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Digger David Pearce killed by bomb in Afghanistan

Article from: Herald Sun

Ian McPhedran, David Hastie and agencies

October 09, 2007 11:21am

THE Australian solider killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan yesterday was a father of two young daughters. He had been in the forces for just 15 months.

Trooper David Pearce, 41, of Brisbane, joined the Army at the age of 39 after three years with the Army Reserve.

He leaves behind his wife Nicole and two daughters Hannah, 6, and Stephanie, 11.

Pearce was killed and another seriously wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated next to their military vehicle in Afghanistan's Oruzgan province yesterday, 6km from their base at Tarin Kowt.

He celebrated his 41st birthday on Thursday last week. 

The family released a statement this morning.

“David Pearce spent 18 wonderful years with his wife and had two beautiful daughters aged 11 and 6 years, who were the love and centre of his life," the family said..

“David joined the Army relatively late in life.

“After three years with the Army Reserve, including a tour of Solomon Islands, he joined the Regular Army at the age of 39.

“With his life experience, outgoing personality and ability to relate to people of all ages, he was a popular and respected member of his unit.

“He was a patriotic Australian and loved his work with the Army, particularly the comradeship he developed with his mates.

“David’s family ask that their privacy be respected and have no further comment at this stage.”

Prime Minister John Howard said he was "saddened" by Pearce's tragic death.

"On behalf of the entire nation I want to say how saddened I am by the news of the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan," he said in Hobart today.

"We send our love and sympathy to his family, we know it is a time of great grief for them and we offer our prayers and our support to them and to the other loved ones of this soldier."

Mr Howard said the death was a reminder of the dangerous work being undertaken by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

"It's a reminder to all of us that the men and women of the ADF (Australian Defence Force) who go overseas in our name put their lives on the line to preserve our way of life," he said.

"The operation in Afghanistan involves resisting brutal terrorism, it's a just cause and this soldier was part of an Australian contribution to that just cause.

"But that in no way lessens the loss and the bereavement and the grief that will be felt by his mates in his unit, other members of the Australian army and the broader Australian Defence Force family."

Mr Howard said the injured soldier was being well cared for, and arrangements for the return of Pearce's body were being handled by the ADF.

"This is a sad day for the Australian Army, it's a sad day for the Australian community," he said.

"Somebody who loses his or her life on service for our country is owed a special respect and a special debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid."

The fallen soldier's body would be returned home under constant escort, said Air Chief Marshal Houston.

"We're now working on arrangements to bring the body back to Australia," he said. "This will be by ADF or permanently chartered ADF aircraft and his body will be under constant escort by ADF personnel."

While the death would be keenly felt by all allied forces in the region but it would not weaken their resolve in the fight against the Taliban, an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman says.

Wing Commander Antony McCord, a regional spokesman for the NATO-led ISAF, today said the death will sadden forces in the area.

"The loss of anybody will hurt us, we notice that throughout the whole of the region," Wing Commander McCord told ABC Radio from Kandahar.

"It affects all of us, however that doesn't really reduce our resolve at all.

"We recognise that we've got a job to do and we also know that that job is important.

"We will go out tomorrow and continue with the job ... We're helping these people get their lives back together, to get some stability and security."

He said ISAF was taking a "very front foot approach" in its battle against the Taliban.

"We're taking proactive measures in dealing with the Taliban (and) what we're seeing is the reaction of that movement in dealing with the Taliban.

"It's not necessarily an increase in Taliban activity it's the fact that we, ISAF, are actually getting to places throughout the region and engaging with the Taliban very much in their backyard."

Australian Defence Force (ADF) chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston told reporters in Canberra this morning that Pearce had been driving the vehicle when the bomb went off.

It was not clear what had triggered the device.

"It was an improvised explosive device and how it was triggered we've yet to confirm," he said.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said there had been 25 improvised explosive device attacks against coalition forces over the past four months.

"The threat in Afghanistan is very high, and very high means we expect casualties," he said. But the tragedy would not deter Australian soldiers from their work in Afghanistan, and they had the support of the Australian public to continue, he said.

"Despite being deeply upset at the death of their mate, soldiers from the ADF are determined that they will not be diverted by the Taliban from their important reconstruction work," he said.

"We have got a very clear mission in Afghanistan and certainly all of my people support that mission 100 per cent and broadly the Australian public support our troops." 

Air Chief Marshal Houston said the soldiers had been protecting engineers undertaking reconstruction work in the province.

"This incident is a tragic reminder of the dangers Australian Defence Force personnel face serving our nation," he said.

"It highlights that Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place and that Taliban extremists see the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) efforts as a direct threat to their continued existence."

The families of both soldiers had been informed late last night and were being provided assistance by the army, he said.

"This is a tragic day for the Australian Defence Force and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these two soldiers."

Trooper Pearce was born in Liverpool, NSW, and enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2002. Following a period of Reserve service he transferred to the Australian Regular Army in July 2006.

He was posted to the Brisbane-based 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment in October 2006 and was serving with the Reconstruction Task Force when he died.

He also confirmed the wounded soldier's injuries were not life-threatening. "He is likely to make a full recovery and return to work in the near future," he said.

Australia has almost 1,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led ISAF.

Last month, three Australians were wounded during a firefight with Taliban forces near Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan province.

In August, two Australian troops were injured in a shootout with enemy militants, and in June, an Australian survived a car bomb attack that killed a Dutch soldier and six civilians.

This is the first case of an Australian soldier being killed by enemy action since SAS sergeant Andrew Russell died in 2002.

Sgt Russell's long-range patrol vehicle drove over a land mine in western Afghanistan.

Thousands of Australian troops have served in the Middle East area of operations since October 2001, making the low casualties startling.

However the Federal Government has stepped up warnings about casualties in recent weeks after a spate of bomb attacks by Taliban insurgents.

Many observers believed it was only a matter of time before a Digger made the ultimate sacrifice.

Other casualties in the Middle East include Private Jake Kovco, who died last year when his pistol discharged in his room in Baghdad.

Two special forces troops were wounded when their vehicle was hit by a similar device last month.

Three SAS soldiers were also wounded during an intense firefight with Taliban forces in September.

An army sniffer dog named Razz was killed after he detected an improvised explosive device beside a road earlier in the month.

Those incidents followed a blast as Diggers drove past in a Bushmaster armoured transport vehicle.

No one was hurt.

The taskforce in Afghanistan is made up of engineers involved in reconstruction and training, and the vehicle-mounted infantry who guard them.

They are based at Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan Province.

The security detachment is drawn from the Prince of Wales Light Horse Regiment based at Watsonia in Melbourne, the Townsville-based 1st Combat Engineers, and the Queensland Mounted Rifles from Brisbane.

The Defence Department was unable to provide further details and a spokesman said he was waiting for more information from the task group.

An information blackout is normally invoked when casualties happen so the families can be notified.

RTF commander Lt-Col Harry Jarvie praised the skill and determination of his soldiers after a heavy attack by about 50 Taliban extremists last month.

"Over the last few months Australian soldiers have been regularly tested by Taliban extremists," he said.

"In every case they have performed magnificently."

Australia has more than 970 troops serving in Afghanistan. That number is expected to peak at more than 1000 by the middle of next year. 

Have Your Say

Latest Comments:

A father of two was killed,a wife is without the one she loves and a man who chose to do his duty is lost to all those that knew, loved and serve with him. And all you scum can say is insensitive and hurtful things to petty score points... Have a good look at what you have become! Reading these 'comments' I'm ashamed to be an Australian. My karma deal you a savage blow for your comments Lest we forget David Pearce.

Posted by: Disgusted of melbourne 9:39pm October 10, 2007

Isn¿t it high times for the anti-war, anti-Bush, Anti-Liberal government set?? A brave Australian has died and all you can do is use this mans death as a point scoring exercise. Your collective lack of empathy makes be ashamed to be an Aussie. Surely people aren¿t suggesting we leave Afghanistan to those illegally dethroned utopian-minded liberals that are the Taliban? News flash, Australia is engaged in a war against zealots hell bent on turning the clock of human rights back centuries. As a result, it¿s sadly inevitable that we are going to lose soldiers in this war (as have 444 Americans, 82 Britons, 71 Canadians, one Czech, six Danes, 11 Dutch, two Estonians, one Finn, 12 French, 22 Germans, nine Italians, two Norwegians, one Pole, one Portuguese, four Romanians, one South Korean, 23 Spaniards, two Swedes) From my position INSIDE Afghanistan, I see a people who are willing for a chance to live a peaceful life, free of the despotic rule that the Taliban and their foreign backers present. As archaic as it seems to pleasant Australian society, the only way to achieve this is by military intervention. Because of that, if we pull out, as a nation we can never look an Afghan in the face again with out feeling like a bunch of whinging quitters. As for Adrian Jackson of Middle Park, I¿m assuming you have first hand experience in Afghanistan to formulate the hypotheses that this war is un-winnable? Put your head back in the sand! To the family and colleagues grieved by the loss of Dave Pearce, my deepest sympathy.

Posted by: James of Kabul 7:12pm October 10, 2007

Tell me Susan P, the last time Afghanistan invaded Australia, or about the horrendous atrocities the Iraqi army committed in New Jersey? Time to end your slumbers and clear the debris of ignorance firmly entrenched in your minds; patently, contrary to my prior appraisal, Bush and Howard are not the greatest imbeciles on earth - well hey, just look at the millions they have rallying behind them.

Posted by: EA of Melbourne 3:24pm October 10, 2007

I too am disgusted by those who have used this forum as a means of further publicising their views on the war. The fact is that a dedicated patriot and father of two young children was murdered and it is inappropriate for people to call it an 'occupational hazard' at this time. It is also inappropriate for America-bashing. There are plenty of other forums for that - go join one of them!

Posted by: Lauren S of Melbourne 3:02pm October 10, 2007
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