7RAR TG Flood Rescue
14 May 2013
Train for war, save a life, that was the situation for four soldiers from 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment Task Group who have been commended for their quick-thinking and decisive action after saving four people, including an Afghan National Police General from a stranded car during a deadly flash flood.
On the afternoon of 23 April, Privates Thomas Blair, Lloyd Gravolin, Ryan Middleton and Peter Moser were moving between Forward Operating Base Lindsay and Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, when they came across an Afghan National Army (ANA) four wheel drive in the middle of a swollen river, pinned precariously against a concrete pylon.
With three occupants already on the roof of the car, the two Bushmaster crews were forced to act quickly. It was at this point, Crew Commander Private Blair formulated a plan.
“We were going to winch them in, and as we started we realised it was probably unsafe for the people still onboard. We called Private Gravolin forward and he came up and secured his vehicle alongside the ANA vehicle and then helped the passengers onboard the Bushmaster,” Private Blair said.
Despite the fast-flowing water, at first the ANA driver refused to leave the ANA vehicle so it was left to Private Gravolin, the second Bushmaster Crew Commander, to coax him from the vehicle.
“It took some convincing but he finally got out and climbed up onto our vehicle. Once we had all four onboard we backed out and led them off safely. Private Blair then attempted recovery of the ANA vehicle but the water was too strong. As soon as we tried to pull the car just a little bit off the pylon it was pinned to, the water picked it up, flipped it over and carried it between two other pylons down stream. So that was the end of the car, but we did manage to get all four people to safety,” Private Gravolin said.
There is little doubt Private Gravolin saved the driver’s life, according to Private Blair.
“If Private Gravolin hadn’t convinced the driver to get out he would have drowned. It was only maybe 20 seconds after we got the occupants onboard that the vehicle got swept onto its side, onto its roof and all the way downstream … he definitely would have been pinned inside the vehicle,” Private Blair said.
Taking part in a life or death river rescue is something that the crew commanders and their drivers did not expect to experience during their deployment to Afghanistan.
The soldiers are from the 205th Corps Coalition Advisory Team (205 CAT), Force Protection Platoon, which provides mobility and security escort support to Coalition forces advising the leadership of the Afghan National Army. Soldiers of the Adelaide based infantry battalion are attached to 205 CAT on a rotational basis to protect advisors during meetings, briefs and tasks.
Bushmaster driver, Private Middleton, said that he never thought they would be rescuing people from a flooded river.
“When we saw the situation unfold it surprised all of us and we are really happy we could help,” Private Middleton said.
The second Bushmaster driver, Private Moser believes their actions have helped strengthen ties between the ANA and the Task Group.
Their commander praised the crew’s actions and indicated that if the four soldiers did not act as swiftly as they did, there could have been Afghan casualties.
It’s something Private Gravolin will most definitely remember.
“For me that’s one of the highlights of this deployment. Our job is to really help them out anyway we can and we are always looking for ways to do that and this was a perfect opportunity,” he said.
Vision has been fed to the television networks at the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
Stills imagery is available at the following link:
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999