An unnamed special forces sergeant who threw a grenade that disabled a Taliban machine gun post in the same mission that led to a fellow digger being awarded the Victoria Cross was awarded Australia's second-highest medal for courage yesterday. ''Sergeant P'' whose identity and actions have been suppressed by the Defence Department is to be presented with the Star of Gallantry by the Governor-General at a date to be announced. He was the leader of a Special Operations Task Group patrol that had been flown by helicopter to Tizak, in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, on June 11 last year. The patrol had been sent to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.
Immediately on landing, the small force was targeted by machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades from ''multiple dominating positions''. Two soldiers were wounded and the patrol was pinned down by three fortified machine gun posts. Under the cover of close air support and using small arms and machine guns, the Australians moved to within 70m of the enemy positions to launch an assault. Patrol members fought their way forward another 30m until they were stopped by ''very heavy, intense and effective fire from the enemy position''. It was at this point Corporal Roberts-Smith, VC, used the cover of a small building to engage and kill the RPG operator. He then moved forward to draw enemy fire.
This allowed the patrol commander, Sergeant P, to throw a grenade and silence one of the Taliban machine-gun posts. Corporal Roberts-Smith then killed the surviving Taliban machine-gunners.The patrol members then cleared the village of Tizak of Taliban and subsequently caused the Taliban to withdraw from the Shah Wali Kot district.Sergeant P is only the fourth soldier to be approved for the Star of Gallantry since it was created in 1991 to take the place of the Distinguished Service Order (and other gallantry decorations).