A small military hospital in Afghanistan is a long way from one of Australia’s busiest emergency departments.
It’s where Australian Army Reserve soldier Captain Gerry McMahon exemplifies the mutually beneficial relationship between the full-time Australian Defence Force and its Reservists.
As a full-time nurse in the emergency department at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, Captain McMahon works at the leading edge of his profession.
“I enjoy working at St Vincent’s emergency department because of the variety of people I get to help and the medical cases I get to see each day. It allows me to continually improve my medical skills,” he said.
And those skills are invaluable to the Australian Army.
Through his Reserve service, the Army gives Captain McMahon the opportunity to serve his country in unique and challenging environments such as Afghanistan.
Captain McMahon is deployed as the senior nurse to the military hospital at Camp Qargha, near Kabul.
“This deployment challenges me but in different ways. The hospital at Camp Qargha is quite remote and small. Sometimes we have to decide to treat patients here or move them to a higher level of care,” he said.
“However, that decision is not always easy because moving patients by road can be difficult due to the security situation on the ground and moving them by air might not be an option due to the weather.”
Camp Qargha is located within the Marshal Fahim National Defense University precinct on the outskirts of Kabul. The next level hospital is at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Almost 500 British, Australian, New Zealand, Turkish, German and Danish troops stay at Camp Qargha while they mentor and advise the Afghan instructors that train Afghan officers and soldiers at the university.
The hospital at Camp Qargha is run by the United Kingdom and is staffed by two doctors, a senior nurse and three advanced medical technicians. Australia contributes two personnel, including Captain McMahon.
Captain McMahon is also ready to provide medical support with the Quick Response Force, which responds to any attack on the camp.
“My role within the QRF along with the medical technician is to be the clinical lead on the scene and organise evacuations if necessary,” he said.
Captain McMahon joined the full-time Australian Army as a nursing officer but left to work at St Vincent’s Hospital.
He has remained in the Australian Army Reserves at 3rd Health Support Battalion in Melbourne since leaving. This is his first deployment.
Operation Highroad is the Australian contribution to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
Australia contributes about 300 Defence personnel to train, advise and assist mission.