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Combat Medic – 25th Anniversary Ed

An Australian’s eyewitness account of the Kibeho Massacre

(6 customer reviews)
Authors: Terry Pickard
Kibeho massacre
C Format

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“I was one of 32 Australian soldiers in the area. We were facing more than 2000 RPA soldiers. We were good, but not that good. The numbers were heavily in their favour. I was worried but I wasn’t scared. All I had where questions. How the hell had a medical mercy mission ended in such a horrific tragedy? How had it been allowed to even get to this? Why were we not allowed to fire our weapons, to defend these poor refugees? God, I thought, I hope we live through this day. And if we do, I tell you what, won’t I have a story to tell.” – Terry Pickard

On the 22nd of April 1995 more than 4,000 Rwandans were massacred and thousands more injured in a place called Kibeho. Terry Pickard, a seasoned soldier and medic, was one of a 32-strong force of Australian UN peacekeepers in Kibeho on that terrible Saturday. While the United Nations’ presence prevented the death toll from being even worse than it was, the massacre continues to haunt him.

The rules of engagement that stopped him from intervening in the senseless slaughter and the life and death decisions he was forced to make when dealing with the injured condemned him to more than a decade of recurring nightmares and debilitating flashbacks.

The horror and unimaginable tragedy of the Kibeho Massacre still looms large in the lives of Rwandans and the people sent to help the African country. No one who walked away from that day was ever the same again.

Combat Medic is a personal account of one Australian soldier who found himself at the centre of events that shocked the world, and the personal toll that he paid. Terry Pickard’s army career spanned nearly 20 years. More than 25 years after Rwanda he continues to struggle with post traumatic stress triggered by his experiences.

Terry Pickard

Terry Pickard

Terry Pickard was born in Sydney, in 1959. He left school in grade 10 and after a number of years of trying to find his niche in life Terry decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a career soldier. He enlisted into the Army in 1978 joining the Medical Corps with the aim […]

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6 reviews for Combat Medic – 25th Anniversary Ed

  1. Combat Medic by Terry Pickard is an eyewitness account by an Australian Army Medic who was at the “Kibeho Massacre” in Rwanda . “Combat Medic” is a fascinating story and a journey of one man’s life, pre and post Rwanda . Pickard is vivid in his descriptions of what it was like to serve on a UN mission. He is critical of how people have judged Peacekeeping service and the lack of bravery awards handed out to members of UNAMIR at Kibeho. The powerful and confronting account of Pickard’s time at Kibeho will shock you. It will go some way for the reader to understand, why Pickard has struggled with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for so many years since his return to Australia . Pickard definitely wears his heart on his sleeve as he deals with his illness. The story of Kibeho needs to be told and be passed on to future generations of men and women who join the Australian Defence Force. “At last the old myth of Peacekeeping service with the UN being just a bit of a holiday and a good way of earning extra money was put away for good”. “We could only sit and watch in horror”. The scale of genocide that took place at Kibeho is mind numbing. The immense pressure and strictness of the Rules of Engagement (ROE) placed upon the Australians by the UN would have tested any man’s limits. The Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) tried everything to intimidate the Australians to open fire. Strict adherence of the ROE and personal discipline saved the Australians from being killed. SAS patrol medic Paul Jordan said years later “we are good, but not that good”. “There were around 2,000 RPA soldiers, all focused on killing, and only 32 of us”. Pickard details what would have happened if they were caught taking photos. “The RPA would not allow anyone to take photos, let alone footage”. “George Gittoes, the war artist attached to us, had been threatened with death if he took pictures”. He was “determined to let the world know what was happening in Kibeho”. George’s photos have been seen all over the world in magazines and television stories about Rwanda . Infantry provided security to the Australian Medical team who worked tirelessly with the “sea of humanity” that was estimated to be around 150,000 people. Pickard talks about his trust in fellow Australian soldiers. “We were treating about six casualties who were placed along a wall for protection when shooting started. I wasn’t sure whether I should continue treating them or take up a defensive position. I had a quick look around and saw our infantry blokes on the wire. As soon as I saw our blokes there I instantly knew I had nothing to worry about and was able to continue treating the casualties.” Pickard sums up his time at Kibeho, “April 18-22 1995, was the most testing time of my life both physically and mentally. I believe I did ok. We saved who we could and did our best in the most atrocious conditions”. The members who served as part of United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) were awarded the Australian Service Medal (ASM) for ‘non warlike service’. In February 2006, the Government of the day changed the reclassification of service to the Australian Active Service Medal (AASM) for Warlike service. Terry Pickard, the ADF members who served as part of UNIMAR and George Gittoes are the real heroes of Kibeho. The Anzac legend lives on. Review by Gordon Traill Editor:

  2. A must read for anyone interested in Africa.The work the forces do in very hard situations. Brave and wonderful men and women. Thank you one and all.

  3. MARK COLVIN: Twenty years ago today, 32 Australians were forced to watch helplessly as a war crime unfolded before their eyes. The place was Rwanda, but this was not the massacre you probably know about. That was in 1994, and it happened when militias of the fanatical Hutu Interahamwe murdered hundreds of thousands of mostly Tutsi compatriots, the great majority at close range with machetes. This was the following year, a time when the country was supposed to be returning to normal. It happened in a camp called Kibeho. It was full of Hutu refugees but surrounded by the mainly Tutsi Rwanda Patriotic Front army which had won the war.

  4. very revealing, interesting story about what some of our Armed forces have to face and undergo whilst deployed for their country. No wonder our troops return with PTSD and they never recover from the traumas and devastation they have faced. I can understand what Terry ‘s and other Wives go through as my Husband was a medic in Vietnam

  5. It is a very narrative true story of a UN soldier unable to use his power to save civilian that were butchered in front of him. To have the courage to write it and tell the rest of the world how cold blooded RPF criminal army in Rwanda can get away with.

  6. It’s truly amazing how much a person can go through. This book proves that we have a long way to go as humans.

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