FATU Jonathon Aaron Ishmael
Private, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment
New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration Private Jonathon FATU says when he first heard he’d been awarded the Distinguished Service Decoration in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours he thought it was just a certificate. “I didn't realise how important it was until it was explained to me by our RSM. When I finally found out what it really was, I was really honoured to be receiving it and it was then I thought ‘I'm one of those people they talk about on the news’. That was when I went ‘oh, wow!’ It’s the biggest achievement I've had Private FATU, a member of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, was participating in a live firing exercise at the Waiouru Training Area in May last year. During the post exercise clean up, some highly explosive ammunition was mistakenly recovered as range debris and placed in a rubbish pile, where it exploded. Two soldiers – one a friend of his – received life-threatening injuries, and two others minor injuries. Although only about 10 to 15 metres away from the blast, Private FATU was shielded by the other soldiers and escaped injury. He immediately put his training as a Combat Life Saver into practice and was instrumental in saving the lives of the two seriously injured men. “The thing was, one of the injuries was something new, it was totally outside our area of experience. We had been taught what to do if we came across a chest wound or a punctured lung but this was a punctured neck and throat. It was totally new and I had to think quickly at the time. It was a very serious injury so I got him into a position where the blood wouldn't fill his lungs and
went to the second casualty.”
The second man, who was his friend, had serious leg injuries and Private FATU administered first aid until a specialist medical soldier arrived and assumed control. He then remained with his friend, assisting with the initial medical treatment before accompanying him throughout the evacuation by road back to Waiouru. He kept him awake and provided constant encouragement until he was airlifted from Waiouru by helicopter for hospital treatment in Palmerston North.
“I just carried out what I was taught and used some commonsense. I was quite pleased with the way I reacted; I was pretty calm so that was good. I'm just happy that the actions I took that night had a good outcome. It was really a job I had to do and the actions I took were what I’d expect from anybody else in a similar situation.”
Private FATU has just returned from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan and the news of his award was a nice homecoming.
“My parents were very low-key about it but I know they are proud. I'm quite honoured and quite lucky to be getting the award but it’s not the honour that really counts – for me I'm proud of what I did that night because it means I'm able to talk to my mate again.”
New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration
New Zealand Operational Service Medal
New Zealand General Service Medal (Afghan Primary)
New Zealand Defence Service Medal