TRAINED TO SAVE IN KILL ZONE

The in­side story of our elite sworn heal­ers

NewsMail - - FEATURE - KRISTIN SHORTEN

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.

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