Fallen Australian Soldiers Commence Final Journey

Two Australian soldiers killed in action by an improvised explosive device on Monday afternoon (Australian time) have been farewelled by their mates from the 1st Mentoring Task Force at Multi-National Base Tarin Kowt.  The moving service to honour the ultimate sacrifice made by Sappers Jacob Moerland and Darren Smith was attended by all available Australian personnel and large contingents of personnel representing other nations working from the base.

Commanding Officer of the 1st Mentoring Task Force Lieutenant Colonel Jason Blain said the two fallen Sappers were exceptional soldiers who showed absolute courage, dedication and commitment to their jobs.

“Darren and Jacob represent the very best of our military and our nation,” Lieutenant Colonel Blain said.  “Our society speaks far too freely about heroes­ we know the real heroes are the men we mourn here today.  Men who day in and day out put themselves in harm’s way and never let their mates down­ they are testament to what it means to put service before self.”

Lieutenant Colonel Blain said the Task Force must not let the sacrifices of Sappers Moerland and Smith be in vain.  “We must continue with this difficult and worthy mission here in Afghanistan.  There is no more worthy cause for a soldier than bringing peace and hope to a people that know only war and suffering.  We must promise not to let their sacrifice be for nothing­ we will continue our mission now with even more purpose and more resolve.”

Lieutenant Colonel Blain also spoke of the impact on the families of the two young soldiers describing their grief as extreme as the impact of the loss of their loved ones truly hits home.  “We simply cannot begin to imagine the grief they are experiencing and our thoughts are with them constantly,” he said.

Following the service, the Australian flag-draped caskets of the two fallen soldiers were moved through an honour guard of Australian, Afghan and ISAF troops before being placed in an Australian C130J Hercules to commence their journey home.

The caskets of Sappers Moerland and Smith were flown to the Headquarters of Joint Task Force 633 in Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, where another honour guard waited to receive their fallen comrades.

The dignified ceremony was observed by the Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, and the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Dr Ian Watt, who had diverted from their planned itinerary to pay their respects.

Commander Joint Task Force 633 Major General John Cantwell said the opportunity for all members of his force to take time to remember the sacrifices of Sappers Moerland and Smith was especially important.

“The death of an Australian serviceman on operations affects everyone – to have two outstanding Diggers killed in a single event is especially tragic,” Major General Cantwell said.  “All of us will mourn their deaths, but our hearts especially go out to Jacob and Darren’s families and loved ones at home.  As fallen comrades Jacob and Darren will have a ceaseless vigil at their sides, until they are returned home.”

He said engineers in particular have one of the toughest jobs in Afghanistan, putting their lives on the line every second of every patrol to keep their mates safe.  “Jacob and Darren were the epitome of the engineer motto ‘follow the sapper’,  they died as they lived, putting their own lives at risk to ensure the safety of their fellow soldiers.  They truly are heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service not only to their Nation, but also to those with them on that fateful patrol.”

The bodies of Sappers Moerland and Smith will continue their journey home to Australia in the coming days.

Video is available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/download/video/2010/Jun/video.htm

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