Life & Style Weekend - - Cover Story - WORDS: KARINA EASTWAY

In any given year, Re­mem­brance Day marks a mo­men­tous event on our na­tion’s cal­en­dar. How­ever, to­mor­row is par­tic­u­larly mean­ing­ful, sig­ni­fy­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the Armistice which brought an end to World War I. Although Aus­tralians will pause to re­mem­ber the mem­ory of all those who’ve served since then, World War I marked a turn­ing point in our coun­try’s his­tory. Ma­jor Gen­eral Shane Caughey, 56, who re­tired af­ter 38 years of ser­vice a few months ago, says World War I fun­da­men­tally shaped who we are as a na­tion. “At that stage, we were a na­tion of 4.5 mil­lion peo­ple, and we had over 60,000 killed on the bat­tle­field. Within 10 years of the end of World War I, a fur­ther 60,000 peo­ple had died from their in­juries or men­tal strug­gles,” Maj-gen Caughey says. “That’s a huge catas­tro­phe that touched every fam­ily in the na­tion at that time: it re­ally did shape who we were. We were a young coun­try, and we were still look­ing for a na­tional identity of what would bind us to­gether. “Un­for­tu­nately, it was the tragedy and hard­ship of World War I that re­ally be­came our com­mon story. It was some­thing that all Aus­tralians could as­so­ciate with, which is why I think it is so em­bed­ded in our so­ci­ety and why recog­nis­ing days like Re­mem­brance Day is so sig­nif­i­cant.” With ca­reer de­ploy­ments across the globe, in­clud­ing the US, Iran, Is­rael and Afghanista­n, Maj-gen Caughey has called the Sun­shine Coast home since De­cem­ber last year, and will de­liver the ad­dress at to­mor­row’s Caloun­dra RSL ser­vice. He says the fo­cus of the ad­dress will be in recog­nis­ing those who have served our na­tion, as well as the im­por­tance of paus­ing as a na­tion to re­mem­ber them. “It’s im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge the tragedy of World War I, and go­ing be­yond that to re­mem­ber all ser­vice men and women who have served so mag­nif­i­cently to keep our na­tion the free, fair and tol­er­ant so­ci­ety that we live in,” he says. “Back then (1918), peo­ple thought it was go­ing to be the war to end all wars, so to them, it was a great cel­e­bra­tion that all the sac­ri­fice was over. But his­tory has told us, un­for­tu­nately, that was far from the truth. “Since then, as a na­tion, we’ve had to con­tin­u­ally send young men and women to fight on be­half of the na­tion.” Maj-gen Caughey says 102,000 mem­bers of the Aus­tralian De­fence Force have died in op­er­a­tions, and there are thou­sands of oth­ers with phys­i­cal and men­tal in­juries who con­tinue to have to deal with the chal­lenges of those in­juries. But he un­der­stands that war is just one side of the peace coin. He says that although the de­fence force is fun­da­men­tally there to de­fend the na­tion, part of its role is also to break down ten­sions that ex­ist ex­ter­nally, en­gag­ing with re­gional na­tions at all lev­els to en­sure and build mu­tual trust, friend­ship and re­la­tion­ships which may hope­fully prevent the need for con­flict. It is ev­i­denced by his three sep­a­rate de­ploy­ments with the United Na­tions: firstly in 1989-90 fol­low­ing the Iran/iraq war to mon­i­tor the cease­fire, ne­go­ti­at­ing with both sides to re­duce ten­sions and prevent a re­turn to fight­ing. He has also been de­ployed to Jerusalem as Chief Op­er­a­tions Of­fi­cer to mon­i­tor the cease­fire be­tween Is­rael and neigh­bour­ing Arab States (2001-02), and as a Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of the 6th Bat­tal­ion in East Ti­mor (2004), for which he was awarded the Con­spic­u­ous Ser­vice Cross. The Aus­tralian De­fence Force also does a lot of hu­man­i­tar­ian work, par­tic­u­larly in our re­gion. When­ever there’s a catas­tro­phe – whether it’s a cy­clone or an earth­quake or tsunami – the Aus­tralian De­fence Force is very much at the fore­front of bring­ing as­sis­tance to those peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing. Sim­i­larly, when the re­sources of our emer­gency ser­vices be­come over ex­tended, they also pitch in at times of nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. While work­ing with the United Na­tions was an op­por­tu­nity Maj-gen Caughey thor­oughly en­joyed, he says his ca­reer high­light was the op­por­tu­nity to com­mand sol­diers as an army of­fi­cer, com­mand­ing the 6th Bat­tal­ion Royal Aus­tralian Reg­i­ment in Bris­bane, and 3rd Bri­gade in Townsville. He says while it is an in­cred­i­ble re­spon­si­bil­ity, it is also a priv­i­lege to be given the op­por­tu­nity to lead the peo­ple who vol­un­teer to serve our na­tion, all the while know­ing they are putting them­selves in life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions. “The main thing I got out of it was the friend­ships and the ca­ma­raderie that you de­velop with fel­low sol­diers and of­fi­cers when you are un­der­go­ing a lot of dif­fi­cult, chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ences,” he says. “When you go through those events to­gether, you re­ally do build a strong bond be­tween each other that lasts for a life­time. “Some­times the chal­lenges are phys­i­cal: when you do things to­gether and you’re men­tally and phys­i­cally ex­hausted and you come through the other side. Some­times they’re the dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions that you find your­self in, and you have to work through them to­gether. Some­times it’s just deal­ing with the out­comes of those sit­u­a­tions.” Maj-gen Caughey says when he first joined the army he didn’t have the view that it would be his ca­reer. Ini­tially it was just go­ing to be for a few years af­ter high school. And it helped that his older brother, Michael, would be in the same unit. But he says when he got into the army, he en­joyed it, and then pur­sued a lot of his study through that av­enue, in­clud­ing a Bach­e­lor of Pro­fes­sional Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of New Eng­land, Mas­ters of De­fence Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Can­berra and a Grad­u­ate Diploma in Strate­gic Man­age­ment at the Aus­tralian Army Com­mand and Staff Col­lege and the Cen­tre for De­fence and Strate­gic Stud­ies. More than any­thing, Maj-gen Caughey says he’s been al­ways sur­rounded by a fan­tas­tic group of in­di­vid­u­als who could be re­lied upon to pro­vide great ad­vice and sup­port. “It’s an or­gan­i­sa­tion that’s built on team­work and trust,” he says. “Any or­gan­i­sa­tion is dy­namic and al­ways chang­ing and the army is no ex­cep­tion. It has gone through, and con­tin­ues to go through, in­cred­i­ble change to ad­just to the re­quire­ments of the job, its op­er­a­tions and the chang­ing so­ci­ety that we live in.” This Re­mem­brance Day, it’s an or­gan­i­sa­tion for which we can all be thank­ful.


TREASURED MEM­O­RIES: Shane Caughey (main photo). TOP (left to right): Bruce Walker, Shane Caughey and Don Cousins ar­rive on board HMAS Choules from a Black­hawk He­li­copter; with wife Carol and chil­dren Anne, Alexan­dria and Harry in Wash­ing­ton; Shane Caughey in­spect­ing the troops of the 01/12 Ju­nior Lead­ers Course; Shane Caughey in Cairns; with daugh­ter Anne in Hawaii, 1998; Of­fi­cer Cadet School grad­u­a­tion in 1983 at Port­sea, Vic­to­ria.

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