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Kiwi soldiers honoured for heroic efforts during Iraq rocket attack

Three soldiers have been awarded for their heroic efforts after a sea of rockets were fired at the NZDF base in Iraq last year. 

Corporal Charles Munns (left), Corporal Jessica Healey-Render (middle), Private Maddison Van Sitter (right). Source: Supplied

On 11 March last year, nearly 30 rockets fired at the base landed within a square kilometre area. 

There were mass casualties as a result of the attack, although no New Zealanders were among the dead. 

Unexploded devices and large fires littered the camp after the attack hit late that night. 

It was just weeks before the last remaining Kiwi soldiers were pulled from Taji, marking an end to New Zealand Defence Force’s five-year-long training mission in Iraq. 

Corporal Charles Munns was heading to bed when the attack hit, as he was meant to be up a few hours later for the midnight patrol. 

“At first you don’t think it’s real because you do so much training but within seconds you realise what is happening,” he said.

He and his task force ventured out to rescue the wounded, treating three wounded soldiers, two Americans and one British. 

They then spent the rest of the night clearing away fire hazards caused by fallen power lines and vehicles leaking petrol. 

The group also marked where the unexploded devices had fallen. 

Kaitaia-born Munns was later awarded the Defence Meritorious Service Medal for his efforts.  

Corporal Jessica Healey-Render, deployed as Acting Sergeant, was one of the first responding medics to reach those critically injured in the rocket attack. 

She had been finishing a class in the gym when they had heard the attack and quickly got into their team and moved out. 

“We drove down the road where we soon found our first casualty. This is where I realised the true nature of the situation.

“I’ll admit it was scary - you never think there will be a day when you are literally running for your life.” 

The Aucklander received a Chief of Defence Commendation for her medical skills and decision making during the situation. 

Private Maddison Van Sitter had been in one of the sites affected in the attack, he took over CPR on a critically injured coalition soldier and spent the next six minutes working to keep them alive. 

When it was confirmed the individual had died, Sitter made steps to ensure the soldier was given as much privacy as the situation allowed for. 

“It was far from what I’d ever expected to deal with but I’m just glad that we all were able to do what was needed under the circumstances,” he said. 

Sitter, who is from Rotorua, was also awarded a Chief of Defence Force Commendation.