Corporal (then Lance Corporal) Willie Apiata, of the New Zealand SAS, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his conduct in an engagement in Afghanistan in 2004.
Apiata was in a NZSAS troop that was attacked by about 20 enemy fighters while laid up for the night. Apiata was one of three men some 70 metres away from the main group when they came under attack from rocket propelled grenades, machine gun and automatic rifle fire from close range. Apiata was blown off the bonnet of his vehicle by an RPG but was uninjured. The other two were wounded. One, Corporal D, had serious arterial bleeding and began passing in and out of consciousness.
Apiata concluded that Corporal D needed urgent medical attention or would die. Pinned down by the enemy and in direct line of fire between the enemy and the main group, he judged there was almost no chance of help. He ordered his other colleague to make his own way back to the rear.
Apiata knew the risk involved in moving to open ground. Part of the citation reads: “In total disregard for his own safety, Lance Corporal Apiata stood up and lifted (Corporal D) bodily. He then carried him across the seventy metres of broken, rocky and fire-swept ground, fully exposed in the glare of battle to heavy enemy fire and into the face of returning fire from the main Troop position. That neither he nor his colleague were hurt is scarcely possible. Having delivered his wounded companion to relative shelter with the remainder of the patrol, Lance Corporal Apiata re-armed himself and re-joined the fight in counter-attack.”