The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (8264024) Sapper Darren Smith, 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, Afghanistan

Accession Number PAFU2014/054.01
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 23 February 2014
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

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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (8264024) Sapper Darren Smith, 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, Afghanistan.

Speech transcript

8264024 Sapper Darren Smith, 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment
KIA 7 June 2010
Photograph: Image supplied by Defence.

Story delivered 23 February 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sapper Darren Smith and his Explosive Detection Dog, Herbie. They were both killed in Afghanistan in 2010, along with Sapper Jacob Moreland.

Darren Smith was born in Adelaide in November 1984 and was the oldest of three children. Darren excelled in sport and music: he enjoyed soccer, cricket, and Aussie Rules football at school, and played guitar in the Wirreanda High School band. To his family, Darren was always active and fun-loving, sometimes cheeky, but always well-mannered. A loving son, he was also a devoted big brother to his sisters Chavuanne and Crystal.

Darren always had an ambition to be a soldier. In 2001 he enlisted in the Army Reserve and underwent basic training at Kapooka. Following this, Darren was posted to 3rd Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers, at Warradale in South Australia, where he went on to complete his training as a combat engineer -. a specialist in bridge-building, minefield clearance, and demolition, amongst other things. In 2004, Darren transferred to the Regular Army and was posted to the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment in Darwin. While there, he met Angela - the love of his life. They married and had a son, Mason.

Darren transferred to the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment in Brisbane, where he developed a passion for working with Explosive Detection Dogs. These dogs are trained to locate improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and weapons caches. They and their handlers tend to form a strong bond - described as both a partnership and mateship. As well as their work in the field, the effect of the dogs on morale cannot be overestimated. Many soldiers say that the dogs also serve to remind them of home.

Darren was paired with Herbie, a two-year-old black-and-tan collie cross. Herbie was originally recruited from the Peninsula Animal Aid Facility, an animal rescue shelter at Redcliffe in Queensland. With the possibility of a deployment to Afghanistan approaching, Darren and Herbie trained for six months so they could serve side-by-side on deployment.

Darren's bond with Herbie was so strong that when Herbie suffered an injury that threatened to prevent him accompanying Darren to Afghanistan, Darren worked with him in rehabilitation every day for six weeks until Herbie was declared fit to deploy.

Darren and Herbie travelled to Afghanistan with Mentoring Task Force 1 in March 2010. Here they conducted foot patrols out of Patrol Base Wali with Mentoring Team Alpha as part of a broader strategy to deny the Taliban access to the Mirabad Valley. Combat engineers such as Darren and Herbie regularly accompanied the infantry on their daily patrols, sweeping ahead to counter the threat of IEDs.

On the morning of 7 June 2010 the team conducted a routine foot patrol with the intention of disrupting the Taliban laying IEDs in and around the village of Sorkh Lez in the Mirabed Valley. Herbie, Darren, and Sapper Jacob Moreland were investigating metal signature on the footpad of a creek bed when an IED was triggered. The blast killed Herbie, and mortally wounded both Darren and Jacob. According to those who were with him in his final moments, Darren's final words were for his family, Angela and Mason. He wanted them to know that he loved them.

He was 25 years old when he died.

Darren's wife described him as "an absolutely remarkable human being. He was passionate about his job and understood the risks involved, but he was the sort of man who always put others first". Darren continues to be sorely missed by his family and friends.

Herbie was cremated in Afghanistan and farewelled by approximately 100 engineers and soldiers of Mentoring Task Force 1 at Tarin Kot. His ashes were transported back to Australia and presented to Angela in a small ceremony at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane. The 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment held a moment's silence to remember Herbie's service, and the Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association presented two service medals for Herbie to both Angela and the regiment commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel John Carey.

Herbie and Darren are commemorated together on a polished metal board along with the names of the four other dogs killed on service in Afghanistan - Merlin, Razz, Andy, and Nova. The board was placed in a corner of the Australian recreation area in Tarin Kot that was known as Poppy's - so named for Trooper David Poppy Pearce, killed in Afghanistan in 2007. At the unveiling ceremony, a large group gathered together - also present were 13 detection dogs and their handlers; including Herbie's canine cobbers Harry, Bundy, and Tank.

Herbie's name is also listed on a memorial plaque at the Avenue of Honour in Yunguburra, Queensland, and at the refuge where he was first recruited.

Darren and Herbie are pictured together in the photograph displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

Darren's name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with the 39 other Australians who were killed fighting in Afghanistan.

His is one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sapper Darren Smith and his Explosive Detection Dog Herbie, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of the nation.

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