Mark Donaldson VC is the first Australian to receive the Victorian Cross since 1969.
On 2 September 2008 in a valley in eastern Afghanistan, Trooper Mark Donaldson made a split second decision that would change his life. His display of extraordinary courage that day saw him awarded the Australian Victoria Cross for Gallantry – the ultimate symbol of heroism.
Yet Mark's journey to those crucial moments in Afghanistan was almost as exceptional as the acts that led to his VC.
He was a rebellious teenager who lost his Vietnam veteran father and his mother a few years later in suspicious circumstances. Faced with uncertain prospects, Mark's decisions could have easily led him down a path of self-destructiveness and petty crime. But he chose a different road: the army.
Mark enlisted in the Australian Army on 18 June 2002 and entered recruit training at the Army Recruit Training Centre, Kapooka, NSW. He demonstrated an early aptitude for soldiering and was awarded the prizes for best shot and best at physical training in his platoon. Subsequently he was allocated to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and posted to the school of infantry at Singleton, NSW, where he excelled in his initial employment training. At the completion of this training he was again awarded best shot and best at physical training, as well as the award for the most outstanding soldier in his platoon.
In February 2004, he successfully completed the Special Air Service Regiment selection course and was posted to the regiment in May 2004. Since that time he has been deployed on operations to East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Mark Donaldson VC knows what it takes to lead. He knows what it is like to take responsibility for personal and team success and understands luck can be an important ingredient of that success. He knows how crucial effective communication is to the success of any plan.
Mark knows what makes an effective team. He knows how critical it is for leaders to be agile in their decision making and how important resilience is in both the planning and implementation phases of an operation. In his world, lives depend on it.
Mark Donaldson has authored a bestselling book, The Cross Road: A story of life, death and the SAS, and is the patron of Soldier On, an organisation committed to ending veteran homelessness. He is married with two children and continues to serve in the SAS.
Mark Donaldson travels from New South Wales