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Another Australian dies in Afghanistan -

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Another Australian dies in Afghanistan

The World Today - Friday, 19 December , 2008 12:18:00

Reporter: Alison Caldwell

ELEANOR HALL: While the Prime Minister was addressing Australian troops in Afghanistan yesterday,
another Australian soldier was killed.

Stuart Nash was a young Australian rifleman serving with the British Army in Helmand province.

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today expressed sadness over his death and said it was a reminder of
the extreme danger faced by all those in the field.

Alison Caldwell has our report.

ALISON CALDWELL: Twenty-one-year-old Stuart Nash's military career was short lived. He enlisted in
March and only graduated from training at the Catterick base in northern England in September.

Born in Sydney, he had joint Australian-British citizenship.

Major Chris Willis is a spokesman for the British Riflemen.

CHRIS WILLIS: Tragically he was with us only for a very short time. He didn't start serving with us
until October of this year. His role at the time the incident took place was that he was providing
supporting fire to his comrades when he was actually hit.

ALISON CALDWELL: In a statement Stuart Nash's parents Bill and Amanda Nash said they were shattered
by the news. They say their son was doing what he most wanted to do in life, having harboured a
wish for a military career since joining the cadets when he was just 13 years old.

Offering his support and prayers to the Nash family, the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says Rifleman
Nash's death is a reminder of the extreme danger in Afghanistan. He said any death in Afghanistan
in support of the cause for which we are fighting there has to be honoured.

Since the invasion began in 2001, there have been 965 Coalition deaths in Afghanistan as part of
Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force.

The vast majority of British fatalities have taken place since the redeployment of British forces
to the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province in 2006.

Major Chris Willis again:

CHRIS WILLIS: I have to say that our troops often come under fire. They're always being observed by
Taliban and the insurgents. I think you soon learn really to just expect anything at any time. The
element of surprise is something that the enemy forces tend to use to their advantage.

ALISON CALDWELL: Stuart Nash is the eighth Australian soldier to be killed. With at least 280
coalition deaths this year alone, 2008 has been the deadliest year for foreign military troops
since the invasion began.

Neil James is with the Australian Defence Association.

NEIL JAMES: Well Helmand and Kandahar are the two provinces down in the south where you'd have the
say the bulk of the fighting against the Taliban is being done and the British and the Americans in
Helmand have been particularly busy. It's always been a traditional Taliban stronghold and it's one
of the main centres of resistance to the Karzai Government.

ALISON CALDWELL: Is it the case that when it comes to Australia's combat operations, mainly special
forces carry out the bulk of the work whereas with the British approach regular infantry regiments
like the Rifles, which Stuart Nash belong to, are sent to the front line? Is that right?

NEIL JAMES: Well I mean everyone in a war is on the front line at some stage. You know you've got
to look at this carefully. In Oruzgan which wouldn't have the same degree of fighting as Helmand
and Kandahar provinces, we're the junior partner to the Dutch. We each provide different
capabilities. The Dutch provide the bulk of the infantry and we provide the bulk of the special
forces and they do different types of jobs in the province.

But we have some infantry and cavalry in Oruzgan, protecting the mentoring and reconstruction task
force and they do fighting as well.

ALISON CALDWELL: Stuart Nash enlisted in Britain in March this year and he only graduated from
training in northern England in September. Is that unusual to see someone who's just almost pretty
much straight out of school getting killed?

NEIL JAMES: Look, look tragically it's not unusual. It's certainly not, it's not usual. My soldiers
who are sent into action have a bit more experience than that. But it's entirely possible to be in
combat within about six months of enlistment because recruit training takes generally speaking
about three months and infantry core training takes about another three, so it's actually quite
possible for people to get into combat within a relatively short time.

ALISON CALDWELL: His parents say that he went to join British forces so that he could get a better
opportunity to, quote, "do real soldiering". What do they mean by that?

NEIL JAMES: Well some people have the attitude that the Australian military for many years were
mainly doing peacekeeping and not combat whereas the British army, because of their wider
deployments around the world actually tended to see a bit more combat. That certainly hasn't been
true over the last five or 10 years. And so you get young Australians end up joining the British
army for one reason or another.

I'd have to say though there's probably a lot more Brits who have ended up in the Australian
military over the years.

We've been lucky that our casualty rate has been lower than many of our Coalition partners but the
idea that we can fight a war and not sustain casualties is just a complete myth.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Australian Defence Association's Neil James ending that report by Alison
Caldwell.