‘It’s our job’ says combat medic about saving lives
THE makeshift morgue was full by the time soldiers from Sydney's 2nd Commando Regiment finished treating the casualties.
Dozens had been wounded and killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest outside an Afghan police station.
"There were well over 20 casualties. Some who made it, some who didn't," said Sergeant Jonathan Walter who was working with an Australian doctor and another Australian medic as part of an American field surgical team that day.
"The field surgical tent that we were treating these casualties within was literally a canvas tent … and we were overwhelmed with casualties," he said.
For his efforts that day in 2005 the then-advanced medical technician became the first Australian to be awarded a second Nursing Service Cross - the highest honour for a combat medic - awarded for outstanding devotion and competency in the performance of nursing duties.
Walter said receiving the Bar to his first NSC was a "humbling experience".
"We had huge limitations on our medical equipment, staff and what we could and couldn't do," he said.
"We had a roster of (commandos) who were O Negative blood type … and they were the first ones to volunteer their blood and we were literally pulling out whole blood from these Australian troops getting it ready to give it to these Afghans.
"I don't remember how many lives were lost. However, there were a lot of lives saved."
Walter was deployed with the first Special Operations Task Group in 2005 at the time. It was the first of many mass casualty events he would respond to during his three tours in Afghanistan.
Walter received his first NSC in 2003 after saving the life of a young girl who had fallen off a cliff in East Timor and injured her head.
"It was quite a complex scenario that resulted in the life being saved of this child," he said.
"It's our job, but it's humbling to hear that people have seen this and wanted to honour it."
The NSC is no longer awarded but a defence forces spokesman said that between 1992 and 2007 there were 28 NSC awarded. Walter's Bar award was the only time a second NSC had been awarded to the same person.
Don't miss part six tomorrow of Voodoo Medics: Victoria Cross recipient Mark Donaldson