|Middle East: Iraq, Baghdad
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DPDU Australian national flag patch : Lieutenant G Callender, 2 Cavalry Regiment
Australian national flag patch on Disruptive Pattern Desert Uniform (DPDU) background, with a border of machine sewn tan cotton. The Australia flag has been machine sewn in blue, white and red cotton, and the name 'AUSTRALIA' is embroidered in blue cotton beneath this. The reverse of the patch is made from one piece of Velcro.
Captain Garth Callender was wearing this Australian National Flag patch on his uniform, 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.