From the Gong to Afghanistan

This article has photo gallery Published on Army CAPT Jarrad Baldwin (author), POIS Yuri Ramsey (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation HIGHROAD

Leading Seaman Medic (LSMED) Guy McKinnon, left, and LSMED Paul Fleith at the NATO Role 2 Hospital at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, February 2020. (photo: POIS Yuri Ramsey)
Leading Seaman Medic (LSMED) Guy McKinnon, left, and LSMED Paul Fleith at the NATO Role 2 Hospital at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, February 2020.

From a recruiting centre in Wollongong to the mountains of Afghanistan, the careers of two Royal Australian Navy medics have provided the experience of practising medicine on the frontline.

Leading Seaman Medics Guy McKinnon and Paul Fleith recently completed a four-and-a-half month deployment to Kabul as part of Task Group Afghanistan.

Employed at the NATO Role 2 Hospital at Hamid Karzai International Airport, the pair formed part of the pre-hospital evacuation team.

“We provided critical pre-hospital care for the evacuation of injured personnel who required surgical care,” Leading Seaman Fleith said.

“The role has been quite fulfilling both professionally and personally for us.”

Leading Seaman Medic (LSMED) Guy McKinnon, left, and LSMED Paul Fleith at the NATO Role 2 Hospital at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, February 2020.

Leading Seaman Medic (LSMED) Guy McKinnon, left, and LSMED Paul Fleith at the NATO Role 2 Hospital at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, February 2020.

The pair’s journey together began on the south coast of NSW.

Both joined the Navy in 2012 on the same day, at the same recruiting centre and have since shadowed each other in careers that have taken them all the way to Afghanistan.

“The first time I met Paul was at Defence Force Recruiting in Wollongong on the day we enlisted in the Navy,” Leading Seaman McKinnon said.

“Same day, same place. We then did Recruit School at HMAS Cerberus and our initial medics course together.”

The opportunity to work within a coalition team in Afghanistan has been rewarding for the medics, who are more used to working at sea.

“It’s definitely different living here in Kabul than being on a ship. We do it a bit tougher in the Navy I think!” Leading Seaman McKinnon said.

“As medics we’ve actually done what we’ve been trained to do here in Kabul. As professionals, it’s good for Navy personnel to have this skill set and have corporate knowledge within our branch.”

Australian Defence Force doctors, nurses, medics and a dental team provide critical support and clinical leadership at the US-led NATO military hospital.

The team is part of about 200 Defence personnel who contribute to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.