughter Kaylee);
governor-general of the commonwealth of Australia, Her excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, Ac; chief of the defence force Air chief Marshal Angus
Houston and chief of Army lieutenant general Ken gillespie. Photo: WOPH Steve Dent
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