The tragedy in Indonesia gives pause to an otherwise successful humanitarian mission in Aceh and now Nias. Bastards Inc has good coverage as does The Currency Lad Loosing these service people, a group that would unarguably fit into the category of ‘the cream of our youth’, is devastating and underlines the fact that the services operate on the edge and will, from time to time, come to grief. Already, pundits are attacking the Howard Government for maintaining the aging Sea Kings in service.
PRIME Minister John Howard today defended Australia’s use of the ageing Sea King helicopter, as the nation prepared to bury nine Australians killed when one of the craft went down in Indonesia.“Defended Australia’s use…” comes from an ABC interview trying to get mileage from the tragedy before the bodies are even recovered. Neil James has an article in todays Australian that comes down fairly heavily on the Government for not replacing the Sea Kings. Neil James has an extensive military background but demands a perfect solution in a non-perfect world. Someone has to make the decisions as to what equipment is replaced and when and obviously priorities are placed on certain aspects. The tank drivers want the latest tank, The Fleet Air Arm – the latest helicopters, the fighter pilots – the latest jet, even truck drivers want the latest truck but everyone can’t have everything. Compromises are made and a balance is sought. I’m not suggesting that the debate shouldn’t happen, just that it should happen in a different venue and at a different time. By all accounts the Sea King is a good aircraft albeit the initial air frames, power plants and avionics are 70s based. Of course, this ancestory has little to do with the aircraft currently deployed on Kanimbla. I think you will find they will be like Grandads axe my father gave me. It’s had numerous handles and heads over the years but it’s still Grandads axe. All types of people with differing agendas will come to the fore over the near future and the likes of the ABC will pursue any story for it’s anti-Howard potential but what we should remember is this. Australia has lost nine highly qualified and dedicated people serving in very trying circumstances to help others in need. The flow-on of the feelings of dread and emptiness goes well beyond the immediate families. It includes the crew of the Kanimbla, their families, the service society generally and all those who hold dear the efforts of the Defence Forces. If you have ever basked in the recent praise of Australia’s humanitarian efforts in Indonesia then remember, it is due to the untiring efforts of these people.