From: Defence Media Centre [mediacentre@media.defence.gov.au]
Sent: Thursday, 3 February 2011 12:53 PM

Defence Media Release: Australian Soldier Killed in Insurgent Blast

An Australian soldier serving with Mentoring Task Force -2 (MTF-2) was killed in an Improvised Explosive Device strike yesterday afternoon (Australia time).

A second soldier was seriously wounded in the blast which occurred during the partnered Afghan National Army and MTF-2 patrol as it moved through the Tangi Valley in the Deh Rawud region.

Acting Chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant General David Hurley said the death of the soldier would heavily impact on the predominantly Darwin-based unit.

“Immediately after the blast Australian and Afghan soldiers moved to secure the scene and do everything they could to help their mates,” Lieutenant General Hurley said.

Weather conditions in Uruzgan at the time of the incident were extremely poor.

"Rain, low cloud and large dust storms significantly reduced visibility.  This created some initial difficulty launching the aero medical helicopter, but the US air crew persevered in the dangerous conditions to get the aircraft off the ground within a few minutes.

"The aircrew's actions meant the wounded Australians reached medical care within an hour" said Lieutenant General Hurley.

The wounded soldier remains in a satisfactory condition.

Corporal Richard Edward Atkinson was 22 years old and from the Darwin based 1st Combat Engineer Regiment (1CER).  He is survived by his fiancé, parents and brother.

This was Corporal Atkinson's first deployment to Afghanistan.  He had previously deployed with 1CER to Indonesia on a humanitarian assistance mission, Operation Padang Assist.

Defence is now focused on supporting the families of those involved in the incident.

"In the past few weeks Australian soldiers have been working with their Afghan partners from a new patrol base (Patrol Base Qarib) in the Tangi Valley.  They have successfully discovered several insurgent caches, including large amounts of explosives.

"Despite these small but significant successes, we must not forget that our soldiers are undertaking a difficult and dangerous mission. Corporal Atkinson's mates face some difficult days ahead as they prepare to send him home to his family" Lieutenant General Hurley said.

"I know they will continue their mission with courage and honour."

Twenty-two soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the ADF commenced Operation SLIPPER.

Four Australian soldiers have been wounded in Afghanistan this year with 168 ADF personnel wounded in action since 2002.

Media note:
Official and family imagery of Corporal Atkinson, as well as biographical information, is available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/vale/cpl_atkinson/cpl_atkinson.htm

Media contact:
Defence Media Operations 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664