Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Australia's Heroes Marching: Sapper Jacob Moerland and Sapper Darren Smith

Sapper Jacob Moerland (left) and Sapper Darren Smith were killed by an improvised explosive device. (Supplied: Australian Defence Force)

Two Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan
08 June 2010

In what was described by Acting Chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant General David Hurley as a "tough day in the theatre of war", two Australian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

The two soldiers from the Brisbane-based 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment were serving with the 1st Mentoring Task Force and died as a result of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated yesterday morning, Afghanistan time.

They were part of an Australian dismounted patrol conducting operations in the Mirabad Valley region of Oruzgan province.

The Australians were two of a total of ten NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Monday. It was the worst single day for the foreign forces operating in Afghanistan in over seven months and tragically, the worst day for Australian troops since Vietnam.

One of the soldiers was killed at the time of the explosion while the other soldier received emergency first aid from his patrol mates and was subsequently aero-medically evacuated to a nearby ISAF hospital. Sadly, the soldier died from his wounds.

There were no other Australian or Afghan casualties, however, an explosive detection dog also died in the incident.

The families of both soldiers have been informed.

The Acting Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General David Hurley, said he was deeply saddened bythe loss of the two brave soldiers.

"Their role is a dangerous one – seeking out explosive devices and other threats – to keep their colleagues safe. They are fighting a determined enemy in the Taliban, whose aim is to kill and maim coalition soldiers and Afghan security personnel," he said.

"To the families and friends of these two soldiers, I also offer my heartfelt sympathies and the full support of the Australian Defence Force, particularly, in the coming days as we prepare to bring these soldiers home....(ADF here)

Darren Smith, with wife Angela and son Mason, and Jacob Moerland, with fiancee Kezia Muccahy / News.com.au image

IT WAS just before 11am on Monday in Afghanistan's hot and dusty Mirabad Valley when newly arrived army combat engineers Sappers Darren Smith and Jacob Moerland conducted a route clearance ahead of an Australian patrol.

Sapper Smith's border collie cross sniffer dog Herbie had detected an enemy bomb and, as the two soldiers from the Brisbane-based 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, approached the improvised explosive device (IED) the still, summer morning was rocked by a massive explosion.

A Taliban insurgent had detonated the device by remote control.

When the dust cleared, Sapper Smith and Herbie were dead.

Sapper Moerland was airlifted to an International Security Assistance Force hospital. And even though it took just 38 minutes for a US medivac chopper to get the second soldier to the Dutch-run and Australian-staffed field hospital at Camp Holland in Tarin Kowt, there was nothing the doctors could do.

The soldier's wounds were too severe and he succumbed to shock and blood loss soon after he arrived.

Both engineers were on their first active tours of duty and were returning back to base when the bomb blast happened.

ABC journalist Chris Masters, who is embedded with the forces and slept in the same tent as the two men, said: "There was an almighty bang which we heard about 2.5km away. Everybody knew that this (bang) was especially ugly."

Sapper Smith, 26, who was originally from Adelaide, but whose wife Angela and 3-year-old son Mason live in Brisbane, told The Adelaide Advertiser last month the dogs are their "best mates and part of the team".

"The teams are highly trained and doing a great job. It's a great feeling to be working for your country," he said.

Last night Mrs Smith said Darren was a loving husband and father and a "remarkable" human being who had a special relationship with Herbie.

"He was very passionate about his job and understood the risks involved but he was the sort of man who always put others first," she said.

Sapper Moerland, 21, was from Cairns and had a fiancee, Kezia Muccahy. Last night his mother, Sandra Moerland, and sisters Bethany and Laura, said they were very proud.

"We would like everyone to know how proud Jacob was to serve his country," they said in a statement.

"Jacob wanted to join the army from an early age and he loved his mates and his job and I have never seen Jacob so happy as during his march out parade.

"Jacob died doing the job he loved and he went to Afghanistan not because he had to, but he thought it was a valuable job to help the people in Afghanistan." (More at news.com.au)

(For the history and significance of this song, go here)

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