Whitsunday Times : 2018-12-13

NEWS : 14 : 14

NEWS

14 whitsundaytimes.com.au Thursday, December 13, 2018 04 TUESDAY OCTOBER 23 2018 DAILYTELEGRAPH.COM.AU Humour proves to be just the tonic Saving lives and forging bonds on the frontline OUR BLOOD BROTHERS 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.” N TALIBANPOSITIO 1. T with AK47s and rocketpropelled grenades on advancing Australian patrol. 1 AFGHANISTAN Herat KABUL KHAS URUZGAN 2. Private Chad Elliott is seriously wounded while scouting about 50m ahead of a foot patrol. Baghran 2 Tarin Kowt PATROL VEHICLES Kandahar 3 100 km 3. A Bushmaster with medic Jody Tieche is sent forward into the ambush zone to rescue Elliott. 4 4. They withdraw into the valley for a Medevac chopper extraction to Tarin Kowt. platoon from the 4th Battalion, Royal Australia Regiment, on patrol in southern Afghanistan in August 2007. KRISTIN SHORTEN RECAP OF PART 1 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 The Daily Telegraph, “then a hot searing pain afterwards.” For Tieche and Elliott, it was a life-changing moment that perfectly encapsulates the role of Voodoo Medics. sN, nseideinstihde otfhtehe little-known 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”. BEYOND THE WIRE 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 AUSTRALIA’S ELITE COMBAT MEDICAL SOLDIERS The Voodoo Medics and their role inside one of Australia’s most intense firefights against the Taliban in Afghanistan. In aann execxlculsuisvievesesreiersie, CToerlepgrhapahs ghoansegoi wthoerlwdoroldf band of elite specialist soldiers wwhhooppaatcthchupupthtehbeesbteosft AofusAtruasltiraa’slia’sfigfihgthintigng when the worst happens to them.. etwhes 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 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. forces 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. In times of crisis, you can give where it’s needed most Please donate now | SALVOS.ORG.AU 13 SALVOS

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