“The bravery seen in those who win Victoria Crosses is of a level not often seen in living men
For those of you who might not have heard of him, Ben Robert-Smith is a former Australian soldier, who is also one of the most decorated soldiers in the countries history. Serving in the army, and then special forces, he fought in the middle east, and in one engagement, he demonstrated a level of love that earned him a Victoria Cross.
Let me be clear. Nothing made Ben do what he did. His actions in that far flung country stem from love for country, and a love for his brothers. HE volunteered to serve his country. He then devoted himself, and his life, to performing at the best level he possibly could, earning himself a spot amongst the prestigious ranks of the Special Air Service. He then went where his government told him, and did what was asked of him, by the people that his fellow citizens elected to lead our nation.
No one made him do this, and in the engagement where he won his VC, no one made him risk everything for his brothers in arms. Just to be clear, there is no demand placed on our troops to throw themselves into danger to the extent that Ben did. There is an understanding that in certain situations, it is acceptable for rational men to not get involved.
But a love for others that transcends the bonds of blood is not a rational love. A bravery that demands the chance of sacrifice is not something that is constrained by rational thought. Ben RS volunteered to go forward, under fire, for those he loved. Below is his citation, the official explanation of just how this incredible man truly is.
On 11 June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak Khandahar province, in order to capture or kill a senior engaged Taliban commander.
Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was attacked by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from multiple, dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fire from three machine guns in an elevated fortified position to the south of the village. Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Roberts-Smith and his patrol maneuvered to within 70 metres of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative.
Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40 metres, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure.
As he approached the structure, Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Roberts-Smith engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.
His act of valour enabled his patrol to break into the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machine gun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts-Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Wali Kot district to retreat from the area.
Picture that, if you can. You’re pinned down, under heavy fire. It is hot, your equipment is heavy, your friends are injured, and men will die if something doesn’t happen. People are actively trying to take the lives of your loved ones, and you alone are in a position to do something about it.
So you run forward.
Attracting the attention of men who want to kill you so that your own brothers may direct fire, and neutralise the force arrayed against them.
You move, and move again. Engaging with these men who are desperately fighting against you, determined to achieve the outcome you have been set, and to protect those men who you would die for.
Could you do it? Could I? The love required of a man to make him willingly risk his life on multiple occasions, is a love that is difficult to comprehend. Most people do love someone. And I’m sure we’d all pay lip service to the fact that we’d die for them. But when metal meets the meat, in a dusty, remote village in a far off country, could you still say that? Amidst the screams of those you love, and with the knowledge that every move could be your last, could you do it? Could you love to such an immense degree?
Ben Robert-Smith is a leader in many more ways than simply his ability to love others. He showed strength of character, bravery in the face of fire, and a resolute commitment to achieving the goals he needed to achieve. He led from the literal front. He was the pointy end of the spear that represents Australian Policy, and is a paragon of what it means to be not only a man, but a great one.