A SOLDIER who put his own safety at risk to go to the aid of nine colleagues caught in a fatal roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan is among more than 100 members of the armed forces recognised in the latest military honours.
Sergeant Saiasi Nuku Vono, 36, of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 Scots) was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for the “inspirational leadership” he demonstrated following the devastating explosion in Helmand Province.
The officer was one of 117 people to be named in the latest Operational Honours and Awards list.
They include four other soldiers based in Scotland - Majors Gary McGown, Stephen Dallard and Timothy Draper and Captain Ross Boyd - all from 2 Scots, based at Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, Midlothian. Lieutenant Colonel David Orr Ewing, a Nato planning officer from the Royal Regiment of Scotland, currently based in Italy, was also honoured.
Sgt Vono, originally from Fiji, was on his way back to base after a patrol in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand, when an improvised explosive device (IED) was triggered.
The struck Mastiff was behind Saiasi’s vehicle and the blast caused serious injuries to all nine of the soldiers it was carrying. Three of them were later confirmed as having been killed in action.
Amid the scene of devastation, he immediately assessed that there were multiple casualties and that urgent life-saving medical treatment was needed.
All communications with the Mastiff were lost and Saiasi had to react quickly while remaining alert to the threat of further explosions and small arms fire attacks, a known insurgent tactic.
He directed other soldiers to cover him as he led them down to what remained of the vehicle. He climbed onto its roof, exposing himself to gun fire, in order to see inside before jumping down on to un-cleared ground to gain access to the back doors.
He applied a tourniquet to the section commander’s leg and then coordinated the removal of all nine casualties from the vehicle. Having run out of stretchers, Saiasi carried one of the casualties across more than 100 metres of un-cleared ground.
Once all the casualties had been taken away from the scene, he exposed himself to further danger of attack when he led a team back to the vehicle to get equipment.
His award citation states: “In an incident of extreme pressure and chaos, Sgt Vono’s gallant act demonstrated the highest standards of leadership, calmness and selfless commitment.”
It continues: “His personal example, leadership and loyalty to his men exemplify the very best traditions of a senior non-commissioned officer in the British Army and for his actions he should be nationally recognised.”
Along with Sgt Vono, servicemen and women recognised in today’s honours include 36-year-old Major Dallard. He has been appointed OBE for his contribution to the operational tour in Afghanistan, when he was based at Patrol Base Ouellette, in a “large, complex and dangerous area of operations that was one of the most contested and kinetic areas of central Helmand”.
Captain Boyd, who was acting Major at the time, was appointed MBE for taking on the role of company commander of the Nad-e-Ali district police advisory team at a “critical and highly complex” point of the Afghan campaign.
Major McGowan, 49, was the company commander responsible for the Lashkar Gah training centre advisory team. He was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service for his support to the operation.
Major Draper, 36, was also awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service for overcoming hurdles in developing Helmand’s police headquarters.
Also from the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Lieutenant Colonel David Orr Ewing, who is currently working with Nato in Milan, picked up the same honour for his efforts in planning for operations in Afghanistan.
Today’s awards were principally for actions during the period from March to September of last year, as part of Operation Herrick 18.