Military medicine is finally coming into its own as a specialised area of medicine in Australia. Although much of what we do in peacetime is similar to civilian clinical practice, there are specialised areas of knowledge and skill required that set us apart. Areas such as sports medicine, underwater medicine, occupational medicine, battlefield trauma and my own areas of expertise, aviation medicine and aeromedical evacuation, are all part of the military medical officers practice.
Of course it is on operations, both within Australia and overseas, that this expertise really comes into play and although we rarely are called upon to go to war the Australian Defence Force Health Services have played a big role in humanitarian operations in recent years. These opportunities to put our skills and training into practice have come not only on UN and other peace keeping missions to Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, Bougainville and East Timor but also in response to civilian tragedy such as the Tsunami in PNG and most recently the Bali Bombings. In addition, ADF health personnel have deployed into the field both in aboriginal communities in our own country and to other Pacific Islands to offer a range of services not usually available to the local population. In other words our personnel who have trained for war have helped out wherever help is needed. This is what makes being a practitioner of military medicine so rewarding.
For me, the highlight of my military medical career was without doubt the time I spent in Rwanda as part of the Second Australian Contingent to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) from Feb to Aug 1995.
The experiences in Rwanda changed my life in many ways. It also changed the lives of many others who served both with me and with the first Australian Contingent. Many of my colleagues are still having problems coming to terms with some of our experiences there. For more information about our service, please check out my Rwanda Peacekeepers Website.
Each UN mission has a special medal created. The UNAMIR medal ribbon consists of four colours - red for the soil (and perhaps the blood of the genocide), green for the vegetation, black for the volcanoes and gorillas and the UN blue. On the back of this and other Peace keeping medals it simply says 'In the Service of Peace'
Photo courtesy of UN website
The caduceus (pictured in the first paragraph, above) is a universal symbol of medicine and especially military medicine. We call the emblem we use in the RAAF (pictured) a 'caduceus' however as you can see it has one snake instead of two. I tell people this is because Aussie snakes are more lethal and therefore it only takes one to do the job! Therefore our symbol is actually more a combination of the caduceus and the rod of Aesculapius. If you're confused so am I, however this website, on the symbols of medicine, helps to explain what the symbols really mean.
US Military Sites
General Medical Links
And don't forget to read my dedication to the Mother of Military Medicine, Xena Warrior Princess!
Please also visit my Rwanda Website:
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