AN inexperienced platoon commander whose efforts drove a ruthless enemy from one of Helmand Province’s most violent areas has been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service.
Lieutenant Tom Lavington, 28, from Chichester, is a member of 1st Battalion Scots Guards.
He was recognised for showing ‘the maturity under fire of a veteran’, working ‘tirelessly’ to look after his men and co-operating with Afghan forces.
Lt Lavington was commissioned in April, 2011, and, after completing infantry officer training, joined his battalion in May, 2012, halfway through their mission-specific training.
In September, 2012, he deployed to Afghanistan and took over Checkpoint (CP) Pan Kalay – the most engaged, most northerly British checkpoint in Helmand.
“On arrival, he faced the significant challenge of integrating into a battalion, taking over a fully trained and operationally experienced platoon and immediately taking over a much targeted checkpoint,” said an Army spokesman.
“He found a dangerous security system and nonexistent governance but made an immediate impact, liaising with the local Afghan and US Marine Corps forces and using charm and diplomacy, planned joint operations that moved the security stalemate forward.”
Lt Lavington’s citation states: “Lavington demonstrated leadership and diplomacy on difficult operations way beyond that expected of a junior subaltern.
“Despite foreshortened training and a lack of operational experience, he was able to lead his men in difficult and complex enemy engagements.
“In dealing with the Afghans and coalition partners, he showed maturity and judgement far in excess of his rank.
“Lavington’s efforts were instrumental in setting the conditions for the Afghans to take over his checkpoint and lead on improving security in the area; he really made a difference.”
The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service recognises meritorious service during, or in support of, operations.
When the announcement was made today (Friday, October 4) Lt Lavington said he was extremely proud to receive the award and it was an honour for his regiment.
“It’s fantastic,” he said.
“I am very happy.
“We were conducting a lot of mundane repetitive tasks so to manage to keep the guys motivated throughout was a real compliment.
“Because of where we were we had a lot of assets and we were trusted.
“It was a dream job with a dream team.”
Lt Lavington commanded joint forces in 22 ‘complex engagements’, dealing with insurgent fire from close range – sometimes less than 90 metres.
Outside the checkpoint, his platoon went on 90 patrols, were struck by two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and found a further ten.
He integrated more than 70 Afghan and British forces, close air support, attack helicopters and surveillance feeds.
“Despite less than two months of active service, Thomas showed the maturity under fire of a veteran,” said the spokesman.
“When not in contact or on patrol, he worked tirelessly to look after his men.
“In the little time he had spare, he produced intelligence forecasts and articles on tactical best practise so others might learn from his Platoon’s experiences.
“By December, 2012, Thomas’s considerable efforts had made a significant impact in the area and he was able to hand over the checkpoint to his Afghan partners.”
The announcement was made today with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list which includes 117 personnel.
The awards are for actions during the period September to March, 2013, during Operation HERRICK 17.