The NZSAS mission to Afghanistan officially ended at 2359 hours (Afghanistan time) on Saturday 31 March 2012. The NZSAS were deployed in September 2009 - the fourth deployment of the Task Group to Afghanistan.
SAS training (WN-09-0004-82).
The Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones says he wants to congratulate all the NZ Defence Force personnel who have served with the Task Group in Kabul over the past two and a half years.
"Much has been achieved in this time. We have gained international recognition from our Allies for the way the Task Group has conducted itself. Whilst deployed, operations have included partnering with the Afghan Ministry of Interior's counter terrorism Crisis Response Unit (CRU); supporting CRU direct action tasks against insurgent networks; responding to attacks within Kabul; as well as providing operational support to New Zealand Defence Force elements in theatre."
The New Zealand Government deployed NZ Defence Force personnel to Afghanistan to support the international effort to deny Al Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan from which to plan further attacks.
"In this sense, the NZSAS deployments have directly helped protect New Zealanders from the risk of international terrorism," says LTGEN Jones.
"I also acknowledge that the mission saw the tragic loss of two lives - Corporal Doug Grant and Lance Corporal Leon Smith, killed in 2011 in separate incidents. These soldiers died in the service of their country, and in doing so they made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of New Zealand. Our thoughts continue to be with their families and colleagues.
"While the loss of life is tragic, it does not diminish the work the NZSAS have achieved. The NZSAS have served New Zealand with distinction over the course of their deployments in Afghanistan. It's been a job well done. My congratulations to them all."
During the presentation of the NZ Memorial Cross to the family of Lance Corporal Leon Smith recently, the Prime Minister John Key announced that he would also become the latest recipient of the Charles Upham Award for Bravery.
The award is made to the person who has risked their life to undertake an outstanding act of heroism during the previous two calendar years, as determined by the Charles Upham Trust Committee.
Nominations are called for each year from organisations such as the NZ Defence Force, NZ Police, NZ Fire Service, Civil Defence and the Surf Life Saving Association in addition to the public.
On 19 August 2011, Lance Corporal Smith was part of a NZSAS Task Force that responded to an insurgent attack on the British Council Office in Kabul, Afghanistan. Also present was Corporal Doug Grant, who was tragically killed during the incident.
During the response, Lance Corporal Smith had exposed himself to insurgent fire in order to confirm Corporal Grant's location after he had been mortally wounded. He then ran across exposed and open ground in order to reach Corporal Grants location, and immediately started applying first aid until he could be evacuated.
The announcement means that LCpl Smith will become the 24th recipient of the Charles Upham Award for Bravery when it is presented by the Governor General at a time and place yet to be determined. He will also become the fourth member of the NZ Defence Force to receive the award.