Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 1 2009 Contents 17
always a hero
By WO2 Graham McBean
By WO2 Graham McBean
While Australia’s senior leaders have
applauded the bravery of Trooper Mark
donaldson Vc, his wife, emma, and two-year-old
daughter, Kaylee, are still his biggest supporters.
As a former signals soldier of 14 years
herself, emma said she fully understood
Mark’s commitment to the Army and his wish
to continue serving with the sAsR.
“He was in the Army when I met him so
the Army came with the man,” emma said.
emma and Kaylee joined him in the week
following his investiture at the numerous
media events and public appearances.
If it wasn’t difficult enough being an
sAsR soldier’s wife, the media whirlwind
that descended on the donaldsons may well
be considered above the call of duty.
But they haven’t been without their
When Mark presented his Vc to the
Australian War Memorial on loan, Kaylee
exclaimed “look, daddy is getting another
present”. emma replied: “no, daddy is giving
one away this time”.
of course, emma is proud of her reluctant
hero’s exceptional bravery.
“Mark has always been Mark to me but
I have always known he was special – and
it really was an emotional thing. I couldn’t
believe that it was my Mark and he is now
Australia’s hero. It was just a weird thing for
me,” she said.
she is adamant that she wants Mark to
return to soldiering with the sAsR as he had
enlisted in the Army specifically to join the
defence magazine ›
for most conspicuous acts of gallantry
in action in a circumstance of great peril in
Afghanistan as part of the special operations
Task group during operation slIPPeR, oruzgan
Trooper Mark gregor donaldson enlisted
into the Australian Army on 18 June 2002.
After completing Recruit and Initial and
employment Training he was posted to the
1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.
Having successfully completed the special
Air service selection course in April 2004,
Trooper donaldson was posted to special Air
service Regiment in May 2004.
on 2 september 2008, during the conduct of a
fighting patrol, Trooper donaldson was travelling
in a combined Afghan, us and Australian vehicle
convoy that was engaged by a numerically
superior, entrenched and coordinated enemy
ambush. The ambush was initiated by a high
volume of sustained machine gun fire coupled
with the effective use of rocket-propelled
grenades. such was the effect of the initiation
that the combined patrol suffered numerous
casualties, completely lost the initiative and
became immediately suppressed. It was over
two hours before the convoy was able to
establish a clean break and move to an area free
of enemy fire.
In the early stages of the ambush, Trooper
donaldson reacted spontaneously to regain the
initiative. He moved rapidly between alternate
positions of cover engaging the enemy with
66mm and 84mm anti-armour weapons as well
as his M4 rifle. during an early stage of the
enemy ambush, he deliberately exposed himself
to enemy fire in order to draw attention to
himself and thus away from wounded soldiers.
This selfless act alone bought enough time for
those wounded to be moved to relative safety.
As the enemy had employed the tactic of a
rolling ambush, the patrol was forced to conduct
numerous vehicle manoeuvres, under intense
enemy fire, over a distance of approximately
four kilometres to extract the convoy from the
compounding the extraction was the fact
that casualties had consumed all available
space within the vehicles. Those who had not
been wounded, including Trooper donaldson,
were left with no option but to run beside the
vehicles throughout. during the conduct of
this vehicle manoeuvre to extract the convoy
from the engagement area, a severely wounded
coalition force interpreter was inadvertently
left behind. of his own volition and displaying
complete disregard for his own safety, Trooper
donaldson moved alone, on foot, across
approximately 80 metres of exposed ground to
recover the wounded interpreter. His movement,
once identified by the enemy, drew intense and
accurate machine gun fire from entrenched
positions. upon reaching the wounded coalition
force interpreter, Trooper donaldson picked him
up and carried him back to the relative safety of
the vehicles then provided immediate first aid
before returning to the fight.
on subsequent occasions during the battle,
Trooper donaldson administered medical care
to other wounded soldiers, whilst continually
engaging the enemy.
Trooper donaldson’s acts of exceptional
gallantry in the face of accurate and sustained
enemy fire ultimately saved the life of a coalition
force interpreter and ensured the safety of the
other members of the combined Afghan, us and
Australian force. Trooper donaldson’s actions
on this day displayed exceptional courage in
circumstances of great peril. His actions are
of the highest accord and are in keeping with
the finest traditions of the special operations
command, the Australian Army and the
Australian defence force.
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