OUR BLOOD BROTHERS
Saving lives and forging bonds on the frontline is all in a day’s work
FOR the rest of the platoon, the message yelled over the radio almost could not have been worse: “We have a prior one casualty.”
But for Corporal Jody Tieche, the commander’s urgent “prior one” — short for “priority one’’ — call that stinking hot day in the Afghan desert was a chance to put years of medical training to use — and to save a life.
Commando Private Chad Elliott was lead scout and about 50 metres in front of the foot patrol when at least 20 Taliban fighters opened fire with AK47s and rocketpropelled grenade launchers.
One of the first shots sent a high velocity projectile from a 7.62mm round smashing into Elliott’s right femur. Simultaneously, a grenade exploded at his feet and sent sizzling metal fragments into his left arm and abdomen.
“Getting shot was basically like getting hit with a sledgehammer,” Elliott told TNheewDs CaiolyrpTAeluesgtrapliha, “then a hot searing pain afterwards.”
For Tieche and Elliott, it was a life-changing moment that perfectly encapsulates the role of Voodoo Medics. In an exclusive series, the TNelwegsrCapohrp has gone inside the world of the little-known band of elite specialist soldiers who patch up the best of Australia’s fighting forces when the worst happens to them.
The 30-man platoon from the former 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment was weeks into a vehiclebased patrol through Uruzgan province in August 2007 when they picked up enemy activity on a ridge line above.
It was the Special Operations Task Group’s fourth rotation — and the traditional summer fighting season with 50C temperatures “like having a hair dryer to your face”.
The platoon from 4RAR Cdo’s Alpha Company was near the town of Khas Oruzgan when a burst of radio chatter indicated Taliban in fortified positions in the cliff face were preparing to attack.
The Australians were exposed on the valley floor, with little cover.
“Our platoon decided to do a dismounted patrol up to this ridge to do a bit of a recon,” Tieche said.
As they crept up the mountainside, “a hail of bullets and rocket fire” erupted. Elliott, then 25, copped the brunt of the ambush.
“I didn’t really know where it came from,” he recalled from his home at Avoca, north of Sydney.
“I just saw a cloud of dust come up around and bullets striking the ground. From there I knew my leg was broken. It just crumpled underneath me.”
The entry wound was the size of a fingernail but the round ripped a fist-sized hole through his buttock on the way out. The super fit soldier rapidly lost blood and went into shock.
Mates sprinted forward and dragged him behind a rock as the commandos fired at the enemy above them.
“They were shielding my body from gunfire,” Elliott said. A commando provided initial treatment and the call went out to send forward a Bushmaster armoured vehicle carrying the unit’s medic — codenamed “Kilo”.
1. T with AK47s and rocketpropelled grenades on advancing Australian patrol.2. Private Chad Elliott is seriously wounded while scouting about 50m ahead of a foot patrol.3. A Bushmaster with medic Jody Tieche is sent forward into the ambush zone to rescue Elliott.4. They withdraw into the valley for a Medevac chopper extraction to Tarin Kowt.