TRAINED TO SAVE IN KILL ZONE
The inside story of our elite sworn healers
THE first rocket-propelled grenade exploded in the air above their heads, sending Delta Company ducking for cover. The next one dropped right on the Aussie patrol, sending white-hot shrapnel in all directions.
“That’s when all hell broke loose,” said Corporal Jeremy Holder, one of a rare breed in the Australian military, a medic for the special forces — a fighting soldier whose first job is to save lives.
Within Australia’s Special Operations Command they’re known as Voodoo Medics and less than two dozen fill this prestigious role at any one time. Starting today, this News Corp publication will take you inside the secret world of this elite squad. In rare interviews with six Voodoo Medics, special forces operators whose lives depend on them, and the families of those they could not save, we expose the heroism, tragedy and resilience of these remarkable men.
“They’re the ones we kind of love the most when we need them but the ones we don’t always think about when we don’t need them,” said Victoria Cross recipient Mark Donaldson, who knows firsthand the value of the medics from his seven tours of Afghanistan. “They’re there to save our lives. There are not many other jobs like them in the military that are so critical when that time comes.”
The battle Holder experienced during Operation Perth in 2006 was far from typical — it turned out to be one of the most intense during Australia’s 11-year war in Afghanistan — but it perfectly illustrates the role of the Voodoo Medics.
The Sydney-based platoon from 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (now 2nd Commando Regiment), was part of the international force clearing Taliban fighters from the Chora Valley when an urgent radio call came through that US troops nearby were taking heavy fire and needed help. A sergeant was already dead.
But as the Aussies approached, they were ambushed by insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades.
“I remember the first one bursting above us,” Holder said. “We hit the deck. Al-
These guys train to stick their hand in your chest and massage your heart. Platoon commander Bram Connolly
Voodoo Medic Corporal Jeremy Holder pictured on the ground in Afghanistan.