A SOLDIER from Minchinhampton has been awarded a top military honour for ‘multiple acts of gallantry’ while serving in Afghanistan.
Corporal Will Mills of the 4th Battalion The Rifles was presented with the Military Cross following a number of courageous acts as a member of the Brigade Reaction Force (BRF) during Operation Herrick 18.
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’.
It was during a raid on insurgent headquarters in May last year when Corp Mills uncovered a major cache of explosives and detained an insurgent. The raid was nearing its conclusion when his section and another troop came under accurate automatic fire.
Despite the heat, and weighed down by equipment, Corp Mills 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, Corp Mills’ section was ambushed by heavy and effective machine gun fire.
He managed to extract his men from the danger area, identify the firing points and issue orders to assault.
Surging forward, his section came under fire again. While his men returned fire, Corp Mills pressed ahead alone, covering 100m 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, Corp Wills made three trips across the same 100m of open ground to collect the ammunition, on each occasion exposing himself to sustained enemy fire.
Nearing exhaustion, he 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 yet again when his section came under heavy small arms fire when disembarking a helicopter in a known insurgent haven.
Immediately identifying the firing point, he issued quick orders and began an assault across almost 400m of open ground, forcing the enemy to withdraw.
In a final act of valour, within seconds of hearing a casualty report, Corp Mills bolted over more than 250m 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 Operation Herrick 18, Corp Mills led his section on a total of 28 helicopter-assault missions into enemy strongholds.
On his third operational tour of Afghanistan since joining the Army in 2006, he said was pleased but surprised to be given such a prestigious award.
He said: “It was a bit of a shock. However, it’s good to get recognition for what my section did.”
His citation states:
“Mills’ exceptional courage and frontline leadership have been an inspiration to each and every man in the BRF.”
Corp Mills, a former pupil of Minchinhampton Primary School and Deer Park School in Cirencester, joined the Army at the age of 16.
His mum, Julia, lives in Minchinhampton, while his father lives overseas. He has an older brother Sam.
Commenting on his achievements, Julia said: “Will was awarded The Joint Commanders Commendation for bravery during a tour of duty in Iraq when he was only 18 years old and he has risen through the ranks fairly swiftly.
“The Army is his life and he is immersed fully into it. Right from a little boy he has been a go-getter and an action hero.
“He is a dedicated soldier who is very modest. He did not tell anyone about this and it came as quite a surprise to us to find out exactly what he had done and what he had gone through, but we are all very proud of him.”