14 May 2013
The New Zealand Gallantry Medal (NZGM) has been awarded to Squadron Leader (then Flight Lieutenant) Benjamin Mark Pryor, now serving in Ohakea. During April and May 2012 (then) FLTLT Pryor served as a helicopter pilot on secondment to the Royal Air Force in support of the British Forces in Afghanistan.
On 22 April 2012, FLTLT Pryor was captain of the lead Chinook medium-lift helicopter for an assault with the Special Forces Support Group. Landing in very challenging environmental conditions, with almost zero visibility, his aircraft came under enemy fire. FLTLT Pryor abandoned his approach after his aircraft was hit near the cockpit, but he made a second approach in order to get his troops onto the ground. Showing remarkable courage in the face of extreme danger, he landed the aircraft in the same area and disembarked his troops while directing effective suppressive fire from the aircraft’s weapons.
During May 2012 FLTLT Pryor took part in a number of casualty evacuation missions. On one, 23 May 2012, he was required to conduct the emergency evacuation of a casualty with a gunshot wound to the neck, during a fire-fight in Southern Helmand province. While the casualty was being prepared for evacuation, the Chinook came under heavy enemy fire. Despite this, FLTLT Pryor kept the aircraft on the ground until the medical team brought the casualty onto the aircraft. FLTLT Pryor directed the Number Two crewman to engage with the enemy with the aircraft’s weapons.
While still under sustained fire, FLTLT Pryor flew from the landing site, and returned the casualty to the medical facilities at Camp Bastion. This was the second time in as many months that FLTLT Pryor had displayed calmness, courage, and professionalism in a situation of intense pressure and while under enemy fire.
Two other Gallantry awards were also announced: THE NEW ZEALAND GALLANTRY DECORATION (NZGD): The late L/CPL Leon Kristopher Smith, 1 New Zealand Special Air Service Group (L/CPL Smith was killed in action in Afghanistan on 28 September 2011.)
THE NEW ZEALAND GALLANTRY MEDAL (NZGM): S/SGT (then Acting WO2) Dean Maurice Rennie (Retired), Royal New Zealand Army Logistics Regiment (The Duke of York’s Own)
These gallantry awards will be presented later in the year.