ADF must back those who serve

Townsville Bulletin - - DEFENDERS -

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.

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