Captain Nick Garland, who returned to Afghanistan despite being seriously injured on his last operational tour, has been recognised for his bravery in more than 50 high intensity battles in the latest operational honours and awards list.
Captain Garland, aged 29, of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, almost died three years ago when his patrol base was attacked with rocket propelled grenades firing burning slices of shrapnel into his neck, down his windpipe, and through his thyroid, artery and lung. He lost six and a half pints of blood and had to be defibrillated on the helicopter before he slipped into a month-long coma.
Multiple surgeries were needed to repair his collapsed artery, and feed blood to his limbs, with months of rehabilitation needed to restore his mobility to allow him to deploy with his Regiment on HERRICK 15 as part of an elite reconnaissance troop at the front of operations in Afghanistan.
Back on the front line Nick, from Newbury, repeatedly found himself under fire again as a troop leader of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) in Helmand.
'Lead from the front'
“I wanted to go back, so I wasn’t nervous but I was a little apprehensive about returning,” admits Nick. “I don’t have any negative feelings about what happened as I don’t really remember the injury. It was just a bang and lights out for me, but I wanted to get over that first contact that I knew would occur. I knew that would be the big moment for me, but once I had done that it was just normal jogging really.
“It was harder for my family. My parents are both ex-military so understand what happens and why it happens, and they knew I had to go back because I wanted to. It was hard for my wife Katie with the injuries I had before. But all through Sandhurst you are taught that an Officer leads from the front and what better way to do that than to come back from injury to then go back on frontline and do the role that I did.”
During one of the battles of the six month tour, Nick and his troops were providing a cordon on October 31st when they came under heavy fire from four positions. The insurgents, some just 100 metres away, fired at the soldiers with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Nick reacted immediately, crossing 300 metres of open ground under fire to direct his lead sections into a defensive position to enable the rest of the soldiers to extract from the attack.
“When you say ‘he ran through enemy fire’ it makes it sound dramatic, but it’s not so much something that you do, but something that you have to do in order to make space for yourself and others around you. If you are running through enemy fire you are doing it for a reason – you are either leaving, or making space for somebody else to have an effect on the enemy,” says the former St Bartholomew's school student modestly.
Under fire throughout
His heroism came to the fore again in December 2011 when Nick came under fire from two positions while his patrol was searching an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) factory in the Arghandab River Valley.
The ground gave the soldiers little cover from the intense fire, but the soldiers needed to complete the search of the IED factory. Putting himself in the enemy firing line Nick simultaneously led his sections into positions to return fire and suppress the insurgents, allowing others to complete the search of the IED factory, while others cleared a helicopter landing site.
Nick remained under fire throughout as he commanded the three activities.
Just weeks later Nick again displayed the highest levels of bravery while operating in an insurgent haven north of Patrol Base Rahim in Nahr-e Saraj.
On January 8th this year his patrol of 12 men came under accurate machine gun fire from three enemy positions less than 100 metres away.
Facing at least ten insurgents, Nick immediately counter-attacked so as not to lose the initiative. The enemy withdrew but Nick continued to pursue them over 300 metres of complex terrain that bore the scars of previous IEDs.
Throughout the battle Nick took great risks to ensure no local civilians were caught in the cross-fire, his citation saying his: “selfless actions undoubtedly saved lives.”
It continues: “Garland’s unwavering bravery and cool-thinking has inspired his soldiers in the most hostile of environments. Under contact, he has consistently sought to take the fight to the enemy.
“Despite being very seriously injured on a previous deployment to Afghanistan, his gallantry has been unquestionable. His determination to lead from the front has been inspirational to his peers and subordinates alike.”
It adds: “He is the epitome of a highly effective, brave and motivated commander.”
For his courage under fire he has been awarded a Mention in Despatches.
Commenting on the award, Nick said: “It’s very nice to have been recognised, but I had 31 blokes out there with me and my sole aim was to have 31 soldiers come back. As long as everyone got back then I would have done everything I wanted to achieve.”
The Mention in Despatches is one of the oldest forms of recognition for gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Since 1993 the Mention in Despatches has been reserved for gallantry during active operations.
The announcement was made today with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list which includes 106 personnel. The awards are for actions roughly during the period 1 September 2011 to March 31 2012 during Operation HERRICK 15.
Nick is one of 31 MID recipients on the list.