On the morning of the 22nd of June 2013, in Shahid-e-Hasas, Afghanistan, Cameron Baird was shot and was killed instantly.
Cam was a Team Commander with Bravo Company of the 2nd Commando Regiment. His team was in heavy contact with the enemy and, as always, he was leading from the front. This was his fifth rotation to Afghanistan.
Cam was already the recipient of the Medal of Gallantry from a previous trip with Bravo Company in 2007 for his actions during a firefight which claimed the life of Commando Luke Worsley. His actions on the 22nd of June were the epitome of courage and daring, but for Cam it was simply business as usual. Fearless doesn’t even begin to describe him. He was a man who not only didn’t flinch from danger, he ran towards it.
I had the privilege of first meeting Cam in early 2008, and working with him ever since. He was an intimidating sight at first. He was a huge guy, well over six feet and carrying a lot of muscle. When he was angry, or when he was taking the piss, his booming voice was heard by everyone in the area. For someone on the Commando Selection course he was definitely daunting.
But it didn’t take you long to realise that he was one of the nicest guys that you would ever meet. I can’t think of a single time in the years that I knew him where he was conceited or arrogant. He was a humble man, which was even more impressive because he was one of the finest warriors that I have ever met. Not that he would have agreed with that. He would have claimed it was his boys who made him look good. And the fact was, every year he had a great team. But they were great because they were trying to live up to the high standards that Cam set for himself.
Cam was a humble guy, a professional and dedicated soldier, an inspiring leader, and a loyal friend. I write this for two reasons. Firstly, I think that Australia should remember just how much the war has cost, and that a large part of that price has been paid by the members of the Special Operations Command and their families. Cam was not only a great warrior, he was a great Australian, and we’re all poorer for his loss.
Secondly, Cam inspired people around him to be better. I think that he gives us a lot of lessons we can apply to our own lives. He didn’t go around telling people about these lessons, instead he embodied the values in the way that he lived his life.
He was a humble man; quick to praise others and reluctant to accept his share of the credit. He didn’t go out to do the things that would earn him praise, rather he did the things that needed to be done. Afterwards he didn’t feel the need to tell everyone about it.
He was dedicated to his chosen profession. He was doing what he was put on this planet to do, and this showed in the way he approached his work. To him, this wasn’t just something that he did to pay the bills. His passion and pride for his work was apparent. He didn’t do a job that he wouldn’t be proud of.
Cam was an inspiring leader. He drew out the best in his team, but he certainly didn’t do it by being a harsh task-master. He didn’t yell or scream at people to motivate them. He didn’t punish people. He merely set lofty standards for himself, and then lived up to them – day in, day out. He made you want to live up to them, too. The feeling that you had let him down was worse than any punishment he could have imposed. I remember on one training exercise we did when I was in his team, we had a bit of a shocker. We messed up pretty much everything, and rightly deserved a kick in the arse. Once Cam delivered it, he immediately took a deep breath, and then casually asked me what I was up to for the weekend. There was no malice there, he just did what he had to do to improve the team.
Cam was a loyal mate, and he was very honest. He didn’t get caught up in the usual office politics, and would never say something behind your back that he wouldn’t say to your face. Sometimes this was a little bit of a shock. Cam would tell you what he thought, and he certainly wouldn’t sugarcoat it. But that was the thing; you always knew where you stood with Cam. If he had a problem with something you had done, he’d tell you. If he gave you a compliment then you could believe he meant it, because he wouldn’t have told you otherwise.
Cam was one of those special people who made the people around him better through his personal example. Even though he was one of the two most professional soldiers I have ever worked with, nobody harboured any jealousy. He was simply too nice and genuine a guy not to like. Everybody respected him, and everybody was proud to count him as a friend. I think that it’s fitting that his actions might encourage people to better themselves, because that’s what happened throughout his life.
This year the 2nd Commando Regiment lost one of its best, and we mourn his passing. But we also know that he died doing what he loved, and his actions that day undoubtedly helped saved the lives of his team members.
Cameron Baird was a true warrior, but he was also a mentor, a leader, and a friend. I’ll miss you, mate.
Lest We Forget
Today, the Governor-General awarded Cam the Victoria Cross – our nation’s highest award – for his bravery in the engagement that claimed his life.