Hu­mour proves to be just the tonic

The Chronicle - - News - KRISTIN SHORTEN

AS the bat­tle raged around them, Jody Tieche wanted to calm Chad El­liott’s nerves as well as tend to the bul­let wound in his up­per thigh.

So, in the great Aussie tra­di­tion, he cracked a joke.

The ex­act words can’t be re­peated here, but the lewd com­ment did the trick and changed the mood in a mo­ment that for most peo­ple would amount to unimag­in­able stress.

“It was along the lines of how close the gun­shot wound was to his tackle,” Tieche said.

“It was pretty funny at the time, given the cir­cum­stances and how much ten­sion was in that sit­u­a­tion.”

Black hu­mour is a com­mon — and healthy — cop­ing mech­a­nism among sol­diers, ac­cord­ing to for­mer mil­i­tary psy­chol­o­gist Ma­jor Clint Marl­bor­ough, who served with Syd­ney’s 2nd Com­mando Reg­i­ment.

“Dark or gal­lows hu­mour is an in­cred­i­bly good way to cope with a trau­matic sit­u­a­tion be­cause we can’t nor­malise some sit­u­a­tions but we can try to take the in­ten­sity out of them. If we mock them they don’t seem as bad.”

El­liott said Tieche’s joke was one of the few things he re­mem­bered about the day he was shot on pa­trol in south­ern Afghanistan.

“I guess that’s a pretty Aus­tralian thing,” he said.

“The dark hu­mour def­i­nitely helped.”

Marl­bor­ough said dark hu­mour in­cluded things that would seem “grossly in­ap­pro­pri­ate” if taken out of the con­text of the in­tense sit­u­a­tion where it oc­curs.

For­mer com­mando Ma­jor Bram Con­nolly said the prac­tice dated back to Gal­lipoli.

“I re­call sto­ries about guys on the way out of the trench ... walk­ing past and shak­ing the hand of some­one who had been killed,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously that’s not funny, but it prob­a­bly was to them.

“For us it can be a sim­i­lar thing. Once we were pa­trolling ... and a huge ex­plo­sion hap­pened and the Tal­iban started shoot­ing and some­one yelled out ‘awe­some, they’re shoot­ing at us’.

“We all started laugh­ing. Then we started shoot­ing back.”

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