Sydney, July 25 (ANI): Front-line Australian troops in Afghanistan have been given lighter armour after soldiers caught in a fatal Taliban ambush complained that heavy protective gear limited their movement.
An Australian Defence Force team investigating the death of Corporal Mathew Hopkins, concluded that the heavy body armour did little to protect soldiers.
Married for just a month and the father of a new baby, Corporal Hopkins was a member of a mentoring unit embedded with an Afghan National Army unit in a small stone fort 12 kilometres north of the Australian base at Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan province.
Early on March 16, Corporal Hopkins and five other Australian soldiers were patrolling on foot with Afghan troops near the town of Kakarak when they ran into a strong force of insurgents, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Corporal Hopkins and another Australian spotted the enemy first and fired at them. He and his companion ran into a nearby walled compound and began covering other members of the patrol who were caught in the open. The corporal was shot in the head.
He was carried to better shelter and a private with medical training dashed across 50 to 60 metres of open ground to begin treating him. Another soldier carried a stretcher forward. The rocket and small arms fire was "considerable," the investigators said.
The patrol called in a US medical evacuation helicopter and began to withdraw, but the enemy fire was so heavy that the soldiers could not get to the pick-up site.
When he realised the stretcher party was pinned down, the helicopter pilot flew through the gunfire to land near the soldiers.
By then Corporal Hopkins had stopped breathing and he could not be revived.
Members of the unit said the combined weight of his and their armour made it difficult to lift and carry him while under fire.
The vice-chief of the force, Lieutenant General David Hurley, said their armour at the time weighed 10.8 kilograms. They had now been issued with armour that weighed about 7.4 kilograms. (ANI)