Fight to save commando
FOR the rest of the Australian commando platoon, the message yelled over their radios almost couldn’t have been worse: “We have a prior one casualty.”
But for Corporal Jody Tieche, when that urgent “priority one” bellowed on that stinking hot day in the Afghan desert, he knew exactly what he needed to do. Tieche’s years of training kicked in as he charged into the breach.
Commando Private Chad Elliott was lead scout and about 50m in front of the special forces foot patrol near Khas Oruzgan when at least 20 Taliban fighters opened fire with AK47s and rocket-propelled grenades.
One of the first shots smashed into the top of Elliott’s right leg. That same moment, a grenade exploded at his feet, spraying hot metal shrapnel into his left arm and abdomen.
“Getting shot was basically like getting hit with a sledgehammer,” Elliott said. “Then a hot searing pain.”
For both Tieche and Elliott, it was a life-changing moment that encapsulates the role of voodoo medics – the littleknown band of elite specialist soldiers who patch up the best of Australia’s fighting forces when the worst happens on the battlefield.
The 30-man platoon was weeks into a vehicle-based patrol through Uruzgan province when they picked up enemy activity on a ridge line.
It was August 2007 and the fourth rotation for Australia’s Special Operations Task Group. And it was summer – the traditional fighting season – with 50C days “like having a hair dryer to your face”.
The platoon from 4RAR Cdo’s Alpha Company was out on the plains, flanked by mountains, when a burst of radio chatter indicated about 20 Taliban fighters in fortified positions on the cliff face were preparing to attack. The commandos were exposed on the valley floor, with little cover.
As lead scout, Elliott copped the brunt of the ambush. “I didn’t really know where it came from,” he recalled from his home north of Sydney, speaking as part of News Corp’s Voodoo Medics series which, on Remembrance Day, recognises the incredible role of the fighting medics in our special forces. The bullet entry wound was the size of a fingernail but the round ripped a fistsized hole through the then 25year-old’s backside.
The battle-hardened soldier, who was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, rapidly lost blood and went into shock. Mates sprinted forward and dragged him behind a rock as the Australians continued to exchange fire at the enemy above them.
A commando combat firstaid medic provided the initial treatment and the call went out to send forward a Bushmaster armoured vehicle carrying the unit’s medic. “I heard it over the comms that we had a prior one casualty … and we were
STRONG BOND: Former Army voodoo medic Jody Tieche saved the life of Private Chad Elliott.