Two Australian personnel deployed with Joint Task Force 633 (JTF633) late last year provided mental health support to Australian and coalition forces in the Sinai Peninsula after a helicopter crash in the region that killed seven people.
Chaplain Rick Tilden and medic Leading Aircraftwoman Nicole Anchen deployed to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission for two weeks on November 16 after the crash on November 12.
The seven people who died were United States’ personnel Captain Seth Vandekemp, Chief Warrant Officer Class 3 Dallas Garza, Chief Warrant Officer Class 2 Marwen Ghabour, Staff Sergeant Kyle McKee, Sergeant Jeremy Sherman along with Lieutenant Colonel Sebastien Botta from France and Czech Republic Sergeant Major Chief Warrant Officer Michaela Ticha.
Chaplain Tilden said he and Leading Aircraftwoman Anchen deployed quickly as a Critical Incident Mental Health Support (CIMHS) team after they received the request for support from the Australian contingent commander in Egypt.
“We (JTF633) were aware the accident had affected personnel as there is a pretty broad social circle within the MFO’s south camp near Sharm El Sheikh,” Chaplain Tilden said.
“The Australian contingent received a psycho-education brief and screening, while the command and sentinel teams, who were made up of a mix of coalition partners, were provided briefs on common reactions to a critical incident.
“Importantly, we delivered self-care support for two members in particular who were directly involved with the helicopter’s crew when the incident occurred.”
The ability to offer a helping hand and ways of coping with loss when confronted with a terrible event like the loss of friends makes me feel very proud.
Operating as part of a CIMHS team for the first time, Leading Aircraftwoman Anchen said the opportunity to offer mental health support was a positive experience.
“When you undertake the training, it isn’t unreasonable to hope that you will never be called upon to use it,” she said.
“That said, the ability to offer a helping hand and ways of coping with loss when confronted with a terrible event like the loss of friends makes me feel very proud.”
Senior medical officer with JTF633 headquarters Commander Janine Gregson and senior psychologist Major Kevin Vowles put together the CIMHS team.
Commanding Officer of the Australian contingent supporting the MFO under Operation Mazurka Lieutenant Colonel Sam Waite praised the team.
“Chaplain Tilden and Leading Aircraftwoman Anchen were instrumental in helping the force move through a very difficult period,” Lieutenant Colonel Waite said.
“Their expertise was invaluable in preparing all contingents of the force to deal with the ongoing mental and emotional issues.
“There is no doubt they have had a profound positive impact on our people.”