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 Advertisement 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 â¦ The ongoing inaction [in Iraq] â¦ 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 â¦ [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 â¦ 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 â¦ Feelings of angst â¦ 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".