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Annette Holian

Annette, a trauma surgeon, chose to join the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) over other defence force branches. She felt they placed priority on her clinical expertise over military skills. She has deployed twice to East Timor, three times to Afghanistan, and on numerous humanitarian missions.  

Her role as a high-readiness reservist meant she could be sent anywhere on 24 hours notice. She had to maintain her currency, not only in her medical field, and personal health, physical fitness, and weapons training, but in the same workplace training that all government employees undergo.  

Her experiences, in conflict, and the aftermath of disaster, have left her with a greater focus on her family and an abiding appreciation of home.  

I found it a great relief, particularly coming back from Afghanistan, to be back in a safe place, because over there, any step – that could be your last. And if you go off the side of the road, someone could have planted something there, even within the base... So, you never really knew what was going to happen. That’s without even going out in those dangerous places. So, it really was great to be home where people rarely get shot or blown up.

Reintegrating with civilians, including medical colleagues has not always been easy.  

It was very challenging. A lot of people just had no idea of what was going on over there, the vast numbers of people who’d been injured. Here they are fighting over car parks or getting really upset about things that really didn’t matter at all. That lack of a world-view in people that you’re trying to live and work with, was very challenging.

Role three (R3) multinational hospital, 2012 Kandahar, Afghanistan photographer Sergeant W Guthrie

Reproduced courtesy of Commonwealth of Australia

Reviewed 10 March 2021

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