Tom Gaden was killed in action in southern Afghanistan together with Paul Upton and Jamie Gunn on Wednesday 25 February 2009 as a consequence of the wounds they received when the vehicle in which he and the two other Riflemen of his Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) were travelling was struck by an IED on the highway East of Gereshk.
Tom Gaden was serving as a Corporal with 1st Battalion, The Rifles.
Tom Gaden was born on 23 November 1984 in Taunton, attending Bishop Fox’s Community School. He took part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and had been a member of the Blackbrook Scout Troop.
He enlisted into the Army in Taunton and on completion of the Combat Infantryman’s Course at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, was posted to the Second Battalion, the Light Infantry (2 LI, later to become 3 RIFLES)) on 25 November 2002.
He was promoted to Lance Corporal in 2005 and attended the Section Commanders' Battle course in the summer of 2006. His performance was remarked upon as the 'best of the 2 LI batch'.
He served on Op TELIC 2 (Iraq) and on peace keeping operations in Cyprus, joining the 2 LI Recce (Reconnaissance) Platoon where he was 'zealous and enthusiastic' by nature, earning the respect of his peers and becoming one of the most popular members of his platoon.
Corporal Gaden was posted to the First Battalion The Rifles (1 RIFLES) in February 2008, moving to E Company that April, and was immediately selected to attend the Close Quarter Battle Skills Course with a view to passing on these skills to the Company for the tour to Afghanistan.
However, he was almost immediately selected to deploy as a Section Commander to Um Qasr, Iraq, as part of the Battalion’s commitment to that operational theatre. He spent four months working with the Naval Transition Team before redeploying just after Christmas 2008 to rejoin his original team in a remote Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Helmand, Southern Afghanistan.
Corporal Gaden was a competent and assuredly professional operator, selected for the technically complex skills of Close Quarter Battle, then selected again to carry out a discrete and independent task for the Battalion.
He took these rapid changes in his stride, remaining resourceful and flexible to the operational requirements and always relishing the challenge. He thrived in Iraq and led his Section with skill and determination throughout that short tour.
On arrival in Afghanistan, he immediately involved himself in the small team environment in an isolated and austere FOB, as team 3ic (third in command), stepping up where necessary as second in command of the team.
Corporal Gaden was a Rifleman of the calibre that has shaped the Regiment’s reputation and the Battalion’s character and ethos. He was well known for his strong faith and deep sense of duty, which was reflected in his qualities as a commander and friend to those around him.
He was part of the future of this great organisation and his sacrifice will be felt by all Riflemen. Our sense of loss cannot match the sorrow and grief that is being felt by Corporal Gaden’s family, and his fiancée. Our prayers are with them at this time.
Once a Rifleman, always a Rifleman, 'Swift and Bold'
Corporal Tom Gaden's mother, Judy; father, Nick; fiancée, Amanda; sister, Ruth; and brother, Sam, made the following statement:
"Tom was an inspiration to the whole family. He was a soldier through and through and the rock that kept our family together.
"He was very loving, never judged anyone and was always very supportive, nothing was ever too much trouble for him.
Corporal Gaden's friends and colleagues paid the following tributes:
Lieutenant Colonel Joe Cavanagh, Commanding Officer, 1 RIFLES:
"The news that Corporal Tom Gaden had been killed by an Improvised Explosive Device was devastating for the Battalion and heart-breaking for his family and friends.
"It has been a bitter blow. Of all of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, Tom's was one of the tightest knit, as a result of its relative isolation and the challenges the team has overcome in the course of this tour; of consolation to Tom and his fellow heroic Riflemen will be the fact that they fell together.
"I remember Tom from my 2 LI days in Edinburgh; there he was already showing great potential and the signs that he would develop into an outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer. He was already a popular and respected leader.
"In addition he had amassed rich, impressive achievements and experiences from outside Army life - most of all his beloved young family - and as a result he will be very badly and widely missed."
Major Jonathan (Jonny) Kitson, Officer Commanding E Company, 1 RIFLES:
"I had the uncomfortable duty of welcoming Corporal Gaden into the Company on the same day as I had to task him for a four month tour of Iraq. He took the news in a manner befitting his calm and professional reputation. His only concern was that he should be able to get back to E Company as quickly as possible, which he did in January of this year.
"He had an immediate impact on his team, galvanising the Riflemen’s efforts and surging forward with a passion for the task at hand. He showed a significant degree of care and compassion for his Rifleman, no doubt emanating from the strong faith that he held at the centre of his life.
"The Company mourns a great leader and a firm friend."
Captain Rich Camp, Team Commander OMLT 9:
"Corporal Tom Gaden joined OMLT 9 at the start of the year having served the four previous months in Iraq. Initially the team 3i/c, he had recently stepped up as my Second in Command and it was in that role he was serving on 25 February 2009 as a vehicle commander.
"His professional competence and diligence were clear for all to see – he saw the Riflemen who worked for him as being a great responsibility which he served tirelessly. His love of the Army was an inspirational driving force for everyone, and his experience and professional knowledge were of great benefit to us all.
"Much of his time was spent with the lads training in the gym and he was a physically strong man. It would not be unusual to see him with a group of willing volunteers running phys [physical training] after a patrol; a testament to his nature and the admiration the team had for him.
"An exceptional NCO and natural leader, the loss of Tom is a crushing blow to the OMLT, professionally and personally. He was a close friend to us all and held in high regard across the Regiment.
"I know however, this will be felt most keenly by his parents and young family in Taunton, of whom he talked a great deal – my thoughts and prayers go out to them."
A/Cpl Woolley, A/Cpl Southwick, A/Cpl O’Neill, Rfn Diamond, OMLT 9 team-mates:
"Cpl Gaden, 'Tomo' as he was known to us, was a very keen soldier who took the role of 2IC when he came to Afghanistan. He was a much loved and respected Rifleman to us all.
"Tomo will be missed for his keenness and his passion for the job, and his love and loyalty to his friends and family.