The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (8491591) Private Benjamin Adam Chuck, 2 Commando Regiment, Afghanistan War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.342
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 8 December 2019
Access Open
Conflict Afghanistan, 2001-
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (8491591) Private Benjamin Adam Chuck, 2 Commando Regiment, Afghanistan War.

Speech transcript

8491591 Private Benjamin Adam Chuck, 2 Commando Regiment
Accidental: 21 June 2010

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Benjamin Adam Chuck.

Ben Chuck was born in Atherton, Queensland on 18 June 1983, the son of Gordon and Susan Chuck.

Ben grew up on the family farm at Yungaburra in the Atherton Tablelands along with his older brother Jason and younger sister Tiffany.

Known as a quiet and gentle boy, Ben loved the outdoors and the creatures that inhabited it, particularly reptiles. During a family barbeque on the Herbert River, he disappeared only to return with a large python in his shirt. He sat near the campfire and had a mischievous grin on his face as the python slithered up to perch on his hat, which freaked out his friends and family.

Ben loved the water and spent many blissful days kite-surfing and skiing behind the family boat on Lake Tinaroo, only minutes from his home.

When the family moved to Hobart, Ben and his brother Jason quickly settled into the Hutchins School where Ben became popular amongst his classmates. He was an enthusiastic participant in school activities, in particular sailing, where his talents saw him represent Australia in the 1995 International Cadet World Championships. He finished the competition in 9th place.

After leaving school, Ben gained employment at Cairns Crocodile Farm where he learned to manage risk as a crocodile catcher in the Northern Territory. This work led him to demonstrate his skills as a presenter of the Crocodile Attack show at Hartley Creek Wildlife Park, a popular tourist attraction north of Cairns.

To improve his fitness and agility, Ben took up Muay Thai kickboxing. His skills quickly became evident when he won two bouts at Cairns Ringside.

Ben wanted to do more with his life and confided to his father that he wanted to become a helicopter pilot. Despite the cost associated with gaining a pilot’s licence, Ben set to his goal with dedication.

An Australian Defence Force advertisement in The Australian newspaper gave Ben his greatest challenge, which would prove most rewarding. Part of the ad said; ‘if you think you have what it takes … come and see us … we’ll tell you!’ It was an appeal for motivated Australians to enlist in the Australian Army’s Special Forces Direct Recruiting Scheme. After passing the required tests, Ben joined the Australian Army on 11 May 2004, aged 21.

Ben was proud of his family’s military service and was keen to add his name alongside those of his two grandfathers, Squadron Leader Bob Maguire and Major Harry Chuck, who had both served with distinction during the Second World War.

The Commando Selection and Training Course started out with 250 participants. By the end, only 18 remained. Ben’s performance was exceptional, and he was given the most outstanding soldier award.

In February 2005 he was posted to the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) at Holsworthy. The unit would be renamed 2nd Commando Regiment in June 2009. Four months later, Ben and his unit were sent to Rifle Company Butterworth in Malaysia, where training focused on jungle and amphibious operations.

Back in Australia in 2006, Ben spent the majority of the year training. He passed his initial employment training, qualified on a wide variety of weaponry, including small arms and mortars, and passed the freefall sky diving course.

In May 2007, Ben deployed to Afghanistan with A Company, 4RAR, as part of Operation Slipper. By this this time he was a member of the reconnaissance team.

After returning home in September, Ben continued to gain qualifications on weapon systems such as the Javelin. He successfully passed the gruelling snipers course and became part of a six-man sniper team. Ben’s caring nature led him to put his hand up to become the team’s medic and he set about gaining the necessary qualifications.

Ben returned for a second tour in Afghanistan in June 2008. In the latter half of the year, his unit took part in a disruption operation in Helmand Province to assist coalition forces transporting a large turbine to the Kajaki Dam hydroelectric facility.

After returning to Australia in November, Ben continued his helicopter pilot training. He met Tess Crane, a cousin of one of his flatmates, who had come to Sydney for a visit. Their attraction was immediate and the two began a relationship. Ben considered Tess to be “the sweetest, kindest and prettiest girl I’ve ever met”. As his third deployment to Afghanistan neared, he confided to his parents that he was going to propose to Tess when he got home.

Before his final deployment, Ben achieved his goal of becoming a qualified helicopter pilot. It had been a long process, and to celebrate he took his family for a flight over Sydney Harbour.

He had also quietly applied for and been accepted to attend the July 2010 selection course for entry into the Special Air Service Regiment.

Ben deployed to Afghanistan in February 2010. In June, A Company, 2 Commando was involved in the battle of Shah Wali Kot, a Coalition effort to drive the Taliban out of the Shah Wali Kot Valley.

On 21 June, in what was the final offensive in the Battle of Shah Wali Kot, four Blackhawk helicopters from the US Army’s 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, operating as Task Force No Mercy, were in the process of conducting an early morning heli-borne assault on Taliban positions.

In the pre-dawn darkness, the helicopters, carrying Australian and US Army personnel were flying low and fast across the desert floor. At 3.39 am as the lead helicopter neared its final checkpoint, with Ben and his Sierra One sniper team on board, the Blackhawk crashed into a small rise in the valley floor.

The helicopter rolled as it hit the ground and the fuselage caught fire. Two commandos – Privates Timothy Aplin and Scott Palmer – and a US Army crewman – Staff Sergeant Brandon Silk – were killed instantly. Eight other Australians were badly injured, and of the surviving three US crewmen, the pilot Chief Warrant Officer Trevor Baucom became a paraplegic. Ben was one of the most seriously injured, suffering a traumatic injury to his left leg.

The other helicopters turned around and landed near the crash. Some commandos formed a secure outer perimeter, while others went into rescue mode. Several men ripped an engine cowling off the crashed Blackhawk and it was used as a stretcher. The most critically injured, including Ben, were loaded onto another Blackhawk, which was airborne and on its way to Kandahar within four minutes.

Despite desperate attempts to stop the bleeding from Ben’s injuries, he was unable to be saved. He died during the 25 minute flight back to Kandahar. He had only just turned 27.

A source of good natured jealousy amongst his mates, Ben was thought of as the best looking man in 2 Commando, and what made him impossible to dislike was that he was also the nicest as well, always thinking of others above himself. Ben’s death, along with those of Aplin and Palmer, hit the unit hard.

A comrade said that he “knew Ben Chuck as a true gentleman. He was a real professional, an amazing friend and a down to earth Australian.” Another stated that “Chucky was made for this job, he loved being a commando. His mental strength showed in his courage under fire.”

After hearing of Ben’s death, the headmaster and board of the Hutchins School created ”The Ben Chuck Good Man Award” in honour of their former student. The annual award is voted on by Year 12 students and presented to a peer who possesses the qualities of integrity, compassion, humility, courage and kindness: the traits of a good man.

Ben’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with 43 other Australians who died on operations or as a consequence of the war in Afghanistan.

His is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Ben Chuck, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Australian War Memorial


Benjamin Adam Chuck

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