Victoria Cross awarded to soldier killed in Afghanistan
AUSTRALIA'S 100th Victoria Cross medal has been awarded to an Afghanistan veteran who died in battle.
Corporal Cameron Stewart Baird was awarded the Victoria Cross "for most conspicuous acts of valour, extreme devotion to duty and ultimate self-scarifice".
Cpl Baird, from the 2nd Commando Regiment based at Sydney's Holsworthy Barracks, was killed by small arms fire on Saturday, 22 June 2013, during an engagement with insurgents in the Khod Valley in southern Afghanistan.
He was serving with the Australian Special Operations Task Group when he was killed.
In announcing the award, Prime Minister Tony Abbott paid tribute to the courageous soldier.
He described him as an "already iconic figure in our army, who had earlier received the Medal of Gallantry".
"Our country has lost a citizen, a soldier, a hero," Mr Abbott said. "We are all the poorer for his passing but the richer for his living."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rose in Parliament to support the Prime Minister's comments.
Cpl Baird's mother, father and brother addressed the media after the award was announced.
His father, Doug Baird, broke down as he described the characteristics of his son.
Cpl Baird's brother Brendan read a statement on behalf of the family, including Cameron.
"Today is a proud day for the Baird family," he said.
"It is a tremendous honour for us to be here on Cameron's behalf for this announcement. We would like to thank the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force for the recognition this award bestows upon Cameron, our son and brother.
"As a loving family, this is a bitter-sweet moment, as Cameron is no longer with us.
"But we are honoured to have him recognised in this way and and, through him, all of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for their beloved country.
"We'd especially like to thank our second family, the Second Commando Regiment, for their unwavering support.
"Cameron never liked the limelight. He was a very humble man who would not see this as an individual award but a recognition of all at 2 Commando.
"We accept this award not only on behalf of Cameron, but for all his brothers, his team, his company and his regiment."
The Defence website describes Cpl Baird as an outstanding Special Forces soldier.
"He exemplified what it meant to be a Commando, living by the attributes of uncompromising spirit and honour, which in turn earned him the unconditional respect of his fellow Commandos," a tribute on the site says.
"His leadership in action was exemplary, constantly inspiring those around him to achieve greater things. Corporal Baird was an extremely dedicated and disciplined soldier, always striving for excellence in everything he did."
Cpl Baird was killed in action by small arms fire during an insurgent engagement in Afghanistan on June 22, 2013.
At the time of his death Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley said Cpl Baird was recognised by his mates as "one of the most iconic figures in the Regiment".
"He was on his fifth tour of Afghanistan having previously served in Iraq and Timor-Leste. In combat, and as a Team Commander, he was the man to watch and never happier than when the situation demanded decisive action and courage," Gen Hurley said.
CPL BAIRD'S COURAGEOUS ACTION
Lance Corporal Cameron Stewart Baird died while part of a Commando Company mission assigned for clearance and search of a Taliban stronghold in November 2007.
During the initial phase of the clearance, Lance Corporal Baird's Platoon came under heavy fire and during the ensuing close-range fire-fight, a member of his team was mortally wounded," .
Displaying complete disregard for his own safety, Lance Corporal Baird led other members of his team forward under heavy fire from machine guns and assault rifles to recover the wounded team member back to a position of cover.
He then re-entered the compound and continued to engage the enemy. Even though under constant fire, Lance Corporal Baird continually moved amongst his team members coordinating their fire, and throwing grenades to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions.
Once the close quarter battle had been won, Lance Corporal Baird again led his team forward and began room-to-room clearance, where he was again engaged by several enemy. Lance Corporal Baird continued to lead the fight, killing several enemy and successfully completing the clearance.
Throughout the action, Lance Corporal Baird displayed conspicuous gallantry, composure and superior leadership under fire.
He was personally responsible for killing several enemy combatants during the clearance, ensuring the momentum of the assault was maintained, and undoubtedly preventing further members of his section from becoming casualties.
His performance and his actions were of the highest order and were in the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.
Corporal Baird has been awarded the following honours and awards:
- Medal for Gallantry,
- Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp East Timor, Clasp Iraq 2003, Clasp International Coalition Against Terrorism,
- Afghanistan Campaign Medal,
- Iraq Campaign Medal,
- Australian Service Medal with Clasp - Counter Terrorism / Special Recovery,
- Australian Defence Medal,
- United Nations Medal with Ribbon United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor,
- NATO non article 5 Medal with Clasp ISAF and Multiple Tour Indicator (3),
- Infantry Combat Badge, and
- Returned from Active Service Badge.
During Corporal Baird's service in the Australian Army he deployed on the following operations:
- Operation TANAGER (Timor-Leste) - April 2001 - October 2001,
- Operation SLIPPER (Afghanistan) - February 2003 - March 2003,
- Operation BASTILLE (Iraq) - March 2003 - May 2003,
- Operation SLIPPER (Afghanistan) - August 2007 - January 2008,
- Operation SLIPPER (Afghanistan) - March 2009 - July 2009,
- Operation SLIPPER (Afghanistan) - July 2011 - February 2012,
- Operation SLIPPER (Afghanistan) - February 2013 - June 2013.