Sergeant Mark Moffitt, who stayed in the line of fire for half an hour to foil an enemy ambush after promising his wife he wouldn’t do anything brave in Afghanistan, has been awarded a Mention in Despatches (MiD).
Sergeant Mark Moffitt, aged 33, of 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Regiment, promised his wife Tina that he would do anything to put himself in danger on his fourth operational tour – until he found himself in the centre of a carefully planned ambush in November last year.
Mark, then a Corporal, was a reconnaissance platoon section commander in Lashkar Gah on Operation Herrick 15. As part of a company level operation, the Manchester soldier was a crew gunner on a Jackal reconnaissance vehicle tasked to provide a screen around an insurgent stronghold.
Enemy unleashed their attack
As the company was withdrawing, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was indentified in the middle of a track. Irrigation ditches to the side of the roads meant they were effectively trapped and so a cordon was established as the Counter-IED Task Force destroyed the device.
As the group moved off again, the enemy unleashed their attack. Mark, in the rear vehicle was ambushed from three separate firing points all within 200 to 300 metres. The lightly armoured Jackal offered little protection against the enemy’s Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) and machine gun fire in its trapped position.
Mark shouted to the others in the vehicle to take cover in a ditch while he remained as the gunner, identifying firing points and returning fire. Realising the other patrol vehicles could not see all of the firing points, Mark engaged two of the enemy’s positions with heavy machine gun fire, knowing full well this meant exposing his back to the third position.
“I had the heavier weapons system – the noise of it alone is enough to make anyone get their head down, and I was in a better position to see the firing points rather than the other guys in the vehicles having to stand up and make more of a target of themselves,” explains Mark, who is genuinely shocked about the award.
“I was just doing my job,” he says modestly. “You look after the guys next to you, I had the better weapons system, so that day it was my job to look after the guys.”
During the attack, his heavy machine gun jammed, rendering it temporarily useless. Undaunted, Mark immediately jumped over the top of the vehicle to recover the secondary weapon system, a general purpose machine gun (GPMG), before taking up the fight again.
“I saw the GPMG in the front so jumped over and grabbed it, threw all the links over my shoulder and jumped back on top of the vehicle and started engaging the positions again. I never felt alone as the other guys were firing too, but I was a little concerned when two RPGs landed close to the vehicle. RPGs are designed to take out lightly armoured vehicles so if it had hit it would have caused a lot of damage.”
'Not telling the wife..!'
Throughout the 30-minute attack, Mark never left his crew position, creating the time and space for the remaining vehicles to break out of the enemy’s reach.
Only when he made it back to the camp did he realise how close the situation had been. His vehicle showed the scars of rounds and shrapnel.
“When I saw the damage to the vehicle I thought: I’m not telling the wife about this one! But I phoned home as I always felt better after speaking to Tina and our two boys Charly and Kallum.
“It was only when I found out about the award four days ago that I told my wife. A couple of hours later I was talking to my dad on the phone when she came up to me and gave me a bit of a soft slap around the head,” Mark jokes.
“She had been online and found out what an MiD means, so she wasn’t best pleased when I had promised I wouldn’t put myself in any danger. But she understands that I didn’t knowingly do it, and I certainly didn’t do it to get anything. I just did it because it needed to be done.”
'Coolness under fire'
Mark’s citation adds: “Moffitt’s bravery and courage under highly accurate enemy fire that day without doubt enabled his multiple to extract from a complex ambush without receiving any casualties.
“For his coolness under fire, the offensive spirit with which he returned accurate fire, and the gallantry displayed due to the complete disregard he had for his own safety, he is recommended for national recognition.”
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.