Two soldiers from North Down and Ards have been awarded for their roles in helping bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.
Captain Graham Rainey from Bangor and Corporal Robert McClurg from Portavogie received the Military Cross and Conspicuous Gallantry Cross respectively.
Captain Rainey was part of an RIR battalion which recently served in the Helmand province to help train local Afghan soldiers to counter the current terrorist threat in the country.
Speaking to The CT, Captain Shields said: “I had no idea I was to receive this honour but it was of great shock and pleasant surprise to do so.
“The amount of messages I have received has been overwhelming but the overall feeling of great pride is that our battalion was awarded three of these medals.”
Captain Rainey, who attended Bangor Grammar School as a youngster in North Down, said the combination of training, dedication and “spirit of the Irish soldier” served to show the public “how good we are”.
Commenting on the threat to lives in Afghanistan to serving troops, Captain Rainey said: “The enemy presence was consistent during our time there. However, we had a different job to do compared to a lot of troops in that we had to train and mentor the Afghan army which made the risks much higher.”
According to information supplied by the RIR, Captain Rainey established and commanded an Operation Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) patrol base on the “bitterly contested” northern line of enemy troops in Helmand during the Spring of 2008.
There, Captain Rainey led his OMLT and Afghan National Police (ANA) with “humility and zeal” to dominate the contested area to the north of the patrol base, ensuring the ground and local population were not ceded to the enemy.
Corporal McClurg is currently on a training course and was unavailable for comment.
However, information supplied by the RIR revealed that the Portavogie man was a soldier in a six-man OMLT mentoring an ANA company in Helmand.
Consistently at the centre of heavy fighting, Corporal McClurg, with his Officer Commanding (OC) heavily involved in co-ordinating fires, “stepped-up to act as the primary mentor for the assaulting ANA”.
“Suddenly, his group was fired upon and took casualties, including the ANA commander, who became ineffective,” the RIR infomation revealed.
“Undaunted, McClurg rallied his force, directing and leading a series of frontal and flanking assaults over a series of six hours. McClurg’s intervention turned the battle.”
Both men are to receive their awards at Buckingham Palace.
No date has been set but it is expected to be in the coming months.