Soldiers killed in Afghanistan named

Defence has named the three Commandos killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan as Private Tim Aplin, Private Ben Chuck and Private Scott Palmer.

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Defence said they were part of the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and were drawn from the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment.

Families of the three soldiers were receiving support from the regiment and the Defence Community Organisation.

Defence said planning for the repatriation of the bodies had begun, although the date for the return to Australia has not yet been confirmed.

Their deaths took the Australian death toll in nine years in Afghanistan to 16.

Seven other commandos, suffering fractures, lacerations, crush injuries and a head injury from the incident, were now en route to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany.

There, they will receive advanced medical and surgical treatment before being considered for return to Australia.

“There has been no substantial change to the medical assessment of the casualties with four now assessed to be in a satisfactory condition, one listed as in a serious condition and two in a very serious condition,” Defence said in a statement.

Six of the seven soldiers underwent surgery on Monday.

Tributes

Private Aplin, 38, enlisted in the army reserves in 1992 then transferred to the regular army in 1995, reaching the rank of Sergeant.

He successfully completed the commando selection course in 2008 and was posted to Commando Battalion 4RAR, taking a reduction in rank.

During his army career, he served in East Timor, the Middle East and twice in Afghanistan.

“Private Aplin was an outstanding and dedicated commando who was highly respected. This was his second tour to Afghanistan and he was serving with the SOTG as a team demolitions specialist,” Defence said.

Private Chuck, 27, leaves behind his parents, a brother and sister, and his partner.

He was born in in Atherton, Queensland, and joined the army in 2004 through the Special Forces Direct Recruiting Scheme.

He was then posted to 4RAR and was on his third tour of Afghanistan.

“Private Chuck was an outstanding commando who was highly trained and excelled at all he attempted,” Defence said.

“Private Chuck was the patrol medic within his sniper team. He was suited to this role as his affectionate and caring nature drove his passion for helping his mates.”

His father Gordon Chuck told the Cairns Post newspaper, “He loved life and all that he could pack into it.”

Private Palmer, 27, leaves behind his parents and a brother.

He enlisted in the army in 2001 and joined 4RAR in 2006. His army service took him twice to East Timor and to Iraq. This was his third deployment to Afghanistan.

“His professionalism was of the highest order and he excelled at everything he did. Private Palmer loved his job and working alongside his mates,” Defence said.

Government remains committed

Mr Rudd said these were hard days, but the government remained committed to completing this mission.

Defence Minister John Faulkner said it was absolutely critical that Australia play its part in stabilising Afghanistan.

“Why? Because we are helping to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a training ground and safe haven and operating base for international terrorists,” he told Fairfax Radio.

“And we know that terrorists trained in Afghanistan have had a very direct impact on Australians and Australia.”

Taliban capture

Meanwhile, NATO and Afghan forces have captured a senior Taliban figure in an overnight raid, the international force said on Tuesday in a statement.

The man had recently been appointed the Taliban’s finance chief in northern Baghlan province, NATO said.

He was captured in southern Helmand province along with two other suspected insurgents after a tip-off that he was staying in a compound in Nah-e Saraj district.