Ben Roberts-Smith

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Benjamin Roberts-Smith
Nickname(s) "RS"
Born (1978-11-01) 1 November 1978 (age 35)
Perth, Western Australia
Allegiance  Australia
Service/branch Australian Army (1996–13)
Australian Army Reserve (2013–)
Years of service 1996–present
Rank Corporal
Unit 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1997–03)
Special Air Service Regiment (2003–13)
Battles/wars International Force for East Timor
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Awards Victoria Cross for Australia
Medal for Gallantry
Commendation for Distinguished Service
Relations Len Roberts-Smith (father)

Benjamin "Ben" Roberts-Smith VCMG (born 1 November 1978) is a former Australian soldier and a recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia, the highest award in the Australian honours system.[1] At the time, his Victoria Cross, together with his Medal for Gallantry (awarded for actions during a tour of Afghanistan in 2006), made Roberts-Smith the most highly decorated member of the Australia Defence Force.[2]

Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia for his actions during a helicopter assault into Tizak on 11 June 2010 as part of an offensive in the Shah Wali Kot region, while serving with the Special Air Service Regiment during the War in Afghanistan.[2] He was presented with the medal by the Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, at a ceremony in Perth on 23 January 2011.[3]

Military career[edit]

Roberts-Smith joined the Australian Army in 1996. After completing his initial training at Lone Pine Barracks in Singleton, New South Wales, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR). Initially part of a rifle company, he subsequently became section commander in the Direct Fire Support Weapons Platoon.[4]

With 3RAR, Roberts-Smith was deployed to East Timor twice, the first time as part of the International Force for East Timor in 1999.[4]

After completing the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) selection course in 2003, and completing the SASR reinforcement cycle, Roberts-Smith was posted to 3 Squadron. With 3 Squadron, he was a member of training and assistance teams throughout South East Asia, and also took part in operations off Fiji in 2004. He was also part of personal security detachments in Iraq throughout 2005 and 2006. Roberts-Smith was deployed to Afghanistan on three occasions, in 2006, 2009 and 2010.[4]

Citations[edit]

The following are extracts from the citations of the Department of Defence, Commonwealth of Australia for Roberts-Smith's two awards for gallantry.

Medal for Gallantry[edit]

On 31 May 2006, Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith was employed as a patrol scout and sniper that was tasked with establishing an observation post near the Chora Pass in Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan. On 2 June, the observation post had become the focus of the Anti Coalition Militia force and repeated attempts to locate and surround the position ensued. In one particular incident the Militia attempted to outflank the observation post. Roberts-Smith was part of a two man team tasked to move out of their relatively secure position in order to locate and neutralise the Militia and regain the initiative. This task was successfully achieved.

In another incident, two Anti Coalition Militia attempted to attack the observation post from a different flank, Roberts-Smith again moved to support and neutralise one of these Militia. Roberts-Smith then realised that the forward edge of the observation post was not secure and made the decision to split the team and take up an exposed position forward of the patrol so he could effectively employ his sniper weapon. Whilst isolated, and in his precarious position, he observed a group of sixteen Anti Coalition Militia advancing across open ground towards the observation post. Roberts-Smith effectively employed his sniper rifle to stop their advance whilst receiving very accurate small arms fire from another group of Militia to his flank. Roberts-Smith maintained the initiative and ensured that his patrol remained secure by holding this position without support for twenty minutes. He was eventually reinforced by his original team member and together they continued to hold off the Militia advance for a further twenty minutes until offensive air support arrived.[4]

Victoria Cross for Australia[edit]

On 11 June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar Province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.

Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged 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 manoeuvred 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.[4]

On receiving the award, Roberts-Smith said he was honoured and humbled;

I am so very proud to have taken part in the action with my mates. This award also belongs to them and to the Regiment. To my family, my beautiful wife Emma and our baby girls, Eve and Elizabeth, thank you for your enduring support and encouragement.[5]

I think for everyone there including myself what's going through your mind is you just won't let your mates down. It's just like being on a football team, you don't let your mates down, you go as hard as you can until the game's won.[6]

Roberts-Smith (and the ADF) expected (him) to continue to fight as a frontline patrol commander following the receipt of the Victoria Cross. He said that "[O]nce you reach patrol commander, that is the pinnacle for an SAS operator. You are now the man."[7]

On 11 February 2013, several News Limited newspapers reported that Roberts-Smith had decided to leave the Army and take up a business career. Later that day the Department of Defence issued a statement on Roberts-Smith's behalf in which he stated that he was taking a period of leave and intended to remain a member of the SASR.[8][9]

Post-military[edit]

In October 2013, Roberts-Smith formally announced that he was leaving the (full-time) Army for a career in business, but will continue to serve in the Army Reserve.[10] In a press conference, Roberts-Smith stated that he was studying a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Queensland, and intended to pursue a corporate career.[11]

On 26 January 2014, Roberts-Smith was awarded the Commendation for Distinguished Service as part of the 2014 Australia Day Honours.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Roberts-Smith is married to Emma and they have twin daughters, Eve and Elizabeth, who were aged five months at the time he was presented with his Victoria Cross for Australia medal.[4] He is a member of the Hale School class of 1995, and was named the number-one ticket holder of "Fremantle Dockers" (AFL) Football Club in March 2012.[13]

He is the son of retired Major General Len Roberts-Smith, the former Commissioner of the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia and a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, and Sue Roberts-Smith.

His brother, Sam, is an opera singer who graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.[14]

Honours and awards[edit]

Medals on display at the Australian War Memorial. (Note that this display does not include his full entitlement.)

Roberts-Smith was named Australian Father of the Year in 2013.[15]

Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png

MGAustRibbon.png Commendation for Distinguished Service (Aust) ribbon.png Australian Active Service Medal ribbon.png INTERFET Medal ribbon.png

Afghanistan Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Iraq Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Australian Service Medal ribbon.png QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png

Defence Long Service Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Australian Defence Medal (Australia) ribbon.png UNAMET Medal bar.gif NATO Medal ISAF ribbon bar.svg

AUS Unit Citation for Gallantry with Federation Star.png

Ribbon Description Notes[4]
Ribbon of the Victoria Cross for Australia Victoria Cross for Australia For most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril on 11 June 2010, while deployed on Operation SLIPPER, Afghanistan.[4]
Ribbon of the Medal for Gallantry Medal for Gallantry For gallantry in action in hazardous circumstances as a patrol sniper while deployed on Operation SLIPPER, Afghanistan, May – September 2006.[4]
Ribbon of the Commendation for Distinguished Service Commendation for Distinguished Service For distinguished performance of duty in warlike operations as a patrol commander with the Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.[12]
Ribbon of the AASM Australian Active Service Medal with clasps for EAST TIMOR,[4] ICAT and IRAQ 2003
Ribbon of the International Force in East Timor International Force East Timor Medal (INTERFET)
Ribbon of the Afghanistan Medal for Australia Afghanistan Medal Operation SLIPPER
Ribbon of the Iraq Medal for Australia Iraq Medal Operation CATALYST
Ribbon of the Australian Service Medal Australian Service Medal Clasp CT/SR[clarification needed]
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal 2012[16]
Ribbon of the DLSM Defence Long Service Medal For 15 Years' Service
Ribbon of the ADM Australian Defence Medal
Ribbon of the United Nations Medal (UNAMET) United Nations Medal with UNAMET ribbon for active service in Timor Leste
Ribbon of the NATO Medal for ISAF NATO Medal for the Non-Article 5 ISAF Operation in Afghanistan with ISAF clasp
Ribbon of the Unit Citation for Gallantry Unit Citation for Gallantry with Federation Star[17] [17]
Infantry Combat Badge

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dodd, Mark (21 January 2010). "Second SAS Afghan Victoria Cross for heroic charge". The Australian (News Limited). Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b AAP (23 January 2011). "Victoria Cross for soldier who 'tore into' Taliban". Herald Sun (News Limited). Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  3. ^ AAP (23 January 2010). "SAS digger awarded VC for taking on Taliban". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG". Four Press Releases. Department of Defence, Commonwealth of Australia. (undated). Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Chief of the Defence Force congratulates Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG". Media Release. Department of Defence, Commonwealth of Australia. 23 January 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "Digger awarded top military honour". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 23 January 2011. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  7. ^ Nicholson, Brendan (24 January 2011). "Professional soldier just wants to get back to work". The Australian. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  8. ^ "Statement issued on behalf of Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC, MG". On the record. Department of Defence. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "Ben Roberts-Smith is taking personal leave from the army". Herald Sun. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith leaving Army for career in business". ABC News. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Nicholson, Brendon. "VC hero Ben Roberts-Smith swaps battlefield for boardroom". The Australian. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Commendation for Distinguished Service". Website of the Governor General of Australia. Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat. 26 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  13. ^ "Roberts-Smith the No 1 ticket holder at Freo". WAToday. 20 March 2012. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  14. ^ Cowan, Sean; Taylor, Nick (22 January 2011). "WA digger awarded VC medal". The West Australian (West Australian Newspapers). Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  15. ^ "Ben Roberts-Smith named 2013 Australian Father of the Year (as awarded by The Shepherd Centre)". Media Release. The Shepherd Centre. 26 August 2012.  - Includes a nice picture of the family.
  16. ^ Hardman, Robert (2012-05-31). "The heroes given a front-row seat at the royal party: Charles and Camilla meet 28 living VCs and GCs ahead of Diamond Jubilee". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  17. ^ a b File:Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG.png Department of Defence Official Portrait Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, VC, MG, accessed 27 August 2011

External links[edit]