UK — Soldier who defused IEDs with damaged hand awarded Military Cross

A bomb dis­pos­al expert who con­tin­ued to dis­arm bombs with two bro­ken fin­gers in order to save his strick­en com­rades in Afghanistan has been award­ed the Mil­i­tary Cross for his actions.

Staff Sergeant Gareth Wood has been awarded the Military Cross for his courage in single-handedly disposing of five improvised explosive devices whilst under heavy enemy fire
Staff Sergeant Gareth Wood has been award­ed the Mil­i­tary Cross for his courage in sin­gle-hand­ed­ly dis­pos­ing of five impro­vised explo­sive devices whilst under heavy ene­my fire
Source: Cor­po­ral Steve Blake RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The inci­dent occurred when a ful­ly-manned Mas­tiff armoured vehi­cle was struck by an impro­vised explo­sive device in Hel­mand province in March 2010.

The Mas­tiff crew assessed the sit­u­a­tion and it became appar­ent to them that not only had they been struck by an IED but that they were sur­round­ed by them. Marooned in a mine­field in hos­tile ter­rain, they were soon trapped under sus­tained and accu­rate ene­my small arms fire.

It was at this point that Ammu­ni­tion Tech­ni­cian Staff Sergeant Gareth Wood, 11 Explo­sive Ord­nance Dis­pos­al Reg­i­ment, Roy­al Logis­tic Corps, and his counter-IED team were called in. After being flown by heli­copter to the near­est patrol base he and his team knew that they had to work quick­ly as there were only a few hours of day­light left.

The bomb dis­pos­al expert quick­ly got to work but as he removed one of five explo­sive devices that stood between the strand­ed British patrol and safe­ty the sit­u­a­tion quick­ly dete­ri­o­rat­ed as he felt a sear­ing pain in his right hand — the one he was using to search for the IEDs.

Staff Sergeant Wood had bro­ken two fin­gers and lac­er­at­ed his hand as he ripped the sec­ond of the IEDs he encoun­tered that day from the ground.

Despite protes­ta­tions from his fel­low sol­diers to return to base for med­ical atten­tion Staff Sergeant Wood insist­ed on car­ry­ing on after only rudi­men­ta­ry first aid.

With one arm in a sling and his fin­gers in a splint, Staff Sergeant Wood ren­dered safe a total of five IEDs, enabling the strick­en Mas­tiff crew to extri­cate them­selves under the cov­er of dark­ness through the path that he had sin­gle-hand­ed­ly engi­neered.

He said:

“We still had bombs in front of us so I got my hand strapped up and used my left hand to search. I’d nev­er searched with my left hand before, so it was quite inter­est­ing.

“I car­ried on tak­ing that device out of the ground and then moved on to the next one which wasn’t quite where the infantry said it was, I near­ly stood on it.”

Dur­ing his six-month tour in Hel­mand, Staff Sergeant Wood’s bomb dis­pos­al team was ‘blown up’ four times, dis­posed of 52 bombs and com­plet­ed more than 100 IED-relat­ed tasks.

Colonel Gareth Col­lett, Army Explo­sive Ord­nance Dis­pos­al, said:

“The actions of Staff Sergeant Wood described in his cita­tion and through­out his tour are tru­ly hum­bling and the award of the Mil­i­tary Cross is rich­ly deserved. Con­duct­ing ‘bomb dis­pos­al’ under fire and with a sig­nif­i­cant injury in order to res­cue trapped com­rades is in the high­est tra­di­tions of the Army; a true act of hero­ism con­duct­ed with­out thought to his own per­son­al safe­ty.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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