Ex-Star girl Amy on call for injured soldiers

Former Star girl LCpl Amy Holland with ambulance at Camp Bastion Hospital
Former Star girl LCpl Amy Holland with ambulance at Camp Bastion Hospital
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SHE used to sell The Star – now, in a dramatic career change, Amy Holland is out in Afghanistan and is one of the first faces seen by a casualty.

The 27-year-old, from Ranmoor, is one of four members of Camp Bastion Hospital’s Front of House Team who receive casualties brought by ambulance from the helicopter landing site.

As soon as the hospital is alerted to a casualty on the way, she pulls on a plastic apron and gets gloved up.

Amy’s job involves putting the stretcher on a trolley, bringing the casualty inside, and checking for bombs, grenades and knives – which are often still on a soldier’s person.

Front of House staff also provide security for the hospital and mortuary.

Amy, a member of 212 Field Hospital, still works as a saleswoman for Wrigley’s chewing gum but joined the Territorial Army eight-and-a-half years ago “for some adventure”.

She was at The Star from the ages of 15 to 17, working evenings ‘tele-canvassing’ while a student - telephoning South Yorkshire folk to ask if they would subscribe to the newspaper.

During her time in the TA she has enjoyed training such as sky-diving and climbing. Amy, now a Lance Corporal, said: “This is my first tour. I have had a good time over the years and felt I needed to give something back.

“But my role is completely different from what I joined as - a driver and radio operator.

“I was supposed to be posted to Kandahar but the guy in the role I was taking over from extended his tour. I was told I would be working in the mortuary instead, then providing security.

“I was really excited to be coming. The only thing I worried about was spiders.”

She added: “The first day I was on shift, someone died. It was the first time I had experienced a dead body and I didn’t know how I was going to react.

“But when you are here, you are doing a job and don’t want to let anyone down, so you switch off the emotional part of your brain.

“The way I see it is that I have to treat that person with respect.

“I’ve now seen between 12 and 15 deaths and God knows how many amputees.

“The only thing I couldn’t cope with was when a working dog had been killed a few weeks ago. I couldn’t deal with it as I have a love for animals.”

When casualties arrive, Amy said she “gets gloved and aproned-up”. “They may have a lot of blood stained clothes, which we have to deal with as patients enter the hospital,” she said.

“You also have to be really careful about the soldiers who are coming in – they often have sharps and grenades which have to be removed before they go in.

“When you take their body armour off, you have to be really careful to make sure you don’t pull the ring to set off any of the grenades.”

In terms of her security role, Amy has not had to draw her rifle yet. She said: “The worst we have had, security wise, was a Taliban guy who was throwing his arms about because his handcuffs were loose.

“He was trying to grab people. Normally, the prisoners are accompanied by a guard from the troop which arrested them.”

Amy’s boss is the Squadron Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer 2 Lee Wilson, 40, a full-time soldier from Darfield, Barnsley.

He is currently working 15-hour days with a role that extends from supervising the front of house operation to dealing with the squadron’s administration and repatriation of dead soldiers from the mortuary.

WO2 Wilson said: “I deal with them all - British and American soldiers, Afghan nationals and children. When you see coffins of soldiers brought from the aircraft at RAF Lyneham, I am in charge of draping the flags and putting the berets in place.

“There is a civilian contractor who does the job but I watch him and tell him if he is doing it wrong. It’s quite a responsibility.”

Care is also taken with deceased who are Muslim, even Taliban suspects, to ensure their thumbs and toes are tied together and their head facing towards Mecca, in line with custom.

WO2 Wilson is also in charge of ensuring casualties brought into Camp Bastion by the British Medical Emergency Response Team helicopter or American equivalent are brought into the hospital safely.

The Barnsley fan added: “I also run the eight interpreters we have living on-site, who are Afghans.”

The 40-year-old has been a soldier from the age of 23, and has served previous tours of duty in Iraq, the Balkans, Sierra Leone and Yemen.

Like Amy, WO2 Wilson had an unusual career change before joining the Army – he used to be in the world of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

He recalled: “I was a professional drummer. I would tour with lots of artists all over Europe and the UK, and played at places including the Royal Albert Hall.

“The money was good but I changed my career for a better lifestyle – the Army is more stable than working in the music business.

“I’ve toured with Edwin Starr and I was also in a country band called the Stu Page Band.

“We won the British Country Music Association’s band of the year award for three years in a row.”

■ 212 Field Hospital is constantly recruiting healthcare professionals. Contact Capt Mike Rutkowski by emailing 212HOSP-ROSO@mod.uk or calling 07771 958311.