A FORMER RUC man saved the life of one of the most senior US officers in Afghanistan when he was killed last year, it has emerged.
Last August Ken McGonigle, who was in Helmand with private security company New Century, exchanged fire with two escaped Taliban prisoners who were taking aim with a grenade launcher at a US special forces helicopter leaving a base.
The 51-year-old Co Londonderry father of four was shot dead and two US Marines were subsequently killed in the fight.
But the MC-22 Osprey aircraft, which can operate as both a helicopter and a turbo-prop aeroplane, escaped.
It has now emerged that vice admiral Robert Harward, a three-star US Navy SEAL who has been nominated to take over as deputy commander of US forces in Afghanistan, was in the aircraft.
A report obtained by Marine Corps Times under US freedom of information laws describes Mr McGonigle’s actions on August 7 last year at the Musa Qala base as crucial to saving the vice admiral’s life and “averting a potential disaster”.
“The persons leaving the [detention facility] and heading in the direction of the [landing zone] were within range to target the MV-22 Osprey preparing to depart the [landing zone],” the US Marine report said.
“It is unlikely they knew of the VIP cargo, but likely they knew the helicopter was in the [landing zone].”
It adds: “The initial actions of [name redacted] and Ken McGonigle diverted a potential disaster by engaging the armed individuals leaving the [detention facility].
“The individual carrying the RPG was in a launch posture aiming in the direction of the [landing zone].”
Over recent years many former RUC officers and ex-army personnel who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles have been employed by private security companies in Iraq and Afghanistan.