Dig­gers to face grilling

Townsville Bulletin - - News - by Emily Mac­don­ald emily. mac­don­ald@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

THE De­fence Min­is­ter will con­sider re­strict­ing sol­diers’ ac­cess to Face­book and other so­cial net­work­ing sites af­ter the post­ing of of­fen­sive re­marks by Dig­gers serv­ing in Afghanistan.

Min­is­ter Stephen Smith has per­son­ally apol­o­gised to his Afghan coun­ter­part for com­ments posted by some Aus­tralian sol­diers on Face­book.

It has been re­ported the sol­diers re­ferred to their Afghan Tal­iban en­e­mies as ‘‘sand­nig­gers’’, ‘‘dunecoons’’, ‘‘rag­heads’’ a nd‘‘ smelly lo­cals’’.

When a l ocal man was shown run­ning away from an ex­plo­sion, a sol­dier was heard to say that the blast ‘‘ scared the f... out of that mufti’’.

A num­ber of sol­diers list their em­ployer as a ‘‘ f... ing ranga’’, in ref­er­ence to Prime Min­is­ter Ju­lia Gil­lard.

Mr Smith de­scribed the con­duct as ‘‘ ap­palling’’.

A num­ber of sol­diers are now fac­ing dis­ci­plinary ac­tion and the prospect of be­ing sent back to Aus­tralia.

Acting Chief of Army Ma­jor Gen­eral Paul Sy­mon said the pri­vate com­ments of a few sol­diers could cause deep of­fence to Aus­tralians and part­ners in Afghanistan.

He said the army would take ap­pro­pri­ate dis­ci­plinary or ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tion against the in­di­vid­u­als in­volved fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

‘‘ The army is ap­palled by this be­hav­iour. It is to­tally un­ac­cept­able and does not rep­re­sent army val­ues of courage, ini­tia­tive and team- work,’’ Ma­jor Gen­eral Paul Sy­mon said.

‘‘ The ma­te­rial posted by these sol­diers dis­cred­its the over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive cul­ture demon­strated through­out our de­ploy­ments in Afghanistan in the last decade.

‘‘ These sol­diers have demon­strated a lack of de­cency and pro­fes­sional judge­ment, and brought dis­credit t o them­selves and dis­re­pute to the army and the Aus­tralian De­fence Force.’’

How­ever for­mer de­fence chief, Gen­eral Peter Cos­grove, said the is­sue needed to be kept in pro­por­tion.

He said the sol­diers re­spon- sible and the de­fence force should not only be judged by the com­ments, but also by what they did ev­ery day.

‘‘ Some sol­diers who have been post­ing these dis­rep­utable com­ments are also putting their lives on the line for or­di­nary Afghans,’’ he said.

‘‘ Re­mem­ber that these kids are ac­tu­ally, by their deeds, s how­ing t hat t hey see a worth while mis­sion for which they’re pre­pared to ac­cept that great dan­ger.’’

Gen­eral Cos­grove said the sol­diers in­volved in the slurs should be coun­selled and re­minded that the de­fence force did not con­done in­tol­er­ance.

ILL-CON­SID­ERED: Sol­diers’ Face­book com­ments have caused grave concern among de­fence ranks but the Dig­gers do have their sup­port­ers

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