Portsmouth-born soldier killed in Afghanistan

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The family of a Portsmouth-born soldier killed in Afghanistan have paid tribute to the ‘true professional’ who loved his job and lived life to the full.

TColour Serjeant Kevin Fortuna, 36, from A Company, 1st Battalion The Rifles, died on Monday on patrol in the Saidabad Kalay area of the Nahr-e Saraj (South) district of Helmand province.

The Ministry of Defence described him as a “phenomenal, irreplaceable” individual who leaves behind his wife Nia, mother Sue and brother Kris.

His family said: “Kevin was a true professional who loved his job and lived life to the full. He gave 19 loyal years to the Army and will be sadly missed by his wife, mother, family and friends.”

Colour Serjeant Fortuna was deployed to Afghanistan last month with A Company, 1st Battalion The Rifles in command of a multiple of 12 Riflemen, the MoD said.

He was based at Check Point Sarhad in the Nahr-e-Saraj (South) district of Helmand Province.

The MoD said he had been leading a patrol in the early evening of Monday to disrupt enemy forces when he was killed by an improvised explosive device.

He was described by the MoD in a statement as a “phenomenal, irreplaceable individual” who had already been selected for promotion and was “very much a star” of the future.

“He cared for those he commanded passionately, and had prepared both his men and himself flawlessly for this deployment,” the MoD said.

“He will be very sorely missed by every man in the battle group.”

Lieutenant Colonel James de Labilliere, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, The Rifles said: “Colour Serjeant Fortuna was an utterly professional commander, Rifleman and a man of irreproachable integrity.

“His presence strengthened the battalion and the loss with his passing will be acute.

“He was remarkable for many reasons, not least his complete and unwavering commitment to his Riflemen and their care.

“He was restless until he had achieved the very best for them and encouraged them to be restless until they achieved the very best for themselves.

“He was a master-tactician, and a soldier of great experience. He was to be a Company Serjeant Major in just three months time.”

The MoD said Colour Serjeant Fortuna was born in Portsmouth and attended Bourneside comprehensive school in Cheltenham.

He joined the Army aged 16, where his potential was recognised at an early stage, joining the Gloucestershire Regiment in 1991 as a junior leader.

Over the course of an exceptional career, Colour Serjeant Fortuna served in Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

His experience, intellectual approach and calm manner led him to a position of “great esteem” within the battalion, the MoD said.

Major Carl Boswell, officer commanding, A Company, 1st Battalion, The Rifles, said: “His energy and enthusiasm for life were infectious and endless, his modesty humbling, and his resourcefulness inspiring.

“His core inner strength and confidence enabled an air of invulnerability - nothing was too much for him in both caring and understanding the needs of his riflemen and ensuring mission success.

“But whether for his beloved wife Nia or for his fellow riflemen, his first priority was to care for others.”

Major Jason Durup, officer commanding, K Company, 42 Commando, Royal Marines, said: “A towering individual, he was an unassuming, proud and professional rifleman who displayed all the qualities one would expect from someone about to be promoted to warrant officer - determination, unselfishness, courage, leadership and cheerfulness in adversity.

“This ethos was recognised and shared by the Royal Marines Commando colleagues with whom he lived and fought side by side.

“It was obvious his men were devoted to him and that there was a special bond between them - a strong identity that comes from being a small group of riflemen operating in an isolated checkpoint.”

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said he was “greatly saddened” to hear of Colour Serjeant Fortuna’s death.

“He was an exceptional soldier with significant operational experience and his loss will be keenly felt by his close-knit unit,” he said.

“He cared passionately for those under his command and was highly respected and popular throughout the battalion.

“My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Colour Serjeant Fortuna’s death takes the number of UK military personnel who have died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001 to 366.