Article: Ashamed of wearing their Australian uniform

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Virgil, May 26, 2008.

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  1. Sydney Morning Herald Article

    Interesting, but is this media hype or is there truth to this?

    Ashamed to wear uniform

    Jonathan Pearlman Defence Correspondent
    May 27, 2008

    LOW-RISK missions assigned to the infantry in conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan have left soldiers "ashamed of wearing their Australian uniform" and made them a laughing stock among allies, say two senior officers who have spoken out against the Government and their military chiefs.

    The officers, writing separately in the Australian Army Journal, say giving all potentially offensive actions to Australia's special forces, including the SAS, has weakened morale and prompted many soldiers to question the future of the infantry.

    "In the opinion of many infantrymen, the lauding of their contributions to recent operations does not ring true," writes Major Jim Hammett, who has served in East Timor, Iraq, Somalia and Tonga. "Many within its ranks suspect that the role of the infantry has already been consigned to history … The ongoing inaction [in Iraq] … has resulted in collective disdain and at times near contempt by personnel from other contributing nations for the publicity-shrouded yet force-protected Australian troops."

    Major Hammett says the infantry has not been assigned offensive actions since the Vietnam War despite steady overseas deployments since 2001, and disillusionment has caused some soldiers to leave the military. Citing interviews with veterans from Iraq, he writes: "The restrictions placed on deployed elements as a result of force protection and national policies have, at times, made infantrymen ashamed of wearing their Australian uniform and regimental badge … [They] have resulted in the widespread perception that our army is plagued by institutional cowardice."

    In a separate article, Captain Greg Colton, second-in-command of the Sydney-based 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, says morale has deteriorated in the past 10 years as conventional forces have been kept away from "downtown Baghdad, Basra or Helmand province".

    "There is a growing sense of frustration within the ranks of the infantry that regular infantry units are only receiving perceived second-rate operational tasks, while the Government and army hierarchy seem to favour special forces for deliberate offensive operations and tasks … At a lower level the diggers, NCOs and junior officers are starting to question the infantry's role and their part in it, which is having a tangible effect on morale."

    Neil James, executive director of the Australian Defence Association, told the Herald: "It is like having a football team training regularly but it is never allowed to play. If you have to fight a war, there are advantages of rotating as many parts of the force structure as you can. You run the risk of a long-term professional decline if you are not blooding your army every so often."

    Major Hammett writes: "[The infantry] are trained to fight, equipped to fight, and being indoctrinated to expect to fight - they are doing many other things, but not fighting. That function is being fulfilled by special forces … Feelings of angst … have festered to the point of public dissent and critical questioning of the corps' raison d'etre."

    The infantry, the army's fighting arm, comprises about a third of the army's combat forces and consists of seven regular battalions, including a commando battalion.

    In East Timor, Major Hammett writes, the infantry has performed stability operations but has been relegated to the "periphery of the battle space". In Afghanistan, it has largely provided protection to reconstruction teams. In southern Iraq it has been limited to force protection, even when the local Iraqi army has been overrun. The allied headquarters in southern Iraq had been formally briefed that Australian infantry soldiers were banned from "offensive operations, attack and pursuit".
  2. Media hype (mostly), I suspect: feck me, the journo has a Captain as Bn 2ic.............or is that the norm for Oz Inf???

    Or, indeed, is Norm the Bn 2ic???!
  3. Perhaps all the comments attributed to Australian politicians about them promising they would withdrew Australian troops has dented morale and raised questions about their commitment to thse conflicts?
  4. I read the article referred to in the latest Australian Army Journal and the Capt is actually 2IC of one of the rifle coys in 3 RAR (and formerly an officer in the Devon and Dorsets).
  5. Generally, you're only going to see a Captain as a 2iC of a Bn in this country if:
    a) It's a rurally based Reserve Bn, and it's hard to get officers out there, or;
    b) There is a horrendous fuckup and a lot of people die.
  6. I read both articles last week, and my first reaction was "bugger me with a fish fork - this will cause a stir .... "

    The SMH journo, rather optimistically entitled "Defence Correspondent", probably has bugger-all knowledge about the topic as ADF members might see it, and will inevitably get some facts wrong. I don't think that's the real story here, though.

    The real story will be the indignant spluttering of the Department, the Minister, and some acceptable mutterings from CDF or Chief of Army. The backtracking and spin will be interesting.

    After accusing the Howard government of all manner of sins re Iraq, and how we've lost focus on Afghanistan, I suspect the Rudd government has found the "wave the flag, minimise risk" approach to be politically more palatable than taking a genuine 'war-fighting deployment' approach.

    Makes Mr Rudd's recent whinging about NATO not pulling its weight look a bit silly, doesn't it?
  7. That particular 2IC (Coy not Bn) is "on the front line" at the moment, helping Police with their enquiries, and no doubt he can stand by for some in-coming. As commented, he too is part of the Advanced Party down here. Hammett, as some will know spent 2 yrs with the Blue Red Blue Brigade and did rather well I understand; for an oik.
    Interesting how they both have seen the other side of the coin (no pun intended) and thay they have the balls to speak out. A Staff College paper causing rather less of a stir than some blurb from a "winging pom".
    Both articles have the support of us blokes, but sadly the government, new or old for that matter will not up the ante for the risk of the backlash.

    Interesting also that the Chief of Army has responded!,23599,23765913-2,00.html
  8. I noticed the last line of the article from General Leahy was rather interesting"its not the environment we are in at the moment" isnt this the Infantrymans grievance in the first place its the environment that the British, US, Canadians, Dutch etc are in and our troops over there are feeling sidelined. I think the Chief of Army has missed the argument.
  9. Agreed.
  10. Didn't we have this sort of argument a couple of years ago about two teir
    infantry with the marines ,para doing everything ?
    How things have changed :D
  11. A few comments about MAJ Hammett's paper,

    1. The article showed a lack of understanding of the politics involved in Australian deployments.
    2. We all know the former Prime Minster was the patron saint of the SF.
    3. It wasn't a Staff College paper, it was written before he got there.
    4. The ADF is only now getting the appropriate quantity of protected mobility to deploy the Inf in an offensive role. Any deployment prior to now and it would have been "we are putting our boys in danger by not equipping them properly."
    5. If you are gong to send a 'token' effort, you want them to be able to multi-task. SF can do Inf, but Inf can't necessarily do SF.

    For those who care, the article is here (p39):

    The URL is the whole Australian Army Journal, there are other interesting things in here as well.
  12. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    Eh ? 8O
    Which one ?
  13. Interesting Read. I liked....But a few questions..?

    1) Since when does a field officer have to understand the "Politics" of a deployment? If troops are deployed in harms way, they should be allowed to act. If you're not going to use troops actively, hire some Thai security guards, they're cheaper.

    4) If you're going to wait every time for the "best" equipment for the role, does that mean you've not bothered to actually buy anything before hand? or your current equipment is substandard?

    5) What tasks, apart from certain insertation techniques, can a well trained Infantry battalion not do? Recce? Sniper OP's? Mobile Recce patrols? interaction with locals? tabbing with heavy kit? Searches?

    SF forces should not be used in a frankly tactical role at Battle Group level.
  14. Point 4: It's funny...With the manner in which defence projects are handled in the Aust Army, we'll never deploy. By the time a project is complete, the final product is very late, almost obsolete and prompts a new project to start in order to replace it.

    Point 5: I think this is the key issue that is frustrating the majority of the infantry over here.
  15. 1. Seems to me that the politics involved is the underlying argument of the whole paper...Aust Govt getting credit for deploying troops to conflict areas (well, the safe bits, anyway) while the Brits, Canucks and Yanks are putting their money where their mouth is...surely the ADF could give a bit more of a hand to their allies?
    2. Also seems that that's one of the issues raised.
    3. How do you know this....and the relevance to the debate is...??
    4. The article seems largely light inf related - the essay criticises the mindset that dictates armoured vehs as the panacea to all problems. Excessive and paranoid force protection measures also get a mention.
    5. SF can do Inf.....really? Such as securing an FOB, conducting saturation patrolling, protecting BG attachments, providing CIMIC, dominating large areas, maintaining a reserve and doing BG attacks? Not to mention supporting flanking BGs as required...can they do Engineer stuff as well?

    If you disagree so much, then why is your other post in the Officers' forum enquiring about how to join the RE from Australia? Surely not for the weather?