Glen Ferrarotto - "Remember this moment"

Running time
6 min 25 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


So me and another guy were due to go out on the next patrol, same situation. So the company became selective about who they'd want to take with them and so there were a number of mechanics in the workshop but only a handful of us were fortunate enough to go and do our job out there.

And so we'd get ramped up ready for the next patrol and I remember thinking this is great because I've got another mechanic with me and he was in another car somewhere else. Oh no, sorry, that's right. We were due to leave and I'm thinking, where is this bloke? Because they were waiting for this other mechanic to go, to get ready. Turns out that he had diarrhea or gastro or something and he only just started shitting and pissing everywhere just before we were heading out.

So we went out on this patrol and I was the only mechanic again, even though I'd got to that whole point thinking, "Thank God I'm going to have another bloke there with me this time" but then when we rolled out the gate, again, I was the only mechanic…You'd do a CP picket on the radio because the snipers would be up a hill somewhere and they'd be calling in various intelligence reports and that's a whole other level as well of realisation, that you cannot be complacent when you're listening to the snipers give you information about what's happening in the village because if you miss something, people could die the next day and that's your fault, it's not the sniper's fault, they're doing their job.

But if you haven't written something down properly that they've said over the radio and you haven't reported that to the OC the right way, then you're putting Australian lives at risk. And that realisation too, this heightened sense of responsibility every day was intense and I was lying there and I heard on the radio, "Fetch Bluebell." Bluebell's the call sign for RAEME. That in itself was a bit surreal because that's the first time I'd heard Bluebell as a call sign on proper communication since I'd been there… So before anyone had come to get to me, I was already up at the command car and I was on the radio and a crew that had gone out with an SRV...

Two cars had gone out to do a forward observation post on the village for the next morning, there was due to be some work done in the village the next morning, one of the cars had a catastrophic failure of the third diff. Which was a very common fault, overloaded and the third diff, it would blow a hole in itself and it was gearbox out, change gearbox, you couldn't fix it. So the boys had said, "There's no drive in the vehicle," and I said, "Someone get under the car and put your hand up," and I gave them direction, it was nighttime, you can't use a fucking torch of course.

So I said, "Can you feel a hole in that?" "Yep”… And I said, "Well, you're going to have to tow the car back here because you can't drive it." The OC was awake at the time and he said, "What's happening?" I said, "They've blown the third diff." He goes, "What are we going to do?" And I said, "Well, we've only got two options. You either fly the vehicle out, so that means bring in an additional helicopter underslinging the vehicle and the company is without a gun car or I'll fix it, I'll replace the gearbox."…

So I can't recall if I had a gearbox on my truck or the Chinook brought a new gearbox out but at some point in the morning...The car came in and I'd set my work area up as best I could, it was dust that thick, needles out of thorns that long, it was insane, the environment. But I tried to prepare, I had 10, 15 minutes to try and get shit ready and all this is without torch of course. So the car comes in, the crew were shagged... They just dropped the car off and I started swinging spanners and taking this gearbox out.

At the same time, the OC had said that the guy who was sick, the mechanic who was due to come out, Radz, great bloke, he'd made a recovery. So this is some days later, "Do you want him out here?" I said, “Yes please."…We got to the job, we got back to the car, we got swinging spanners again. At a point and maybe... A gearbox should usually take you about, say six and a half, seven hours in a workshop environment, maybe a bit longer depending on how fast you're working. I'd determined that I was just going to do the bare minimum to get this thing moving forward because the boss was constantly, "How much longer? How much longer?" Because we were in a shit spot.

At some point, it was in the morning at some point, again over the radio, we just heard, "Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar," and that means that shit's about to get real. And there was a few yells, "Take cover, take cover," something like that. And me and Radz were under this vehicle, spanners in hand. We're bleeding everywhere because skin and metal doesn't mix but we weren't thinking about doing things gently, we were just trying to get this thing going.

We managed to roll out of the car and grab our body armour and weapon and bring it closer to us and within a second of doing that, a…105 round or whatever the hell it was landed and it was close enough to really put the wind up us. It was a reasonably effective indirect... I don't even know, apparently they just stick these things on some rocks, light a fuse and hope for the best, right? So then that kept happening, the boys got into some small arms contact as well and there's me and Radz under this Land Rover putting a gearbox back in and we had a moment, we looked at each other and I said,…"Remember this moment," because there's two RAEME guys, two mechanics in the field, it couldn't get any more important for us to do our job at that point.

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