Injured soldier fought beside Apiata

PALOMA MIGONE
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2012
Craig Wilson
Dean Kozanic
GRATEFUL: Major Craig Wilson is thankful for all the support he and his soldiers have received after being involved in a fatal battle in Afghanistan. He is pictured here in 2010 speaking with then Defence Minister Wayne Mapp.

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A leading Kiwi soldier, badly injured in an attack by insurgents in Afghanistan last week, is a decorated former SAS member who fought alongside Willie Apiata.

Major Craig Wilson yesterday thanked the public, New Zealand troops and other Defence Force staff for their support following the attack that killed soldiers Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone in Bamiyan on August 4.

Major Wilson, who was the commanding officer of the team who went to aid Afghan police, was one of six soldiers injured in the attack. Corporal Malone had helped drag him to safety before he was killed.

Major Wilson was shot in the shoulder and received multiple wounds to his lungs, ribs, collarbone and shoulderblade as well as artery and tissue damage.

Judging by the nature of his wounds, his days as an operational soldier were probably over, he said in a statement.

"But I will continue working for my soldiers now and over the next while to ensure that they are accredited the respect and recognition that their actions in Bamiyan deserve," he said.

"While this was a major combat engagement, it is what our men and women work and train for." Though all of Major Wilson's wounds have been treated, he has months of rehabilitation ahead to regain function of his right arm.

He received the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration - the third-highest level military award - in 2007 for his service during a 2004 battle in Afghanistan, which led to Lance Corporal Apiata being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Major Wilson was a captain then and the patrol commander for an SAS troop which came under heavy attack from around 20 insurgents. Rocket-propelled grenades struck two of the troop's vehicles, destroying one and immobilising the other.

One of the New Zealanders was badly injured and Corporal Apiata carried him back to the relative safety of main troop's position, while under heavy fire.

While Corporal Apiata was named when receiving his VC, Major Wilson was only publicly referred to as Captain C.

He was recognised for "an exceptional act of gallantry and leadership under heavy fire and his leadership in general throughout the tour of operations".

Major Wilson said the latest attack was "very fast, very complex and came down to a pitched gunfight where the insurgent force had many advantages over us".

He said the injured soldiers were incredibly pleased at the way corporals Durrer, of Christchurch, and Malone, of Auckland, were farewelled at a military service at Christchurch's Burnham Military Camp on Saturday.

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"Our first thoughts are with the families of Pralli and Rory and I look forward to meeting the families in person on my return to New Zealand."

Major Wilson said he was proud of his soldiers who had tried to be as strong as possible, and he was thankful for the support from medics and other friends on the ground.

He also thanked headquarters and support personnel, and the Dutch, German and American medical teams who treated them like their “own countrymen, working tirelessly and with great skill”.

He said the injured soldiers looked forward to reuniting with friends and family and getting the medical treatment finalised.

Major Wilson is a married father of three and lives in Burnham.

- Fairfax Media

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