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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Courier-Mail: Secret heroes of the Iraqi war [11dec03]

Secret heroes of the Iraqi war

A DOZEN SAS soldiers have been secretly awarded medals and honours for their courage during 42 days behind enemy lines in the Iraq war.

But the lack of public recognition for the elite army unit's latest medal haul has angered top brass and surprised the soldiers themselves.

Past exploits of Special Air Service Regiment members, who cannot be identified, have been acknowledged in honours lists issued by Government House.

Army personnel are unaware who banned publication of the latest medals but are upset the soldiers' bravery has not been recognised publicly.

The awards were not included in the list of 88 defence personnel recognised for the Iraq campaign late last month.

Defence provides the list to Government House but senior army officers are mystified by the latest exclusions.

"I don't know where the problem is, but it needs to be sorted out," one officer told The Daily Telegraph.

The 12 secret awards follow a well publicised medal for gallantry for "trooper X" for courage under fire on the battlefields of western Iraq, plus the first unit citation for gallantry for the regiment's Number 1 Squadron.

Trooper X, or John W from Queensland, is a sniper who won his award for engaging enemy forces with all three of his weapons systems, while under intense enemy fire on day five of the war.

Heading the new list is SAS Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Rick B and Squadron Commander Major Paul B, who have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for leadership and professionalism during the Iraq campaign.

The DSC is the military's top award for distinguished command in action.

The young major came up with the idea of using a low-flying American fighter's sonic boom to frighten enemy forces into surrendering.

He was in charge of a force of about 75 elite soldiers from the Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment who defeated or destroyed thousands of enemy forces and secured Iraq's western desert. Not a single soldier was injured during the campaign.

Three other SAS soldiers, including two troop commanders and the regimental sergeant major, have been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for distinguished leadership in action.

One SAS soldier who can be identified because he is leaving the army is Major Peter Tinley, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his role as deputy commander of the Special Forces Task Group in Iraq.

Major Tinley, from Western Australia, spent three months in the US planning the Iraq mission.

The Courier-Mail: Secret heroes of the Iraqi war [11dec03]

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