The Australian Defence Force has confirmed that 25-year-old Lieutenant Michael Fussell, has been killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device (IED.
The statement said Lieutenant Fussell was a member of the Sydney-based 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando). Their HQ is in fact just a few kilometres from where we live.
He was killed by a roadside bomb during a dismounted patrol in Oruzgan province, southern Afghanistan. Two other members of his unit were wounded during the attack, but have since returned to operational duties.
Michael was born in Coffs Harbour and then attended The Armidale School (TAS), my old school. He was a keen rugby player.
Michael enlisted in 2002, graduated from Duntroon in 2005 and was posted to artillery. He served in East Timor in 2006 and 2007.
Michale's decorations included the Australian Service Medal clasp, Timor-Leste and the Australian Defence Medal.
Michael was unmarried. Brother Daniel is also in the army, serving with an artillery regiment presently located in Brisbane.
Army Chief Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie extended his condolences to Lieutenant Fussell's family and friends.
"Our hearts go out to Michael's family during 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," he said.
"Michael died while serving his nation and his sacrifice will never be forgotten. This loss is felt heavily by the wider Defence community, and particularly by members of the Australian Army."
TAS headmaster Murray Guest said Michael was still remembered as someone who made a solid contribution to school life and the local community.
"A very bright young man. He was a scholarship winner here who performed well through his HSC in 2001," he said.
"He was involved in a lot of things as well, a great giver to the community.
"He was a cadet in his early years and then a surf lifesaver a little later on and gave in lots of other forms as well."
He was also, apparently, a bit of a rascal at times!
I have updated this story with further material drawn from the SMH plus some additional personal comments. I also wrote a personal perspective, Saturday Morning Musings - TAS Old Boy killed in Afghanistan, that may be of interest to those interested in the history of TAS, Michael's old school.
The Defence Department release on Michael's death including the PM's statement can be found here.
Michael's family has now released a statement on their loss. Apparently the funeral will be held in Armidale next Thursday. I am sure that the local paper will cover it in full - I will provide information here later.
Three of Michael's friends and colleagues have left comments on this post. If you knew Michael and would like to leave a comment, I will ensure that they are all passed onto to TAS in advance of the funeral.
TAS Head Murray Guest has advised that Michael's funeral will be held at Armidale's Old Teachers' College at 10:00am on Saturday 6 December.
For those who do not know Armidale, the TC stands in a prominent position on South Hill. There is plenty of parking around it. It is also in easy walking distance from the town centre.
TAS Deputy Head Grant Harris provided the following update:
"Michael's body arrives at Richmond at 11.30am Wed (today) where there will be a Ramp Ceremony for family only. There will be a Military Service at the 4 RAR Barracks on Thursday in Sydney. His funeral in Armidale is at 10.00am on Saturday at the Old Teachers College Auditorium."
The Armidale service was not covered in the local media, perhaps because of the family's request for privacy. I found one short general report. The Sydney military service on the Thursday was covered by the media as the main funeral. For reports see here, here.