Peacekeeper’s harrowing experience

Former Australian Army soldier Matina Jewell will speak in Wollongong on Friday. Matina Jewell was supposed to be on leave in Egypt when she slammed into a bullet-proof windscreen, broke her back in five places and learnt first-hand how the United Nations’ medical evacuation process could be brought undone amid the uncertainties of war.

It was July 2006 and Mrs Jewell had been working as a peacekeeper at a UN patrol base on the border of Israel and Lebanon when war broke out.

It took her two days to lead a convoy from the base to UN headquarters in Tyre, Lebanon – usually a two-hour journey.

Her cars were within 15 minutes of their destination, with an Israeli bombing run imminent and frightened civilians clogging the roads, when her driver braked suddenly, sending her into the windscreen.

‘‘The two closest hospitals had been damaged by Israeli fighter jets,’’ said Mrs Jewell, who had been rostered to leave the patrol base by the time the war hit but couldn’t because it was too dangerous.

‘‘I was left on a tiled floor for two days while the UN tried to come up with an alternative.

‘‘I was without any morphine. It was extremely painful. As I started to lose feeling and sensation in my extremities, I tried to block out those thoughts of whether I would be able to walk [and] what was going to happen to my career … ’’

Mrs Jewell, who was retired from the Australian Army in May 2009 as a result of her injuries and now lives in country Victoria, will speak at the Wollongong Legacy business and community luncheon on Friday in support of the Wollongong Legacy Group.

Her time working for the UN followed four earlier overseas operational missions, including two periods of active service aboard HMAS Kanimbla.

In the early stages of the war on terror, she was involved in boarding ships smuggling contraband.

She was also required to ‘‘fast rope’’ out of helicopters onto docks to secure HMAS Kanimbla’s docking locations.

Since retiring, she has carved out a career as a leadership and inspirational speaker, and an author (Caught in the Crossfire) and has been made a member of the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council, providing advice to the government on defence issues.

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