Courageous NZ soldiers saluted for their actions
Three Kiwi soldiers have been recognised for ‘‘courageous’’ actions during a rocket attack which killed three people at Camp Taji, Iraq, last year.
On March 11, 2020, 29 rockets hit Camp Taji, the military base shared by Kiwi, American, British, Australian and Iraqi forces.
Two US troops and a British medic were killed, and many others injured.
No Kiwi troops were harmed. The actions of the three New Zealanders have now been formally recognised.
Corporal Charlesmunns has been awarded the Defence Meritorious Service Medal, while Corporal Jessica Healey-render and Private Maddison Van Sitter both received a Chief of Defence Force Commendation.
Amedic from Auckland, Healey-render – deployed as an Acting Sergeant – was one of the first people to reach many critically injured casualties and quickly assumed control of the medical situation.
‘‘We heard the rockets just after we had finished a step class in the gym. I found my evacuation team, and we drove down the road where we soon found our first casualty. This is when I realised the true nature of the situation,’’ she said.
‘‘There were multiple traumatic injuries ... I’ll admit it was scary – you never think there will be a day when you are literally running for your life.’’
The citation for HealeyRender’s commendation said there was no doubt her actions saved the lives of critically injured casualties.
‘‘Her medical skills and decision-making demonstrated an exceptional level of professionalism during a complex and challenging situation,’’ it said.
Munns, originally from Kaitaia, was part of the team responsible for maintaining the security of the camp.
On the night of the attack, Munns said his training kicked in immediately.
Venturing out into the camp, his section found casualties almost immediately.
‘‘We found three wounded soldiers, two in a rather bad way and the third had taken a lot of shrapnel and was in a lot of shock. We treated all three and had to begin CPR on one, but eventually it was no use as his injuries were too much.’’
Munns and his section spent the rest of the night clearing areas where power lines were sparking and buildings were on fire, dealing with vehicles leaking petrol and marking spots where unexploded ordnance had fallen.
Van Sitter, from Rotorua, responded to one of the main incident sites, where he noticed an extremely distressed coalition soldier attempting to deliver CPR to a critically injured colleague.
He quickly took over the CPR duties and spent the next six
minutes fighting to resuscitate the injured soldier.
‘‘When medical staff confirmed that the individual had died, he refocused his efforts on ensuring that the deceased service person was afforded privacy and as much dignity in death as the situation would allow, covering the body and ensuring that onlookers were kept away,’’ his commendation citation said.
‘‘In his actions after the rocket attack Private Van Sitter showed maturity and composure beyond his years, and demonstrated an exceptional level of professional skill as he carried out his duties in a traumatic situation.’’