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Army chief aware of soldiers frustration -

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ELEANOR HALL: The head of the Australian army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy has defended his
organisation against criticism that troops are no longer allowed to engage in real battle.

The criticism has come from within the army itself with a senior army officer saying Australian
soldiers deployed overseas are so restricted in their operations that they are often relegated to
being mere spectators on the battlefield and some have become ashamed to wear the Australian
uniform.

But the army chief says that while he's aware that many infantrymen are frustrated by a lack of
combat action, they simply have to accept that the nature of warfare has changed.

Barbara Miller prepared this report:

(Excerpt from television advertisement)

ANNOUNCER: Throughout history we have risen to the challenges that have confronted us under a
rising sun.

BARBARA MILLER: To be in the Australian Army, so say the recruitment advertisements, is to be a
part of protecting our country, our national interests, as well as helping other nations to rebuild
after conflict or natural disaster. An army officer named as Jason is quoted as saying "there are
not many jobs that allow you the freedom and the flexibility that I have".

(Excerpt from television advertisement)

ANNOUNCER: If you want to make a difference, challenge yourself and rise.

BARBARA MILLER: It seems though that for many soldiers it is not the promise of freedom and
flexibility that makes them join up.

(Extract from Australian Army Journal)

JIM HAMMETT (voiceover): Why do people join the infantry corps? The answer is simple, to fulfil the
role of the infantry or to use simpler terms, to fight.

BARBARA MILLER: The words of Major Jim Hammett in an article entitled "We were soldiers once"
published in the latest edition of the Australian Army Journal.

Major Hammett, who's served in Somalia, East Timor and Iraq, continues.

(Extract from Australian Army Journal)

JIM HAMMETT (voiceover): The infantry are not fighting. They are trained to fight. Equipped to
fight and being indoctrinated to expect to fight. They are doing many other things but not
fighting. That function is being fulfilled by Special Forces.

BARBARA MILLER: Major Hammett says the situation is so bad that Australian soldiers have at times
been ashamed of wearing their Australian uniform and have become mere spectators on the
battlefield:

(Extract from Australian Army Journal)

JIM HAMMETT (voiceover): Australia has expressed itself a staunch ally of the Americans in both
Iraq and Afghanistan and indeed has received significant political kudos for what has been termed
as unwavering support.

At the coalface however, such sentiments are dismissed as political rhetoric as serving members
from the United States, Britain and Canada lay their lives on the line in support of their
government's objectives whilst the Australian infantry appear to do little more than act as
interested spectators from the sidelines.

BARBARA MILLER: Another article in the same journal by Captain Greg Colton talks of a growing sense
of frustration that regular infantry units are only receiving perceived second rate operations
taskings.

The head of the Australian Army Lieutenant General Peter Leahy says he's aware of these sentiments.

PETER LEAHY: These are some views that I have got and I must say that they are not ones that I
share entirely because what we have seen is the facing nature of war. This is no longer infantry
wearing red jackets and white cross straps and taking on the army of another king.

What we are seeing now is that we are required to work in different populations. To work to
protect, support and persuade and the nature of war has changed and we have to adapt to that.

BARBARA MILLER: In an interview with ABC Newsradio Peter Leahy said he knew the infantry was
capable of carrying out frontline combat operations but the army chief was unapologetic about
current deployment policies.

PETER LEAHY: As we assign tasks and missions we very carefully assess the threat. We assess the
environment and then we look at the capabilities of our troops and we assign those tasks and
missions to the best people.

I think we have got the balance about right at the moment.

BARBARA MILLER: Neil James, the Executive Director of the Australia Defence Association, suspects
however that it's not operational needs but a fear of casualties that's resulting in the increased
use of Special Forces for combat duties.

NEIL JAMES: The operational limitations that are preventing them from carrying out every infantry
role and being limited to only part of the infantry role appear to come from governments of all
persuasions fearing a higher casualty count or more accurately, fearing what public opinion might
be if there was a higher casualty count.

BARBARA MILLER: What do you make of the argument of the head of the army, General Peter Leahy who
says well the nature of warfare has simply changed and the infantry men are not needed right now
for those tasks.

NEIL JAMES: Well, the simple answer there is you have to take a long-term view. We don't send the
military to a war just to keep professional standards up in your military but if you do commit to
the war for a range of strategic and moral reasons, there are sound advantages in rotating the
maximum amount of your force structure through combat so that you can keep professional standards
up by in effect blooding a new generation.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Neil James from the Australia Defence Association ending that report by
Barbara Miller.