A soldier who showed repeated gallantry in Afghanistan has been awarded the Military Cross.
Corporal Will Mills, aged 24, of 4th Battalion, The Rifles, was a member of the Brigade Reaction Force during Operation Herrick 18.
On his third operational tour of Afghanistan since joining the Army in 2006, he was pleased but surprised to be given such a prestigious award. Will said: “I was happy I guess but it was a bit of shock.”
After being dropped behind enemy lines by helicopters 28 times during his six-month-tour Will, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, said it was a very different experience from other tours.
He said: “In the previous tours we've been ground holding, protecting and dominating the area around where you where proving security.
“For this, we were based at Camp Bastion. We would go out and do more deliberate operations and we were actually achieving a lot more and it was a lot more enjoyable.”
During a raid on an insurgent headquarters in May last year, he uncovered a major cache of explosives and detained an insurgent. The raid was nearing its conclusion when William’s section and another troop came under accurate automatic fire.
Despite the heat and weighed down by equipment, William crossed open ground to clear the area, forcing the enemy to flee, yielding 20kgs of explosives and helping to disrupt the enemy operating in the area.
In another operation, the BRF was tasked to neutralise enemy-bomb making equipment. As the operation neared its end William’s section was ambushed by heavy and effective machine gun fire. William, from Cirencester, extracted his men from the danger area, identified the firing points and issued orders to assault.
Surging forward, his section came under fire again. While his men returned fire, William pressed ahead alone covering 100 metres of open ground with rounds narrowly missing him. He cleared the initial position alone, forcing the enemy to flee, but two further enemy positions continued to engage his men and soon ammunition was running low.
Refusing to allow others to collect ammunition, William made three trips across the same 100-metres of open ground to collect the ammunition, on each occasion exposing himself to sustained enemy fire.
Nearing exhaustion, William then pushed his section onwards leading the assault on the two enemy positions. His actions secured the safe exit of his men by helicopter.
His bravery was demonstrated once more when his section came under heavy small arms fire when disembarking a helicopter in a known insurgent-haven. Immediately identifying the firing point, William issued quick orders and began an assault across almost 400-metres of open ground forcing the enemy to withdraw.
In a final act of valour, within seconds of hearing a casualty report, William bolted over 250-metres of open ground under intense and accurate fire in order to give first aid to a comrade. His actions allowed the swift treatment of the casualty.
Throughout Op HERRICK 18, William led his section on 28 helicopter-assault missions into enemy strongholds.
His citation states: “Mills’ exceptional courage and frontline leadership have been an inspiration to each and every man in the BRF.”
The Military Cross recognises acts of bravery during combat operations respectively at sea, on land and in the air "for gallantry during active operations against the enemy."
The announcement was made last week with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list which includes 117 personnel. The awards are principally for actions roughly during the period March to September 2013 during Operation HERRICK 18.