Random Analytica

Random thoughts, charts, infographics & analysis. Not in that order

Tag: ADF

38. Mefloquine Dispatches: Protected Information & Confidentiality @DVSRC, 27th June 2022

It ain’t actually my bag, Guvnor…

I didn’t participate in the early hearing blocks of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. I understood that listening to the stories of other witnesses would be traumatic. I have a range of service-related conditions including amnesia which make me very susceptible to triggers so I was very careful.

Over the part week and a half, I have been following the proceedings with much interest. It’s my old outfit. 3 Brigade (I didn’t connect with the 3rd Combat Brigade rename). After 25-years absence I thought the time and distance would be enough to insulate me from the trauma.

I was very wrong.

This would be a wonderful segue into my specific topic of interest. Mefloquine. Just a note. Tafenoquine is a relevant subject too and I thought should have been discussed in Townsville.

Yet, something else came across my desk this week watching the Royal Commission which I cannot let go. If you were watching it as a veteran or currently serving member it should sent chills down your spine. According to the witness testimony this week they apparently interviewed a 100 people in Townsville the week before the hearing. Via Transcript Day 5 − Townsville, 24 June 2022. Excerpt:

CHAIR:  Good morning, Mr Gray, Mr Free.  We want to place a number of matters on the record today before we hear from you hopefully.  By way of background, and happy to place this on the record. Counsel and Solicitors Assisting us have requested this brief procedural hearing this morning.

The background is as follows: before our hearing program began, we were concerned to do everything we could to encourage serving and former members of the Defence Force to come forward with any information they considered relevant to our Terms of Reference, and to ensure that there would be appropriate arrangements in place for sensitive information so that they would face no risk of legal liability for sharing information with us.  This is a very important issue for the Royal Commission, as you can appreciate, and we want to ensure every protection is given to those who come forward with information.  In October last year we asked Solicitors Assisting to send the Commonwealth a proposed written arrangement to achieve this.  We were not proposing to elicit any protected information or even sensitive operational information; we simply wanted an unambiguous green light given to serving and former serving members to provide appropriate and textual information for us relating to their accounts about the circumstances of service that led to their experiences of suicidality or witnessing suicidality or witnessing risk factors in service without fear that by doing so, they could in any way get into trouble for revealing Defence‑related information.

Just to be clear. If you have no protected legal rights, you effectively have no rights. Others have tried to disclose sensitive information and have been subjected to severe legal ramifications, including David McBride. I can’t believe I’m backing an Officer, but we live in strange times.

Long story short. I blew up at this. Not that I give a shit but I am personally impacted by this oversight. My bullshit Operation, which was called off on the airfield at Garbutt is still considered classified. What about the poor Digger who was at the Afghanistan evacuation or the other Digger who saw some operational shit go down in Afghanistan.

Not protected.

Yet the officers who oversaw the Afghanistan killings got a warning and the door-kickers got arseholed.

So that got me agitated. Then the Monday ‘sliperinski’. It was magic. The Royal Commission effectively rid itself of evidence that might hurt the narrative. When Counsel Assisting suggested, they extend the preceding panel because the afternoon session was cancelled I was shocked. Because it was a really important session.

What session was cancelled though…

27th June 2022 AM Hearing List

This was the official version…

So, if you are a Defence Member or a Veteran you have no legal protection on your evidence as I write this piece (circa 28th June 2022). Sorry if you have given evidence, consider legal advice before you give any. It wouldn’t have changed my submission, given how old the story still is, which was my reason for writing this piece. I’m still subject to legislation written more than 100-years ago. It was a surprise. Also, the Royal Commission don’t give a shit into your concerns:

 

Boys n’ Girls… If you think I’m bullshitting, consider this last point.

Angus Campbell got the DSC in 2011 for distinguished command and leadership in action as Commander Joint Task Force 633 on Operation SLIPPER. He then effectively forgave officers and threw soldiers under a bus at the same time. Brerton exposed him but it’s all been downplayed. As I write this he got a two year extension to his role.

 

My daily reminder that it is the 356th day of the Royal Commission and we haven’t discussed Mefloquine or Tafenoquine.

 

 

37. Mefloquine Dispatches: Lieutenant General John Caligari, 22nd June 2022

Lieutenant General John Caligari.

I watched his evidence to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide today. Credit where credit is due. The work he has done putting together The Oasis is very impressive.

Not one question about Mefloquine or Tafenoquine though. A drug known to cause suicide.

Bit odd when you consider Submission 65 into use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force Senate Enquire of 2018. Excerpt via screenshot:

Two hours of testimony and not one question about this? An oversight maybe?

Anyway, you can read the entire report here: 180716_Submission_1RAR_Sub65

Just a reminder. Today is the 350th day of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and we still haven’t started talking about mefloquine or tafenoquine.

 

 

34. Mefloquine Dispatches: Other Suicides, April-1997 (Part One)

Upon reflection I took this post down. I was very triggered at the time.

To the Lost.

 

Just a reminder. As I update this post (on the 14th June 2022) it is now the 342nd day of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

We still haven’t started talking about mefloquine or tafenoquine.

 

33. Mefloquine Dispatches: Jim Molan, 11th March 2002

It all started with Erin Molan.

Every time I saw her presenting on the Footy Show it would trigger me. I would blow up. “Turn that shit off, I cannot stand her”, I would scream. I don’t watch Rugby League at home so I would only be triggered at my friend’s place. In the end it became a running joke.

“Turn the TV off, Erin is on”. The boys would laugh.

For the record I have never met Erin. Wish her all the best.

Amnesia is funny.

I came across this letter during my research into my history as crippling bad flashbacks kicked off. Again, not Erin’s fault for my history. Turns out her Dad kicked off those memories. Jim sent this to me as I was coming apart, not for the first time as other records would confirm. I first reported my mental health problems a month after exposure to mefloquine, went psychotic, got misdiagnosed and got released. After many flips, I finally flipped out for real in October 1998. The Australian Army dumped me and wiped their hands.

This was the official response from Jim on my DFM (the modern and poorer version of a court-martial for Diggers. Officers still get a court-martial). For the record. I was still sick.

Luckily, I kept the letters from his angry Legal Officer at the time. Defence Archives did not.

 

Hey Diggers. Stay safe…

15. Mefloquine Dispatches: Suicide Prevention, early 1990

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

14. Mefloquine Dispatches: SGADF, 26th September 2019

The date mentioned in this letter, the 16th August 1996 is completely wrong. No date was actually written by the RMO because it was all moving so quickly. The soldier in front of me was used as a writing board, and then it was my turn and then the next. 100-odd strong.

That said, thanks to the Surgeon General, ADF for her letter of support.

12. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Claremont Serial Killings, April 1997

We look down at the near century old corpse. We all laugh. The beret’d Sergeant tells us to shut the fuck up and concentrate. At the bottom of the pit lays the skeleton of the previous occupant. A cheap burial perhaps? The wood has mostly crumbled into dust. It’s been 99-years and they are getting moved on. The coffin lowers into the six-foot hole with a quiet concentration. Later that day we will lower the corpse of my very good mate. It is both a moment of gravitas and levity.

There are seven of us. Six Other Ranks (ORs) and a Sergeant. The Sergeant and four of the ORs are from the Regiment. Two Signal blue from Townsville. Might have been an even number of beret’d and Signal blue? We all know each other or are known to each other. A good set of blokes. It is an official burial with a catafalque party in Perth, WA.

We finish the practice session.

On the return to Campbell Barracks we read the paper. In the pages are the latest updates on the third murder. A serial killer was stalking the streets of Perth. Three girls. All similar. Young. Good sorts. The first two in 1996 then a big gap until last month. No idea who was murdering them.

One of the Boys tells us that the WA ‘coppers’ have visited the Barracks recently. They haven’t ruled out it might have been a soldier who was knocking off the women. Just a friendly interview at this stage just to rule the Regiment out of it.

Opinions rattle and roll around the bus. It’s good banter and it takes our mind off things.

I rattle off a quick-fire set of statistics. I don’t yet know it but my brain has changed in the last month and I am now recalling information differently than before the MLD [Mefloquine Loading Dose]. At the end I opinion that it was highly unlikely for a Regiment guy to be the killer because most US serial killers historically kill after they leave the services. Not always, but mostly. Think Jeffrey Dahmer. I read a lot of criminal investigation books in those days.

Everyone is impressed with our wisdom until the Sergeant comments out of the side of his mouth.

“Fuck off you idiots”.

We all laugh. Another moment of levity before the tension of the day.

To the Lost.

191021_Image_TheWA_ClaremontKillings

Image: The West Australian

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

Random Analytica: Mefloquine Use by the Australian Defence Force (1990s)

I’m ready to heal yet I still need to count the cost. Others have made the attempt and fallen short. It might be my most important piece of epidemiology to date. It might pan out to be nothing. At least now I can do it systemically and at a slower pace.

It’s personal for me.

191112_MefloquineUseByADF90s (UPD)

The chart above is still a work in progress. I’m starting to get some good feedback from other veterans… If you want to add to this chart please reach out.

Last updated 12th November 2019

Notes:

191112_MefloquineNotes (UPD)

 

990910_Photo_JMolan_OpSpitfire

10th September 1999. Brigadier Jim Molan & Ian Martin directing the evacuation of Dili, East Timor. Source: Twitter (John L. Gould)

 

If you or someone you know needs help, please phone Lifeline on 131 114, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

9. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Joker, 1997 & 2019

When I find out in March 19’ I send myself over the edge. I have pushed too hard. Way too hard. I’m almost 500-days free of alcohol. I’m using St. John’s Wort to assist with sleep. It also heightens memory recall. I’m going through the horrors. I’m writing in a note book. I ask a simple question. Did the Army turn me into the Batman or The Joker?

I go insane again in late September 19′. This time I’m drinking. I made 537-days before I just gave up. It’s too much. I’ve accepted that I turned into The Joker back in the day. ANZAC Day 97′, I launch at a group of other AJs [Army Jerks]. I have no fear. I’m beating one of them to death in a nightclub because he has been impolite. The guys grab me. Put me in a taxi. The next day I’ll be in hospital. Anaphylaxis is mentioned. Allergies, they ask? I’m calm by the time I hit the hospital. I love medics and nurses.

I bury a friend a month after my MLD [Mefloquine Loading Dose]. I tell the Land Commander the radios are killing us. I farewell my Dad on a bed covered in blood. My face turns red in 2014. Psoriasis. It’s an accepted condition of Mefloquine. My Dad doesn’t die and I don’t talk to him for 20-years. I’m lucky. I speak to him on the phone in 2017. He dies the next year. We never say our goodbyes face-to-face. Another regret. He leaves me $10,000. I use it to get sober. I start getting my memories back. My head is a horror show.

Anyway, this will be my last horror story. I now live quietly in a small cabin with no hot running water and an outside dunny. I isolate when I feel The Joker coming on. I love the peace and the silence. Being disconnected is part of the disease.

As I watch The Joker I see the similarities. I have written similar notes. I’m adopted. I wash my Mums hair. I have a different laugh. A different dance. The same crazed run from the cops. I’ve been running for 22.5-years.

I write. It will help some, hurt others. There’s a bit of Batman in there. It doesn’t matter. Do I look like a guy with a plan?

I have grief. I have pain. I have no regrets.

191021_Image_Joker

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

 

If you or anyone you know of a veteran who needs help I would strongly suggest you reach out to Open Arms 1800 011 046.

6. Mefloquine Dispatches: The World Health Organisation, 8th August 1989

At the time I was finalising my papers to join the Australian Army.

I had no idea about anti-malarials. Malaria is not endemic in Australia so it is understandable I missed this update. On the 8th August 1989 the World Health Organization issued an alert on the “adverse effects of the antimalarial drug Mefloquine”.

Here is the full link: 1989_WHO_Mefloquine

Then the discussion about Mefloquine disappeared. The WHO dropped it.

I wonder why they never followed up on it?


WHO~Mefloquine

 

If you need support…