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It is with great sadness that the Department of Defence announces the death of Trooper David Pearce, serving with Reconstruction Task Force in Uruzgan Province in southern Afghanistan on Monday, 8 October 2007.
The commander of the Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) in which Trooper David Pearce was killed on Monday 08 October, 2007 has honoured his fallen driver by leading the pall bearers during the ramp ceremony at Tarin Kot.
Lance-Corporal Michael Crossley, along with seven other members of Bravo Squadron, 2/14 Lighthorse Regiment carried Trooper Pearce’s flag-draped casket through the honour guard bordering the Tarin Kot airstrip.
Lance-Corporal Crossley described his driver as a dedicated soldier and father who lived life to the full.
“Poppy loved his family and the Army, and I know that he was doing what he loved when he died,” Lance-Corporal Crossley said.
“He was an inspiration to all he met and no words can describe the loss that will be felt by all that had the honour of knowing him.”
Defence spokesman Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said Lance-Corporal Crossley’s dedication to his driver highlighted the strong bonds of mateship that tie servicemen and women together.
“Despite his wounds, Lance-Corporal Crossley insisted that he be a pall bearer and that he led the procession to the waiting Hercules,” Brigadier Nikolic said.
“His strength of character, his dedication to the soldiers under his command and his true mateship were on display for all to see.”
“His actions embody the true spirit of Army service and are an inspiration to his fellow soldiers.”
Trooper Pearce, 41, was born in Liverpool, New South Wales, and enlisted in the Australian Army Reserve in 2002. Following a period of Reserve service he transferred to the Australian Regular Army in July 2006.
Trooper Pearce had previous operational experience, having deployed to the Solomon Islands with the 9th Battalion of the Royal Queensland Regiment in 2005-2006.
Trooper Pearce was posted to the Brisbane-based 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment in October 2006. He was serving with the Reconstruction Task Force when he died.
Trooper Pearce was the driver of a patrol returning from an engineer reconnaissance task and was six kilometres from base at Tarin Kowt when the incident occurred. The security element to which he belonged was protecting engineers who undertake important reconstruction work in the province.
In a personal statement, David's family recalled that he joined the Army relatively late in life but quickly developed a comradeship with his mates.
David's family said:
“David spent 18 wonderful years with his wife and had two beautiful daughters aged 11 and six years, who were the love and centre of his 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.”
Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston extended his deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Trooper Pearce.
“Though no words can ease their loss and grief at this very sad time, I hope the knowledge that they are in the thoughts and prayers of so many Australians will be a source of comfort for them.
“Trooper Pearce was a highly professional, skilled and dedicated soldier. His comrades remember him as a loyal and reliable friend, ever willing to put the needs of others before his own.
“He died while serving his nation and his sacrifice will never be forgotten. This loss is felt by all members of the Defence community,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
Chief of Army Lieutenant General Peter Leahy has also extended his heartfelt sympathy on behalf of the Australian Army.
“Trooper David Pearce was a committed trooper, soldier and mate who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to his nation. He was a highly respected member of the Australian Army and this tragic loss has been felt deeply. We will miss him greatly.
“We in the Army extend our heartfelt sympathy to David's wife, children, family and friends during this difficult time. We will keep the memory of David in our hearts, and we will also continue to keep the many soldiers currently on deployment in our thoughts and prayers,” said Lieutenant General Leahy.
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has also issued a statement, extending its deepest sympathy to the family of Trooper Pearce.
“As one of the soldiers involved in the Reconstruction Task Force and special task force operating in southern Afghanistan, Trooper Pearce was serving a valuable role in protecting democracy, peace and stability in the region and in the world.
“Trooper Pearce’s sacrifice was for a noble cause and an immense gratitude is felt by the people of Afghanistan towards Trooper Pearce, his family and the people of Australia.”
Personal tributes from Trooper Pearce's colleagues:
Lieutenant Colonel David Wainwright (Commanding Officer Reconstruction Task Force (RTF-3)
"The soldiers of Reconstruction Task Force Three are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Trooper David Pearce. Our heartfelt condolences go out to David’s family and close friends affected by this tragic incident. He was one of our mates, part of our Regimental family and a true Australian soldier. We feel his loss deeply; this said, the immediate focus and priority of every soldier of the Task Force is to the care and comfort of David’s family. The Task Force asks that the media please respect David’s family’s privacy during this very difficult time.
David was an extremely popular trooper; to his mates he was known as Poppy. David’s dedication and commitment to our mission in southern Afghanistan was typical of his willingness to help others. Words will never go close to express his efforts, his legacy will endure and he will never be forgotten. He has been honoured by a special service here in the Australian Camp in Tarin Kot. We will not forget his sacrifice.
Our thoughts also go out to our wounded soldier’s family and we are pleased to report that he is recovering well in the excellent medical facilities here on base.
This cowardly attack by terrorists will not slow our efforts to our important mission of helping the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country. We will honour David’s sacrifice through our continued commitment to creating a better life for the Afghan people. Our soldiers remain determined to complete this important mission. They are steadfast. Their work here is making a very important difference. Our team’s strength could not be stronger."
Major Michael Freeman (Officer Commanding B Squadron 2/14 Light Horse Regiment)
"Trooper David Pearce was a well liked and respected member of the Squadron who, at all times, displayed a positive ‘can-do’ attitude that set the example for seniors and peers alike. Trooper Pearce’s life experience and maturity leant a steadying influence to the entire Squadron and he was a privilege to command. Trooper Pearce certainly stood out amongst the Troopers of B Squadron, although junior in rank he was nearly twice the age of many of his peers – a fact that lead to the affectionate title of ‘Pops’ being bestowed on him very early in the year. However, Trooper Pearce certainly kept the younger members honest and would often out perform them in our regular physical fitness tests and arduous field training exercises.
Trooper Pearce was an asset to B Squadron and greatly enhanced any team that was privileged enough to have him present. He worked tirelessly to ensure his armoured vehicle was ready to fight and, importantly, was fully stocked with the essentials of battle – coffee and a fine selection of food. Amongst his peers David was one of the boys and developed close and binding ties with all. To his seniors, Trooper Pearce was a dependable, honest and hardworking soldier who was well respected for his commitment to the Squadron and Regiment.
I was present in the Command Post throughout the morning of David’s death and can assure you that in the events leading up to the incident the Cavalry Troop were executing their task of securing a route with vigour and professionalism. The Troop’s actions immediately after David’s vehicle struck the explosive device were in accordance with their training and proved decisive in preventing further Taliban action. David’s Crew Commander’s first thoughts and actions were towards ensuring the well being of his crew despite being injured himself.
The enduring image of Trooper Pearce is of a soldier dedicated to pursuing excellence in every field; a compassionate and mature man with a great sense of humour and a good grounding in life. These qualities I observed in David make me certain that he was also a good husband and great father and the thoughts and prayers of all Squadron members go out to his wife, daughters and family."
Lieutenant Gavin Vague (Troop Leader, Cavalry Troop, RTF 3)
"Trooper David Ronald Pearce, but known as Poppy to his close mates. You could not find any other individual who adequately sums up the legacy of the Australian soldier. A brave, motivated, hard-working and loyal soldier. A true character that could bring a smile to the men during the hardest of times. He will be dearly missed by all who have had the privilege and pleasure of working with him.
From the men of the 2/14th Light Horse Regiment, his sacrifice will never be forgotten, his commitment to the job will be carried on, and above all, his love for his family will always be remembered.
This tragic incident will not blur our focus; will not prevent us from helping others nor looking after our mates. Poppy’s drive to do what is good and what is right will ensure the men of the 2/14th Light Horse Regiment will succeed in completing our mission.
My thoughts are with the family and friends of Pops throughout this difficult time. I am proud to have served with such a man."
Sergeant Justin Smith (Troop Sergeant, Cavalry Troop, RTF-3)
"Poppy’s sacrifice will forever be remembered. I personally, as his Troop Sergeant and commander of the patrol that was hit, will never forget that moment when I heard the words “one friendly KIA” and my heart sank as I saw Poppy lying there at the back of his car at peace.
He must never be forgotten, like all Australian soldiers before him who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to better other people’s lives. Poppy you brought wisdom to our Troop.
Your commitment to your buddies and your humour will be sadly missed. I will miss your cheese spread sandwiches and our many conversations we had not as soldiers but as proud fathers of young girls.
I cannot speak any words to ease the pain for your family and friends mate, but be sure to know that we as a Troop will forever honour you and your family as part of our family."
Lance Corporal Michael Crossley (Vehicle Commander V30E RTF-3)
Poppy always said that if he died tomorrow he would be happy because he had lived such a great life. While no one likes death or dying, Poppy never had any regrets about his life. Poppy always lived life to the full.
Poppy loved his family and the Army, and I know that he was doing what he loved when he died. He was an inspiration to all he met and no words can describe the loss that will be felt by all that had the honour of knowing him. Our thoughts will always be with your family and we will always be there for them. Gone but never forgotten.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Websdane (Commanding Officer, 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry)
Trooper David Ronald Pearce enlisted into the Australian Army Reserve on 27 August, 2002. He was allotted to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and posted to the 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment, where he trained and qualified as a rifleman.
On 30 October, 2005, David transferred to continuous fulltime service and subsequently deployed to the Solomon Islands as part of Operation Anode. On completion of his deployment on 6 February 2006, David transferred back to the Army Reserve and continued to serve as a rifleman with the 9th Battalion.
Having enjoyed the challenges of his fulltime service on Operation Anode, David decided to make the Army a permanent part of his life. On 3 July, 2006 at the age of 39, David transferred to the Regular Army and qualified as an ASLAV crewman in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps.
It was fortunate for us that David was posted to 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry). His maturity and life experiences were a blessing for a young and busy unit. In a very short space of time, David established a solid reputation as a dedicated, dependable and loyal mate, committed to serving his country and his Regiment.
David deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Reconstruction Task Force in September 2007 with his fellow mates from 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry).
Throughout his short but highly professional military career, David Pearce was held in high esteem by all members of the Regiment and by soldiers from the wider Army, who had the pleasure of experiencing David’s mateship and loyalty as either a recruit, a rifleman, or as a lighthorsemen.
In particular though, he was highly regarded by those mates closest to him, who knew that when it counted most, they could depend on “Poppy” to be there for them. David defined mateship and exemplified what it meant to be a ‘digger’.
David has been awarded the Australian Defence Medal for four years effective service and the Australian Service Medal with Clasp Solomon Island II. David will be posthumously awarded the Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp ICAT and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
David lived life as one should, fully and honestly to himself and his ideals, a deeply loyal and loving family man. His absence from our lives leaves us, the world, a poorer place and we will remember proudly, the honour and privilege it was to know him.
His service in the Australian Army epitomised the highest standards and values of the Australian soldier and his character symbolised the true ANZAC spirit. David will be sadly missed by his regimental family and all those who had the privilege to serve with him. We pay tribute to his courage and sacrifice as an Australian soldier. My deepest sympathy goes out to David’s wife, daughters and family.
We will remember him.
From the 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment (Blue, Bully, Johnny, Howy, Webby, Shawy, Crowy, Pauly, Cookie and Spike)
To a good mate and friend David Pearce (Pearcy). Mate we are deeply saddened, as many others are, that you have been unfairly taken away from us all, your mates from ‘The Fighting Ninth’ will miss you. The Army has lost a true Digger in every sense of the word - the values and mateship that you displayed whilst on deployment to Operation Anode in the Solomon Islands were commendable.
Dave was a larrikin who didn’t mind a practical joke or a beer with the boys. Dave was always there to give support to the younger blokes in the section. Whilst on Operation Anode Dave was like the king of the kids - everywhere we went Dave would pick the kids up, talk to them, play footy with them, feed them - he loved to have the kids around.
In a small village of Liosolen whilst on patrol with 2 Section, Dave was part of a team of young Australian Diggers that helped save the life of a young girl.
She was seven-months-old and her lungs had collapsed due to a severe case of malaria. Her name was Kathrine and she was a lucky girl that we were there that day - she was choppered back to Honiara where we caught up with her days later happy and healthy.
Dave’s approach to the whole Army way of life was like he had been in the Army forever but in fact it was only a very short time. Every time we met it was a warm handshake and friendly smile - rank was no issue, we were just mates.
Dave loved his family very much. On numerous occasions in the Solomon Islands we would talk about our wives and kids - it was our way of helping each other out. That was Dave - open and easy to talk to.
Mate, you have left a huge hole in all of our lives, one that can’t be filled again. From your mates you will always have a special place in our hearts, as will your wonderful family.
Bye mate, we will not forget you and what you have done.