Private Lewis O’Connor, of 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), is recognised in the latest Operational Awards List with a Queen's Commendation Bravery (QCB) for his courage in aiding Afghan civilians who were seriously injured in a suicide blast.
Lewis had only just completed his basic training when he was deployed on Operation Pitting, the largest humanitarian aid operation in over 70 years, helping to evacuate thousands of Afghans and British nationals from Kabul Airport as the Taliban seized control of the country.
On learning of his award Lewis said: “When I arrived after the bomb it was chaos, but my training kicked in and my first thought was to prevent further injuries and save lives. I jumped straight into the canal to pull an injured person out and then searched in the canal for other casualties. We were warned that there could be another Improvised Explosive Device, but for me it felt like the right thing to do to ignore that risk to try and help people.
"I don't see what I did as bravery, I just did my job; anyone else in our Company would have done the same. When I heard about the award, I was humbled. I am very proud to be recognised,” he said.
Lewis had been helping out a friend with some bricklaying when he learned he was going to Kabul and within a day was on a flight to Afghanistan with his regiment. It was there, among the chaos and turmoil, that he showed incredible bravery in the immediate aftermath of a suicide bomber who targeted those trying to escape.
Once on the scene, Lewis immediately ran forward to help those caught in the blast. His citation reads: "Against expert advice and fully aware that a secondary explosion or attack was possible, he jumped down into the canal and waded to the far bank to reach a grievously injured Afghan man lying on the far side. Single-handedly, he lifted the man out of the water and up onto the wall so he could receive critical medical care." For his courage in aiding those who were injured, and in the face of huge danger, he is awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.
Lewis, 25, from Bracknell in Berkshire had worked as a bricklayer prior to joining the Army 18 months ago, but had always wanted to do something different with his life. He joined 9 Platoon, C (Bruneval) Company, 2 PARA and is currently on Exercise Swift Response in North Macedonia. The high readiness training exercise will see a force of more than 3,000 soldiers from eight NATO countries working together under the command of the 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team to practice how they can respond together to international crises.
Read the full list here