ADF must back those who serve
ANY person who survives a traffic incident might usually deduce subsequently how it could have been avoided.
Hindsight can be a wonderful future mentor but it can never change past events.
As the ABC for whatever reason selectively leaks socalled ‘ secret’ reports of investigations into alleged ADF special forces activities in Afghanistan, the ADF leadership is conspicuous by its silence.
Reports the ADF Inspector General ( IGADF) and the ADF Investigative Service ( ADFIS) are investigating fatal incidents involving civilians in Afghanistan have ignited conflicting reactions.
According to some reports there were concerns within the ADF special forces community some individuals had caused unnecessary deaths of noncombatant Afghanis, including children.
Others are apparently concerned at what they regard as unnecessary scrutiny of events which are an unfortunate and not always avoidable consequence of combat.
Such inquiries could have multiple purposes.
They could be focused on apportioning blame to individuals.
No one who has not had to make a split- second decision under fire can truly understand the stress such situations create.
Nor can they truly understand the additional stress the unintended, sometimes tragic outcomes of those decisions can have after the event.
As complex and ill- defined as it is, post- traumatic stress can have its own lifelong consequences and cause equally tragic outcomes.
Every combat different.
A soldier exposed to a real threat when assessing an unfolding event usually has to make a swift decision to engage, or not.
He does not enjoy the same luxuries as a pilot loitering off a target while lawyers decide whether to give the nod to engage, or not.
It is inevitable and unavoid- situation is able in both scenarios that despite the best intentions occasionally sh- t happens.
When it does, both the soldier and the pilot have to live with the lifelong consequences of their actions if they are made aware of an adverse outcome.
Individuals will react differently to similar circumstances.
Colonel Paul Tibbets who piloted the plane which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima claimed never to have lost a moment’s sleep over his actions and remained in the USAF post- war.
RAF Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, DSO** DFC who observed the second Nagasaki blast from a pursuit plane resigned his commission on medical grounds and underwent a religious conversion, devoting his life to charities.
Both men were already experienced, decorated veterans of the European air bombing campaign.
Continuing media speculation about whether ADF personnel acted appropriately or not in Afghanistan is unhelpful on many levels.
It provides daily fodder for discussion in mosques and schools in Australia and Afghanistan, giving succour to those we are fighting.
If ever there was a time for the risk averse, PR driven defence hierarchy to give clear support to those it expects to take the risks, it is now.
If the outcome of current investigations improves the way Australian forces operate the exercise will be worthwhile.
Any punitive outcome would be a betrayal of those who serve.