Sea King Down

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.

Digger-Jordanian Stand-off

Four years ago an Australian Corporal, Andrew Wratten, heard allegations of Jordanian UN troops soliciting for sex with boys. A subsequent secret investigation led to the expulsion of two Jordanian peacekeepers after an investigation ordered by then UNTAET chief, the late Sergio Vieira de Mello, in July 2001.
“Wratten informed PKF (peacekeeping force) that he had been receiving complaints from local children about Jorbatt (Jordan Battalion) abuse,” said a senior UN official who was based in Oecussi at the time.
A Jordanian officer, supporting the pedophilia, dobs in Cpl Wratten to the Jordanian troops. “A Jordanian officer in HQ informed Jorbatt that he had ratted on them. Wratten and his guys manning the helo (helicopter) refuelling pad in Oecussi town started getting threatened. Aussie Steyr assault rifles and Jordanian M16s were brandished but nothing come of it. “As far as I understand, De Mello, was very sensitive to the harm such reports would have on the reputation of UNTAET, PKF – and by default himself,” said one Western security analyst, based in East Timor in 2001. Aussie Diggers. Maintaining high civilized standards as always. The UN. Setting low standards and maintaining them, as always. Could’ve been a good stoush though.

Wedgetail Ready

wedgetail.jpg The RAAF has taken delivery of it’s first 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) pictured above and described here. The project, nicknamed Wedgetail, after the Australian eagle, has become a model designation as Boeing sell the package to other nations as well. We will no doubt hear the term Wedgetail for some years to come. The ‘Wedgie’ will be famous He should be famous too, the old Wedgetail. He looks fairly tame on the roost with leather straps but in the wild with his 2 metre plus wing span and attention-grabbing call he’s a main player IMG_0080.JPG How’s this for a ‘don’t mess with me’ look? There is just no way these guys ever look disinterested. They always look like they are contemplating tearing your arms off and eating them. I took the photo in Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory last year.

Crew Error

According to this report from the sad case of HMAS Ballarat running aground at Christmas Island points to human error I had posted earlier on this incident and said then it was a bad career move. I could be right if todays news release at is anything to go by. ballarat2.jpg HMAS Ballarat Ian McPhedran, defence reporter writes,
A series of errors prompted the computer system to over-ride manual commands and the ship’s company had to stand by and watch as HMAS Ballarat backed on to the rocky shoreline.
Well, that’s it then, I thought. The Navy have obviously held their inquiry and found the cause to be Human error. But wait, the inquiry is not due to start until later in February!
A public board of inquiry will be conducted from February 22 and the ship’s captain could face a court-martial.
It looks to me like the Captain and crew have already been found guilty by the press. Readers from the legal proffessions may comment here, but this simple layman thinks the inquiry is now prejudiced. Is this too much information to release prior to an inquiry? Seems like it to me.

Frigate aground at Christmas Island

This just in from Defence Media. ballarat.jpg HMAS Ballarat
At approximately 4pm Sydney time, the Australian Navy’s ANZAC Class Frigate HMAS Ballarat ran aground at Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. The ship was engaged in Operation Relex II, a border protection activity, at the time. No one was injured. The full extent of the damage is still being assessed but there is known to be damage to the ship’s rudder and propeller. The ship’s hull was not holed. Navy will conduct an investigation into the circumstances of the grounding as soon as possible. Navy will not be able to decide whether the ship will be able to proceed under her own power for repairs until the full extent of the damage is known. No further information is available at this time.
It’s never a good career move to navigate one of our navy frigates onto rocks. Update 24 Jan From this mornings Australian
Locals reported that several ships had run aground in the cove over the years as the seabed level changes dramatically near the jetty.
and from Defence Media
Since grounding on Christmas Island on Saturday 22 January, HMAS Ballarat has undergone a number of trials to assess the impact of the damage to her propellers and possibly the steering gear. These trials, conducted in consultation with Navy engineers and the ship’s builder, will determine whether the ship will be able to undertake the passage to Fremantle under her own power or whether she will have to be towed. The trials should be completed, and a decision made on whether a tow is required, by late evening Monday 24 January (AEST). The frigate HMAS Canberra sailed from Fleet Base West, near Fremantle, late on Sunday 23 January and is now enroute to Christmas Island. This ship will either escort or tow HMAS Ballarat to Fremantle, depending on the outcome of the trials. She should arrive off Christmas Island late on Wednesday 26 January. An investigation team of two Navy officers will arrive in Christmas Island today to begin preparations for the Navy Board of Inquiry that will convene as soon as possible once the ship arrives in the mainland. The ANZAC-class frigate HMAS Arunta will sail from Fleet Base West mid-morning today to take over duties in Operation RELEX II, on which HMAS Ballarat was employed.

The Sheepdogs

Picked up this poem from Kevin Sites Blog. A different approach to an old theme.
The Sheepdogs Most humans truly are like sheep Wanting nothing more than peace to keep To graze, grow fat and raise their young, Sweet taste of clover on the tongue. Their lives serene upon Life?s farm, They sense no threat nor fear no harm. On verdant meadows, they forage free With naught to fear, with naught to flee. They pay their sheepdogs little heed For there is no threat; there is no need. To the flock, sheepdog?s are mysteries, Roaming watchful round the peripheries. These fang-toothed creatures bark, they roar With the fetid reek of the carnivore, Too like the wolf of legends told, To be amongst our docile fold. Who needs sheepdogs? What good are they? They have no use, not in this day. Lock them away, out of our sight We have no need of their fierce might. But sudden in their midst a beast Has come to kill, has come to feast The wolves attack; they give no warning Upon that calm September morning They slash and kill with frenzied glee Their passive helpless enemy Who had no clue the wolves were there Far roaming from their Eastern lair. Then from the carnage, from the rout, Comes the cry, ?Turn the sheepdogs out!? Thus is our nature but too our plight To keep our dogs on leashes tight And live a life of illusive bliss Hearing not the beast, his growl, his hiss. Until he has us by the throat, We pay no heed; we take no note. Not until he strikes us at our core Will we unleash the Dogs of War Only having felt the wolf pack?s wrath Do we loose the sheepdogs on its path. And the wolves will learn what we?ve shown before; We love our sheep, we Dogs of War.
Russ Vaughn 2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment 101st Airborne Division Vietnam 65-66 I enjoyed it and I know a lot of my readers will as well. For me it says it all.

No Armistice for the Courier Mail

On the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month most of the civilized world commemorates the sacrifice of millions of men world-wide and hundreds of thousands of Australians who gave their all, were wounded or served in wars. Except in Brisbane. The local newspaper, the Courier Mail, clearly moved by the solemnity of the day, decided to run a negative Army piece provided by Luke McIlveen. Luke’s tone is bad enough but what was the Editor thinking when he decided to run with the story on 11 November? Did he forget what the day was all about. Did he not have a father or grand father that served and if not is he not aware that most of his readers do? The front page Armistice Day article Army racism shame by Luke McIlveen plumbs new depths in Army bashing and is clearly intrended to bring the Army, the Corps and the Battalion into public disrepute. It happened four years ago, was investigated and any action considered necessary would have been taken. The photo is damning but Luke, by his words, lumps a hundred thousand past and present infantrymen under the racist tag and does it on a day that should honour us. The emotive language underlines Luke’s bias and detracts from the point
The first inquiry in early 2003 was a whitewash that found members of the 1RAR Delta Company were not racist and only engaged in occasional “jovial banter
The inquiry is likely to be run out of Canberra, making it more difficult for middle-ranking officers to protect their mates
Whitewash…middle-ranking officers protecting their mates..heavy stuff Luke. Fairly libellous statements. The great thing is of course you are not required to prove anything. You can say what you like and trust that the less than discernering readership that your bylines attract will read the article and accept it as gospel. The photographer takes up the story. He says the image was simply a joke.
“It really and truly is nothing but a storm in a tea cup,” Mr Fraley said. “I have been with the Army taking their photos since Vietnam. I have never, ever, seen any racism.” Mr Fraley said the soldiers had been competing for who could take the best “fun photo”. “That’s all it was, there was no ceremonies, and the whole thing took two to three minutes.
Stupid, yes, ill advised yes – but I’m not sure the blatant racism is proven. Arch (and I know him) may be trying not to rock the boat but I do know he wouldn’t cop blatant racism. In an old piece titled “How I became a journalist: Luke McIlveen explains why he doesn’t concern himself with hard facts.
I’m biased though. Owing to my inability to count and distrust of anything you can’t prove in less than a minute, a career as an actuary or physicist was never really going to be an option.
Maybe some wise old hack should have told him he needed to look longer ‘than a minute’ before publishing anti-army beat ups’. Luke goes on about being a copy boy.
It was good fun though – we drank together, wrote anything to get a byline and berated conservative columnists under nom de plumes in the letters pages. At the same time I completed my unfinished Arts degree by correspondence.
Nom de plumes…wrote anything to get a byline – wow, I am impressed. Very undergrad – must have made for some great giggling over drinkies. Always the truth…always balanced…always signing your own name to letters to the editor. Honourable Luke and oh so liberal – Not like the soldiers at all. The one unguarded moment of those soldiers lives would have been well and truly balanced by months in East Timor where they risked life and limb to help the East Timorese. Tell me Luke do you have any positive articles about how these same troops, or their mates, helped the natives of Afghanistan, Iraq and a dozen other foreign countries. Have you ever submitted a positive article about the military? You have traded more than a hundred years of honour and service for 5 minutes of unguided, unwise activity. Oh, by the way, correct terminology is Delta Company, 1RAR and it’s not a regiment, it is a battalion of a regiment. I take the care to research correct nomenclature only to find professional journalists don’t. Luke, it’s like saying Mail News Courier Paper – ask someone or can’t you even bring yourself to talk to a soldier. Update: Similarly moved friend and fellow ex 1RAR officer Kel puts pen to paper to the editor and includes it in comments. Update II: The Road to Surfdom has an article covering this same point. Of course, Tim’s perspective is different from mine but the comment thread has some good thoughts.

Bloody Soldiers

Army Aviation in trouble. have the story here but no pic. It took me awhile but I found it. Armyhuey.jpg Politically incorrect and therefore funny. I hope the digger’s OC has a sense of humour and doesn’t come down to hard on him.I know I would have trouble keeping a straight face during the hearing.

Hibernation for Infantry

This article from the Australian grabs my interest and suggests a solution for a lot of problems suffered by Infantry and defence forces generally
THE Pentagon is excited about research at a Queensland university showing that soldiers injured on the battlefield can be put into hibernation until specialist medical treatment becomes available.
It is estimated that 90 per cent of soldier deaths occur because of shock before they can get proper treatment.
I go along with that. Having been an infantryman in a war zone I have seen and been aware of many time-based deaths from battle casualties. As is always the case the time between the wound and theatre pre-op is paramount. Civilians would be surprised by the number of deaths that occur in the chopper on the way to the field hospitals. 38_7A_1_jpg.jpg A soldier from 7RAR being dusted off in South Vietnam The photo was taken by Andy Mattay who died this year from cancer. RIP Andy. I wonder if we couldn’t hibernate for longer. It took me years to get my strength back after Vietnam and even then it was touchy. Damage to my skeletal frame from the sheer drudgery of carrying a battle pack with ammo left me with pemanent problems. I’ve also long claimed that PTSD, although battle based, was exacerbated by the left wing sub-humans who abused us when we came home. Maybe a couple of years hibernation until the scum settled would have helped a lot of diggers. Whatever, the research work bodes well for those of us who choose to take the harder, yet more satisfying, road to retirement.

Metal Storm

Metal Storm, started up by an Australian but now an International ballistics company, will take the lead role in a US Navy program to develop a system to defeat incoming rocket propelled grenades (RPGs).
?Increasingly, US and allied forces are finding themselves vulnerable to RPG attacks, which generally occur at short range and allow only a fraction of a second for a response.? ?We believe Metal Storm technology provides unique advantages to address the threat posed by RPGs. Importantly, this project will draw on the technology platforms already being developed by the company,
I first met the RPG2 and it’s bigger cousin, the RPG7 in Vietnam. Designed by the Russians, copied by the Chinese and other smaller countries with spare munitions factories and a hatred for us good guys, the RPG has been the bane of infantry life since it’s introduction to the battlefield. Hundreds of Australians and thousands of Americans still carry scars from the beast The thought that an Austrlian born company is about to neutralize them pleases me immensly. And believe me, Metal Storm will do it. Have a good look at the site – it is the future of warfare and policing and remember, the whole concept comes from the brilliant mind of a Aussie, who at the time of his brainwave, was manager of the Woolworths store at Bundaberg, Queensland. Bundaberg, the soldier’s friend. The source of Bundaberg Rum and now an anti RPG weapon. Love it.
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