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Mentoring Task Force 2, Battle Group Tiger Australian Infantryman's Combat Badge
Map of Afghanistan

Courtesy Sgt Andrew Hetherington, ARMY News

Cpl Ryan AveryWhen 5RAR sniper team leader CPL Ryan Avery went out on an Operational Mentoring Liaison Team (OMLT) patrol in Afghanistan on December 4, 2010, he had no idea it would lead to a Medal for Gallantry (MG) in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours list.

"I was stoked when I first read the letter telling me I'd been awarded the medal," CPL Avery said.

"The four-man team I was a member of in Afghanistan was extremely successful in what we did. One of our team members, CPL Marc Danieletto, was also awarded this year a Commendation for Distinguished Service for his work on the same deployment."

CPL Avery arrived in Afghanistan in October 2010 as a member of 5RAR's Battle Group Tiger and MTF 2. His four-man sniper team was first deployed to Forward Operating Base Hadrian in Deh Rawud and then sent out to the Tangi Valley to Patrol Base Anarjoy. The base was 3km from the town of Derapet, a known hotspot where 6RAR's LCPL Jared MacKinney was killed during a major battle with insurgents a few months earlier.Just after lunch on December 4, 2010, an OMLT patrol consisting of 11 Australian and 15 ANA soldiers left PB Anarjoy headed for Derapet.

"Our four-man sniper call sign decided to split in two as there weren't many Australians on the patrol and we wanted to put the 338 Blazer sniper rifle in an overwatch position while myself and PTE Grant Robins, with our semi-automatic SR-25s, moved with the patrol members on the low ground," CPL Avery said.

As they entered Derapet, the patrol members noticed a large number of local men watching them.

"We started seeing a lot of vehicles and families moving out of town, which was a sign to us something was going to happen," he said.

"At this point CPL Danieletto and PTE Rolston reported from overwatch they could see a large number of armed insurgents approaching Derapet from the north."

As the patrol was moving along the town side of the tree line near the aqueduct, they started to take sporadic small-arms fire. Their four-man lead engineer element began taking RPG fire, which fell short of their position.

"We then moved into the aqueduct to take cover and we began to move forward towards the firing insurgents," CPL Avery said.

"As I was one of the lead guys in the aqueduct, I moved forward when the engineers got pinned down in an alleyway by PKM machine gun fire and by a group of insurgents about 25 metres in front of them." He continued to move forward and engaged an insurgent trying to escape.

"He was trying to get away from me by climbing over a wall," he said.

"I fired a couple of shots from the hip at him, as I was moving low."

"After he got over the wall he fired back with his rifle and then one of his mates fired an RPG at us."

CPL Avery then crawled over the aqueduct bank up to the pinned-down engineers.

"I fired a few rounds with my SR-25 into where I could see them moving," he said. "They also had a machinegun flanking position, which upped his rate of fire to cover his guys in the lead coming towards us.

"The machinegun must have run out of ammunition as the fire stopped and we were able to withdraw to a wall as insurgents began to aggressively manoeuvre towards and fire at us."

The patrol members then conducted a fighting withdrawal out of the aqueduct into a compound where they regrouped and established a defensive position. This gave the insurgents time to advance.

"I remember hearing one of them yelling out 'Allah Akbar' and it seemed like he was trying to fire up his mates;' CPL Avery said.

"I took out a grenade, threw it out towards them then fired a couple of rounds at them too."

This slowed the insurgents and he and his mates began a fighting withdrawal through the compound, tossing grenades over walls into the aqueduct, firing their weapons and dodging RPGs. The insurgents only stopped pursuing the patrol after two AH-64 Apaches came to their assistance, strafing the aqueduct with 20mm guns.

"After the Apaches did their job we were able to break clean and patrol though Derapet back to the patrol base."

After returning to PB Anarjoy the patrol estimated they had come in contact with at least 30 insurgents during the three-and-half-hour battle.

"Two weeks later in the same area, I counted a minimum of 45 armed insurgents as they tried to hit one of our other patrols," he said.

The contact exposed him for the first time to a different type of combat he'd only seen from a distance previously.

"Before December 4, the only fire fights I'd been in were as a sniper from long range," he said.

"It was an eye opener for me and I had a couple of close calls where I was nearly shot in the head or torso. "I realised the insurgents weren't playing around and didn't care if they went home.

"The contact was exhilarating, fighting with my mates."

None of CPL Avery's patrol members were wounded during the December 4 contact.

During the contact, CPL Avery was primarily concentrating on withdrawing his patrol safely, but he had another important reason to survive.

"At the time my wife was pregnant with our daughter, Sunny, and I thought I'd like to see Australia and her again," he said.

He returned to Australia in June 2011, in time to see his daughter born.


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