Suffolk/Essex: Army medic gets award after putting herself in line of fire to treat wounded colleagues

Private Abbie Martin

Private Abbie Martin - Credit: Sergeant Andy Reddy RLC

A YOUNG army medic who put her patients before her own safety under attack in Afghanistan has been awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS).

Private Abbie Martin, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, based in Wimbish, near Saffron Walden, was attached to the Queen’s Company, 1st Grenadier Guards on her first operational tour at the age of just 19, taking her to the more active areas of insurgency in Helmand Province.

On a number of occasions she treated traumatically injured soldiers, the first of which saw a Guardsman who had been shot in the chest.

Under fire, Abbie, from Haverhill, raced across open ground with the Platoon Sergeant to administer first aid. With combat happening all around her, she used manual resuscitation.

The former Samuel Ward Upper School pupil, now aged 20, admits she was terrified by the prospect of going on patrol – making her courage in the face of the enemy all the more remarkable.

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She said: “I started as an Army medic straight out of school as a 16-year-old. The training is excellent but nothing can fully prepare you for what happens in a combat zone until you experience it first-hand.

“It was my very first operation. I was crying beforehand, petrified and wanted to get out of it. We were dropped in by helicopter and taken to a compound.

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“We were told that at 4am the next day we would be going into ‘The Garden’, a known insurgent territory. I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

“When we got there, there were women and children outside. As the only female I was sent to the front to engage them but they went inside, slammed their gates shut and the atmospherics changed.

“Suddenly, we were under attack from anywhere between six and 10 positions. It was a 360 degree ambush. After about two minutes I heard the words man down.

“I just wanted to get to him and had to be held back because the fire coming our way was so intense but after about 10 minutes I made it and just focussed on my job, doing everything I could before he was able to be evacuated.”

Due to the severity of the Guardsman’s wounds, Abbie, remained with him throughout the extraction, selflessly exposing herself to enemy fire again, to ensure the clinical handover to the evacuating helicopter crew would give the stricken soldier the best possible chance of survival.

Her assessment and treatment of the casualty were described as excellent.

In a second incident, insurgents attacked a compound occupied by 3 Platoon using small arms several grenades.

Faced with multiple casualties from a grenade explosion within the compound, her foresight in having pre-positioned medical equipment within the location for such an eventuality, and quick thinking meant she rapidly triaged the casualties and informed the in-transit care by the helicopter evacuation team.

On a third occasion, Abbie was accompanying the Queen’s Company when the compound they were occupying overnight was attacked with rocket-propelled and rifle-launched grenades.

One of the grenades exploded near her position. Quickly composing herself and seeing the significant number of casualties, she treated their fragmentation wounds and assisted their evacuation.

Abbie, who became an Army medic because her father and brother are disabled, says her family thinks she is crazy but are incredibly proud of her, adding: “The bravery of everyone else and the desire to help kept me going. Every single soldier out there is deserving of an award.”

Her citation states: “Throughout each action, she was steadfast and put her patients before herself despite the dangers.”

The QCVS recognises meritorious service during or in support of operations.

The announcement was made today with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list which includes 119 personnel. The awards are for actions roughly during the period April to September 2012 during Operation HERRICK 16.

Abbie is one of 40 QCVS recipients on the list.

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