Altama desert boots : Lieutenant G Callender, 2 Cavalry Regiment

Place Middle East: Iraq, Baghdad
Accession Number REL34618
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Uniform
Physical description Aluminium, Cordura, Nylon webbing, Suede, Vulcanised rubber (Ebonite)
Location Main Bld: Peacekeeping & Recent Conflicts Gallery
Maker Altama
Place made United States of America
Date made c 2003
Conflict Iraq, 2003-2013

Pair of tan desert vulcanised boots. The boots are made from a variety of lightweight fabrics and materials, for wear in hot climates. The soles of the boots are made from vulcanised rubber, with the sole being set in a 'Panama' pattern. In the arch of each boot is the maker's name, 'ALTAMA' in raised detail. The name is surrounded by a raised rectangle with the letter 'R' in a circle after the name for registered trademark. The size, located above the maker's name has been obscured on each boot.

The heel and foot portion of the upper boots are made from tan coloured suede. The heel pieces are sewn to the front of the foot. The immediate front of each boot, either side of the tongue, is made from two pieces of suede sewn together for extra strength. This extends from the front piece of the boot up to the collar of the boot. These pieces are where the boot's lacing system is attached. At the bottom are two sets of opposing coated aluminium eyelets. Above these are five sets of opposing coated aluminium 'speed hooks'. One of the 'speed hooks' on the upper right boot has been torn away. Through the eyelets and hooks are threaded coated nylon laces. The laces are coated to minimise friction wear, when being done up. The laces are designed to be done up with one pull at the top of the laces. When undoing the laces, the laces are designed to loosen just as quickly.

The uppers are made from tan coloured Cordura which is a breathable fabric with 25 mm nylon tape sewn around the collar of each boot. 50 mm nylon tape is sewn over the ankles on the left and right sides of each boot upper. This is designed to give the wearer's ankles added support. A 25 mm nylon tape is sewn down the back of the boot to the heel join. This gives the boot added durability.

The tongue of each boot is made of one piece Cordura reinforced around the rim with 25 mm nylon tape, which has been folded over and sewn. The tongues are sewn into the boot to protect the wearer's feet from dirt, stones and other ground elements from entering the boot during wear. The tongues are expandable to assist the wearer in putting on and taking off the boots easily. Sewn into the tongue of the left boot is a black nylon label with a 'Panama' sole pattern and 'ALTAMA' machine sewn in white cotton. Sewn into the tongue of the right boot is another black nylon label with the American Flag machine sewn in red, white and blue cotton and 'MADE IN U.S.A.' machine sewn in white cotton underneath. Inside each boot is a removable cushion insole which has perforations to assist in moisture evaporation. Both boots are blood stained over the uppers and on the soles. Traces of oil or vehicle lubricants are also visible on the boots.

History / Summary

Captain Garth Callender was wearing these tan desert boots, when wounded in a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) attack on his Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) in Baghdad on 25 October 2004.

In September 2004, Callender and his troop deployed to Iraq as part of Security Detachment (SECDET) V. Callender's troop was kept busy in Iraq, with two patrols out on the streets of Baghdad at any one time, and another patrol on standby at the base.

On the morning of Monday 25 October 2004, Callender took the place of his patrol commander, and led the first patrol of the day out into the streets of Baghdad. In front of his ASLAV was a troop variant ASLAV, carrying a replacement crew and a signaller. 600 metres from base, Callender's patrol drove beside a line of parked cars. The lead vehicle had passed by, when a car bomb - a white sedan, containing a VBIED - detonated, with Callender's vehicle taking the full force of the blast. The ASLAV was badly damaged, with all 8 tyres burst and the hatches on the vehicle popping open due to the blast flexing the vehicle's hull. The escape hatch on the left side of the vehicle tore off when the hull flexed.

Callender, who was in the right hand side of the turret was hit in the face, neck and helmet with shrapnel and was knocked briefly unconscious, dropping to the floor of the turret. His gunner, Stuart Chappelow was thrown forward when the vehicle slammed into a tree on the median strip, splitting open his chin. The driver, Gary Chandler, was luckily unhurt.

The forward vehicle, following tactical orders kept driving, but returned to the scene within minutes. Chappelow and Chandler meanwhile had exited the vehicle and with weapons drawn, and were keeping an increasing crowd at bay. Callender had also managed to extract himself, even though he had sustained shrapnel wounds and flash burns to his face, and could only see when he held his eyes open with his fingers. When the second vehicle returned, the spare crew secured the immediate area and the standby vehicle soon arrived to take Callender and his gunner to hospital.

Callender was rushed into surgery, where he had shrapnel removed from his face and neck and was stabilised for travel. 36 hours later, he was transferred by plane to Landstuhl Medical Facility in Germany, where he underwent further surgery to repair damage to his sinus cavity, remove more shrapnel and damaged skin.

His girlfriend, now wife, was on holiday in Europe at the time and the Army organised for her to be flown to Landstuhl to be with Callender. His father was holidaying in Germany at the same time, and took a train to the hospital to be with his son.

After six days, Callender was flown back to Sydney, NSW, where he underwent another operation. He remained in hospital for three weeks, after which he spent two weeks convalescing and a further three weeks on leave.

At the end of his leave, Callender was posted to 2/14 Light Horse Regiment in Brisbane. He returned to his role as a troop leader and assisted in training other troop leaders for deployments to Iraq. In 2006, he was promoted to captain and deployed in March back to Baghdad as the executive officer of SECDET IX. He returned to Australia in September that year.

Callender remained in the army, and after his second deployment to Iraq acted as operations officer at 2/14 Light Horse Regiment, a Company 2IC at Kapooka. He then served in the Australian Defence Force's Weapons Intelligence Team, which is deployed to review insurgent weaponry such as Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and develop counter-measures.