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Sussex army major receives award after Afghanistan mission
11:37am Sunday 30th September 2012 in News
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, near Crowborough, 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: "The main threat was not from bullets but from IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
"Because of their indiscriminate nature, that is what we were most worried about.
"When you do come under fire, you have to keep moving otherwise the bullets come closer to you and your soldiers.
"We saw dust being kicked up by bullets within a metre of us.
"The concern is how to get to the next stage, talking to those around you about what to do and getting air support.
"We were carrying around 30kg or more in kit in case we had to remain overnight while out on patrol in insurgent safe havens, for instance if the weather turned and the helicopters couldn't pick us up.
"As a result, it was difficult to run anywhere.
"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".
Throughout his tour, the BRF removed 29 insurgents from the battlefield, seized 1.6 tonnes of homemade explosives, including 61 IEDs, and captured 21 weapons.
The latest operational honours list includes 106 military personnel for actions during the period from September 2011 to March 2012.