Public speaking is a top fear of many people and it didn’t seem to be a comfortable task for one of Australia’s bravest soldiers.
But in typical heroic style, he did it anyway.
At The West Australian's Leadership Matters business function in Perth this morning, Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Daniel Keighran recounted the experience that earned him the nation’s highest military award for valour, as Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced he was the new ambassador for the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust.
The fund offers support to veterans and defence force members who have sustained physical or mental wounds as a result of their service.
Corporal Keighran repeatedly put himself in the line of intense enemy fire in August 2010 during a three-hour fight against the Taliban at Derapet, in one of the most intense battles fought by Australians in Afghanistan.
His heroic act drew fire away from his patrol as they sought to treat Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney, who was fatally wounded, and helped identify enemy locations so these could be targeted.
Admitting he felt daunted giving leadership tips to business titans, Corporal Keighran told the audience that being decisive was all important.
“Don’t be afraid to make a call,” he said.
“A wrong decision is always better than no decision at all.”
It was that steely resolve to move to high ground - revealing his position to the enemy as they upped the ante with reinforcements and rocket-propelled grenades - that gave his mates the break they needed.
“I did what needed to be done,” Corporal Keighran said.
“We were being engaged from multiple firing points.
“Things were not looking good.”
There were way too many near-misses, he said.
“Something had to change in that firefight to turn the tide.
“If we continued the way it was going, things would have gone downhill at a rapid rate.
“It was time to move.
“I took responsibility, I trusted my team, I formulated a course of action and I carried it out.”
After resounding applause for Corporal Keighran, he gave short answers to questions from the crowd, advising the business leaders to get to know their colleagues well, learning each others’ strengths and weaknesses to improve team work.
Now a reservist and an employee at a Kalgoorlie mine in Western Australia’s Goldfields region, Corporal Keighran was gently ribbed by a mine colleague for giving brief responses as he sought to get out of the spotlight.
The colleague asked him how his team was to work with - and urged him to respond in more than 25 words.
“Great working with you guys. Thank you,” he grinned.
Next came “All good - can I go now?“, before he swiftly left the stage to laughter from the audience.Host Bob Cronin, editor-in-chief of The West Australian newspaper, joked: “I can see he’s keen to get away from the action”.