Honoured officer 'just doing job'

An Army officer who single-handedly took on Taliban insurgents to save the men under his command has been honoured for showing leadership in battle.

Major Justin Stenhouse's elite reconnaissance unit, which disrupts enemy activity in daring missions, found itself pinned down in an attack when they were attempting to recover weapons being used against them. The 36-year-old, from Hartfield in Sussex, who ran forward into open ground to throw himself into the line of fire and put the Taliban fighters on the back foot, said: "I just did my job."

His actions, which shocked the insurgents so much they withdrew, earned him the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), the second-highest military honour for active service.

Maj Stenhouse, of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards, was the Squadron Leader of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) in Afghanistan in 2011/12, where he led his men on around 70 missions.

On another airborne raid in support of Afghan soldiers, Maj Stenhouse led an operation to defeat a group of insurgents who were preparing to carry out a series of attacks in Helmand. As soon as he landed, the Taliban fighters put his unit under intense fire, but the officer led a brave assault on their position.

The father-of-two said: "I just did my job. The planning and nine months of mission specific training we did prepared us so that when we were faced with the enemy, we reacted automatically. When we needed to seize the initiative it was second nature to do what I did. I can't emphasise enough how much the success of the mission was down to the other 122 men in the squadron."

Maj Stenhouse's citation said he showed "enduring courage and leadership during a challenging, dangerous and demanding tour".

The latest operational honours list includes 106 military personnel for actions during the period from September 2011 to March 2012.

Also honoured was Sergeant Steven Leslie, from Dundee, who risked his own life to save two soldiers stranded in an enemy attack. He was awarded a Mention in Despatches. The 30-year-old of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was on patrol in one of the most violent areas of Nad-e Ali when his unit came under attack. Amid a barrage of bullets and grenades he saved his comrades by leading them through 50 metres of open ground in the enemy's killing area so they could reach safety. But as two soldiers remained trapped on the far side of the battlefield, Sgt Leslie fired on the enemy to cover the men so they too could make their way to relative safety.

Also awarded a Mention in Despatches was Lieutenant Thomas Onion, from Derby, who saved the life of a comrade who lost both legs and suffered severe damage to one of his arms after he detonated an IED during a patrol. Lt Onion, of 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (attached to 5 Rifles in Helmand), initiated the evacuation. He also initiated what was the fastest casualty extraction from point of injury to surgery seen so far in Afghanistan after another incident.