Monday, 11 June 2007

Queen's Birthday Honours

Malcolm Brown
June 11, 2007

SERGEANT Geoffrey Cox and Warrant Officer Class Two Alastair MacKenzie, in East Timor last year to train members of that country's armed forces in elements of first aid, knew they might have to apply their knowledge, but when the moment came it was sudden and dramatic.

The bullets started flying on May 22. Gun battles erupted in Dili as police and army personnel broke into factions amid clashes with gangs of disgruntled former troops. A pro-government soldier was killed and others wounded.

The two Australians found themselves at Metrinaro, outside Dili, deserted by the 20 East Timorese trainees sent to deal with the emergency. New Zealand advisers brought in the first casualties. Sergeant Cox and Warrant Officer MacKenzie, with a handful of East Timorese helping to interpret and Australian soldiers to assist, treated about nine East Timorese for gunshot and shrapnel injuries. They had to get them by ambulance to hospitals outside Dili.

Sergeant Cox, 39, and Warrant Officer MacKenzie, 54, had another taste of hot action on June 8 last year when they treated 16 soldiers injured when a military vehicle rolled over near their base.

Having trained 10 per cent of the East Timorese force - up to 100 soldiers - in first aid, they know there is more to be done, and Sergeant Cox hopes for another deployment there to continue the work. Along with Warrant Officer MacKenzie, he is being awarded the Nursing Service Cross.

Warrant Officer MacKenzie, 31 years in the army, had a brush with fame in East Timor when he was selected to go into the mountains with the then president, Xanana Gusmao, for a documentary about Mr Gusmao's extraordinary life.

Throughout the ranks, the contribution of soldiers in uncertain times has been outstanding. The Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, becomes a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the Military Division for strong leadership "in a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty", and has demonstrated "unswerving support to the Chief of the Defence Force and the other services".

Major Kyle Patrick Tyrrell has experienced at first hand the uncertainty of modern conflict. After a nerve-jangling experience serving in Baghdad last year in command of Australian Security Detachment Nine, he is being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Also serving in Iraq was Captain Jane Mateer, who receives a Nursing Service Cross for her nursing duties at the US Air Force Theatre Hospital at Balal, Iraq. Her citation says she displayed clinical competence and compassion while caring for the critically injured throughout her deployment, excelling in her efforts to save lives and in the care she afforded to those killed.

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