A hero soldier has been honoured with a special award after he saved the lives of comrades – by DISOBEYING orders.
Staff Sergeant Kevin Langshaw, 52, refused to carry out the orders of a furious top-ranking officer while serving in Afghanistan.
Reservist Kevin was providing intelligence to a troop of soldiers under attack from Taliban snipers using a hi-tech balloon surveillance system.
He had been tracking snipers and machine gunners and feeding the information to the men on the ground.
The troop of eight from 5 Rifles had been under sustained attack since leaving their patrol base almost 11 hours earlier and were in danger of being picked off by insurgents.
But as the patrol, low on ammunition, tried to return to base the order came from headquarters in Camp Bastion to bring down the balloon because of bad weather.
The patrol on the ground had another 15 to 20 minutes to fight their way back to the checkpoint about 1.5km away.
But S/Sgt Langshaw said he wouldn’t abandon his comrades – and refused to obey the order.
Despite the senior official swearing at him and demanding he did what he was told he gradually guided the undisclosed number of troops back to to safety.
Dad-of-two S/Sgt Langshaw, who trains with 266 Battery Royal Artillery in Bristol, has been awarded the Joint Commander’s Commendation for his actions in November 2011.
He said: “I said to the officer, ‘with all due respect sir I am not going to bring this balloon down until the boys are back’.
“The company commander was quite upset – he couldn’t believe it as we had troops in contact. There were quite a few profanities exchanged.
“They were running low on ammunition and I could see the enemy firing at them. I could see the Taliban and where they were moving they were trying to get behind the patrol to attack and every time they moved I would keep them apart.
“When they said I had a commendation, I thought it would be bizarre if it was because of that day when I disobeyed an order. And it was.”
During his six-month tour the former Royal Marine was attached to Kilo-Company of Bickleigh-based 42 Commando and later 5 Rifles.
His role was as an intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) detachment commander.
He was in charge of using surveillance equipment – camera systems mounted on a balloon – nicknamed “big white whale” and in use since 2011.
S/Sgt Langshaw said: “Within 10 days of me arriving with the balloon we managed to push the Taliban right back. That’s the power of the balloon.
“If it wasn’t in the air they didn’t like going out on the ground. I was warning them before they even got shot at. It definitely saves lives.”
Officials gave out 170 commendations for Operation Herrick 15 – only four were to reservist soldiers.
The volunteer soldier is a security inspector with South West Water and is also qualified as an independent mortgage adviser.
He served for 24 years as a regular spending six years with the Royal Artillery on the Rhine and serving on two tours in Northern Ireland.
In 1986 he qualified for his green beret as a Royal Marine Commando, specialising in observation, communications and signals before retiring in 2001.