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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6195

Mr BALDWIN (4:39 PM) —I rise to speak on the condolence motion for Sapper Jacob Daniel Moerland and Sapper Darren James Smith—not forgetting the explosives detection dog that was assigned to Sapper Smith, ‘Sapper’ Herbie. They were from the Brisbane based 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, 2CER, serving with the 1st Mentoring Task Force, working as part of the Australian dismounted patrol conducting operations in the Miribad Valley region of the Oruzgan Province. Sapper Darren Smith and Sapper Jacob Moerland were killed in action after their patrol was hit by an improvised explosive device on Monday, 7 June 2010 while conducting search operations for weapons caches and IEDs. These deaths brought to a total of 13 the operational deaths in Afghanistan, yet sadly, last night, we learnt of another three Aussie diggers killed in a helicopter accident, bringing the total to 16. The deaths of Sapper Smith and Sapper Moerland represent the first multiple combat fatalities for Australia since Vietnam.

Sapper Smith and Sapper Moerland were repatriated to RAAF Base Amberley on Sunday, 13 June 2010. The repatriation ceremony is an opportunity for the Army and their families to welcome home their fallen heroes. I, along with colleagues, attended the ramp ceremony. We attended to show our respect and our support and to offer our condolences to the families of Sapper Smith and Sapper Moerland. In a quote from the Bible, John 15:13 says: ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ This they did, and for this their nation is eternally grateful and their mates also.

I, along with Stuart Robert, the member for Fadden; Senator Steve Hutchins; and Nick Champion, the member for Wakefield, met Sapper Darren Smith and Herbie in Tarin Kowt on a couple of occasions during our visit to Tarin Kowt in April this year as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program. It was Sapper Smith who demonstrated the equipment that was being used and how they used the dogs in detecting the IEDs—the challenges, the excitement but also the anticipation about going out on patrol. In fact, he was about to embark to the forward operating base. He knew what he was doing. He was a very professional soldier. He was very proud of his work, and he knew that he and his mates were making a difference. We spoke at the time of family. We spoke of the challenges. I detected that not only was he a fiercely proud Australian but he was proud to be making a contribution to make the world a better and safer place, not just for his wife, Angela, or his 2½-year-old son, Mason, but indeed for all people—and the Afghani people, for whom he had a deep and abiding respect.

By military standards it is said that to be a sapper you must be determined, resilient, patient, intelligent, physically and mentally tough, quick to learn and adapt, a team player, self-motivated and professional. You should enjoy explosive ordnance disposal, demolitions, mine warfare, air and water operations, making and breaking, training indigenous soldiers and negotiating a multitude of challenges. You must be willing and able to lead a sapper team in areas of difficult terrain and visibility with limited knowledge of the enemy, even when you are so hungry and tired that most men would choose to give up. The most defining thing is that to be a sapper is to be a person of attitude. This job description described the Sapper Smith that I and my colleagues met.

It was on 17 June, last Thursday, that I and colleagues attended the funeral of Sapper Moerland. Sapper Moerland was born in Cairns. This young man, with white-blond hair and big blue eyes, was 21 years of age. Sapper Moerland enlisted on 9 July 2007, completing his initial recruit training at 1st Recruit Training Battalion in October 2007. After completing his driver courses and a suite of combat engineer courses in May 2008, Sapper Moerland was posted to the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, Brisbane. 2CER was his first posting as a combat engineer. Whilst at 2CER, he went on to complete a number of courses, including the Protected Mobility Vehicle Driver course in April 2009 and the Combat First Aider in August 2009. His deployment as part of the 1st Mentoring Task Force was his first operation. He was deployed in January this year. As part of this tour, he has been awarded the Australian Active Service Medal with International Campaign against Terrorism clasp and the Afghan Campaign Medal.

It is an understatement to say that our sympathies go out to his mother, Sandra Moerland, and his father, Robert; his sisters, Laura and Bethany; and, in particular, to his fiancee, who he was to marry in November, Kezia Mulcahy.

From his unit, recollections were put together, and these are the words of the unit, recollections of 8530756, Sapper Jacob ‘Snowy’ Moerland:

Jacob ‘Snowy’ Moerland was the sort of person you’d picture in your mind when someone used the term ‘Sapper’. When I first met him, he was a relatively junior soldier in what was a young Squadron at 2 CER; however, he soon became known as one of the Squadron characters. This was no mean feat amidst a strong field of similar personalities.

Snowy was a reliable and proactive soldier, who would put considerable effort and focus into solving whatever challenges were thrown his way. Once given a task, he showed determination and imagination in getting a solution. He soon gained a reputation for being a ‘go-to’ sort of Sapper and was a valuable member of his Section, Troop and Squadron teams.

Snowy was an enthusiastic Sapper, who loved soldiering. He was especially happy when performing his trade in the field, and looked forward to field deployments whenever they arose. No matter how wet, cold, muddy or hot it was, Snowy was in the thick of the task, cajoling or cursing as the situation befitted, but always giving his all.

His Troop Commander once remarked that “If only we had a troop full of Snowy’s we would be unstoppable.” While not the most perfect and disciplined soldier by any standard, a commander could not ask for more commitment and better attitude towards doing the job that he loved than what we got from Snowy. He is a testament to the traditional ‘can-do’ fighting spirit of the Sapper and Aussie digger.

For all this, Snowy knew how to have fun. He had an extroverted sense of humour and at times disturbing sense of fashion. One of the first recollections of people who knew him is this sense of fun. While he occasionally had to be reminded that there was work on, Snowy’s approach to his duty was infectiously enthusiastic, and he was often doing his best to raise or maintain his friend’s morale, especially during difficult tasks. This could include acts like camming up, to the point of camming his hair, and sniffing people to see how they’d react.

One of Snowy’s trademarks was the aviator sunglasses he constantly wore with the huge grin on his face. When you picture Snowy, this image leaps to the forefront. Be it in DPCU or going out clothes, the sunnies and the grin were a constant.

I believe Snowy matured quickly within the Squadron, and with time would have become a very capable junior commander. He struck a good balance between his sense of duty and sense of fun.

He will be greatly missed by his Family, the Regiment and Army.

At the funeral, there was a very moving eulogy delivered. One of the parts of the eulogy was delivered by his pastor, Lee Dallman. It was a story that Jacob had written in the eighth year of his education at Gayndah State High School. I want to read that into the Hansard because I think it actually describes this young man who gave so much for our nation. It goes like this. In year 8 as part of the Gayndah State High School English program all students have an assignment entitled ‘My life’. These are excerpts from his assignment about his life up until then.

I was born at three minutes past two o’clock in the afternoon on the 14th of January 1989. I weighed 7 pounds 2 ounces. I was born in the Cairns hospital.

When I came home from hospital I was given my first stuffed toy. It was a Koala. I named it Sunny Koala. When I was six months old I got another stuffed animal, which was a panda, so I named him Panda. I have still got them both.

My kindergarten years were spent in Mackay. The first day I cried because Mum was going to leave me all by myself. Then I fell asleep in an old tyre. I was going to sneak back to the car but they locked the gate and Mum saw me. After that I had fun there because we painted most of the time.

Preschool was fun. All the kids were nice to me. I liked to play dress-ups. My favourite costume was the Superman costume. I also liked the Batman costume. My favourite activity was ‘show and tell’.

The earliest birthday I can remember was when I was seven. I got the best rubber band gun from my Mum and Dad. I used to line my army men up and shoot them. For my birthday cake I got an ice cream cake made by the ‘Great Australian Ice Creamery’. The cake was made like a battle field with little plastic soldiers. It had chocolate ice cream for a hill with the British flag on it.

The earliest Christmas I can remember is when I was seven. I got lots of lollies and chocolates. We spent Christmas at my grandparents in Toowoomba. I got an Action Man Para Glider from my parents.

I have lived in many places because my Dad works for a Bank. At present I have spent 18 months here in Gayndah and I am enjoying it very much.

In primary school I liked many subjects. I had many friends in the first years at school. One of my friends was Brendan Burrows.

I have played many sports in my life. They include Soccer, Tee-Ball and AFL. I played soccer for three seasons in Gladstone, with one of the best teams in the district. We were almost never beaten in a game.

I have many interests, which include watching science fiction and fantasy films like Star Wars. I am also very interested in combat games such as Diabolo 2, Kingdoms, Age of Empires, and Heroes 3.

I have built many models. All of them are airplanes, most of them from World War 2.

My best friends in Gayndah are Luke Gatt, Mathew Grant, Dean Mathisen and Troy Sawdy.

I like people who are honest, trustworthy and have a good personality for friends.

Simon Walker is one of my best friends. I have known him since our mothers met each other at a baby clinic.

I like holidays because I can see family and friends as well as get some time off school. The best holiday I have ever had was five months long. Dad decided that he wanted to take long service leave and we would explore the Northern Territory and if we had time we would visit parts of Western Australia.

At the present I am 1 m 61 cm. I have short-cropped blond hair, fair skin, blue eyes and a medium build. I am in year eight and have a love of life that not even Elmo and Ernie off Sesame Street can match.

I am pretty content with myself at the moment and I wouldn’t change a thing. The value of my life is priceless. I like my friends and even my family.

Having to regret things in my opinion is just extra baggage you don’t need, so I live life now. The world is out there to be enjoyed and I for one, am going to have some fun.

One of the letters that he wrote to his fiancée Kezia was part of the service. He wrote:


In the darkness you are my light,

the shining brilliance that lights my path home.

Into the loving arms that you have waiting for me,

I will run and collapse into gently falling asleep.

Your voice rings out calling my name

A sound that would make angels cry because of the beauty that

resonates from it.

A voice I hope to wake up to every morning.

To hear until the end of time.

The love that I feel even now from you

Warming my heart on these cold lonely nights

Ever present, ever comforting, forever surrounding me

The warmth one can only feel if loved completely and unconditionally.

I hope one day to be able to fully express my love for you baby. You

are everything to me. My one and only, marrying you would be the

greatest and most amazing thing for me. I would be yours forever

in a fraction of a heartbeat. You’re the most beautiful, sexy, passionate,

loving woman in the world and nothing would make me

happier than to call you my wife.

Love For Always My Angel.

My heart and soul is yours forever and always.

Your loving fiancée


That was written on the battlefield as he counted down the days until he came back. His pastor Lee Dallmain said:

Jacob could get away with just about anything actually, because balanced with his cheekiness was his amazing capacity to love and to show compassion.

I have never seen a teenage boy hug his mother so much. He was never ashamed to show his affection to his mum in public, and was fiercely protective of his sisters. He would stir them up of course, but they were his sisters. He was actually willing to give just about everyone a hug who he thought needed it. Many times I was on the end of one of his big bear hugs. We see the tenderness of his poem to Kezia.

It was fitting that he served in Afghanistan the way he did. He wouldn’t have seen it as a chore. Instead he would have revelled in helping those less fortunate. He would have excelled in mentoring others. He had a remarkable ability to make one feel loved and appreciated, and as families and friends we grieve. We will miss him.

He also said:

Our Jacob certainly lived up to his promise. It is only fitting for Jacob to have the last word.

And these are Jacob’s words:

If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be anywhere where there was friendship and loyalty to each other. Ultimately I would like to live where I could be at one with Mother Nature and God.

His mother released a statement in which she said:

Jacob wanted to join the army from an early age and he loved his mates and his job and I have never seen Jacob so happy as during his march out parade.

Jacob died doing the job he loved and he went to Afghanistan not because he had too, but he thought it was a valuable job to help the people in Afghanistan.

When I spoke to Mrs Moerland at the repatriation ceremony she said of Jacob’s death: ‘Please don’t let this death be in vain.’

Last Saturday I, along with colleagues, attended the funeral of Sapper Darren Smith. Sapper Darren Smith was a committed, passionate, unassuming soldier, father and husband. His priority in life was his family and, after that, the Army. Smithy was 26 years old. He was born on 16 November 1984 in Adelaide, South Australia. As a student he was a very successful sportsman, especially in soccer and cricket.

Sapper Smith’s military career commenced as part of the Army Reserve when he enlisted on 29 November 2001. He completed recruit training at Kapooka in January 2002, serving as part of 3rd Field Squadron in South Australia. Sapper Smith went on to complete his combat engineer suite of courses in 2004 and he became part of the Australian Regular Army when he was posted to 1 CER in October 2004. He completed a number of driver courses, up to heavy vehicle and armoured personnel carrier level. While at 1 CER he successfully completed his explosive detection dog handler course in December 2006.

Sapper Smith was posted to 2 CER in January 2009. He demonstrated an aptitude for promotion and completed the junior leader course in November 2008. His deployment as a part of MTF1 was his first military operation. He deployed in March 2010 as a replacement dog handler to support relief out-of-country leave for other sappers in country. However, while in Afghanistan his deployment was extended due to the requirement for further dog handlers. As a part of his tour he has been awarded the Australian Active Service Medal with the International Campaign against Terrorism clasp, the NATO Service Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

Sapper Smith was married to Angela and he leaves behind a 2½-year-old son, Mason. Both Angela and Mason live in Brisbane, although Angela was originally from Adelaide. He met Angela while serving at 1 CER in Darwin. Many of his friends have commented that he was an excellent father and husband who was always there for his immediate family. Sapper Smith’s son, Mason, has a very close resemblance to his father.

Sapper Smith was a quiet achiever, but an achiever nonetheless. He had a true love of and dedication to dog handling and during his career he looked after three explosive detection dogs, Mandy, Buster and Herbie. He loved each of them dearly and treated them with care. During 2007-8 the regiment and the corps very much admired his dedication and work with Herbie in order to assist his rehabilitation after the dog sustained an injury. Sapper Smith represented his country on Exercise Longlook in the United Kingdom and worked with British dog handlers. He also met with the Queen. He was instrumental in initiating buried hides training in the Army, including sketches and diagrams for consideration. Sapper Smith made his own leashes in order to be more efficient. He was always at work early in the day and late in the evening, caring for his explosive detection dog. He spent extra time with his dogs to ensure they were up to standard. When it looked like Herbie was going to be scrapped as a working dog, Sapper Smith spent even further time caring for him and working with the vets to ensure that that dog could meet certification requirements and eventually be allowed to deploy.

Sapper Smith was an excellent soldier, a great father and a wonderful husband. He will be greatly missed by his family, his regiment and his Army. Our deepest and sincerest condolences go out to Angela Smith, 2½-year-old Mason and Darren’s father, Graeme, and indeed to all of their friends. During the eulogy Dallas Livermore read a poem that he wrote for Darren, entitled Heroes. It is a very moving poem.

Angela Smith put out a statement which encapsulated Darren’s life:

Tomorrow we’ll farewell Darren with a celebration of his life. Family, friends and Darren’s mates will gather at the Marist Brothers Chapel, and we’ll remember all the Darrens we knew—the devoted father of Mason, my loving husband, a son who made his family proud, a dedicated and very professional soldier, a great mate, and a larrikin with a wicked sense of humour and mischief, but a man who would do anything for anybody, no matter what the cost.

Darren had an uncanny empathy with the dogs he cared for, taught and worked with. He had developed strong ideas on training, and also the welfare of the Explosive Detection Dogs. We often talked about his ideas and what he would like to have seen done to improve training and conditions, and I’m going to work as best I can to make sure Darren’s dreams come true.

The last 10 days have been a huge ordeal for all of us, and I’d like to offer some thanks on behalf of Mason, Darren’s dad Graeme, and the rest of our families.

A big thank you to all our friends who have rallied around and supported us, to members of the community who felt Darren’s loss and our pain; to the Army family which Darren was so proud to be a member of, in particular his unit the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment.

Thank you to the Defence Community Organisation, and also thank you to the Australian Defence Force media who worked hard to maintain our privacy and respect.

Our future will now be very different, and it won’t be easy.

During the funeral, Angela got up and read a poem that meant a lot to her. It was Stop All the Clocks, Cut Off the Telephone by WH Auden:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

His father, Graeme, spoke at the eulogy about the early days with Darren when Darren made a decision to become a soldier. He said:

He got in the back of the car and the first thing he said was, ‘That’s what I wanted to do.’ He said he was so proud to have served his country. Darren was a cheeky little kid, always happy. He was so much more than a son, he was my best friend. Most of all, though, he loved his wife and his son, he loved Angela with all his heart and Mason was this little ray of sunshine in his life. Darren, I loved you yesterday, today and tomorrow and I will love you forever.

During part of the eulogy, Lieutenant Colonel John Carey, the commanding officer of 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, said that, while Sapper Moerland was killed instantly, it took 20 minutes for Darren to pass. In those 20 minutes with his mates who attended to him, he spoke of his love for his wife and his child. He wanted to make sure that they knew how much he loved them. I say to his son, Mason: in the years to come, just remember that your father put you first and he worshipped the ground you walked on. To him, you were his hero and you made life worthwhile.

As Thucydides, the Ancient Greek historian and author, said:

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

Both of these sappers have always put their mates first. They say of combat engineers they are always out front. It was John Stuart Mill, the English philosopher, who said:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but I can assure this House that people like Sapper Darren Smith and Sapper Jacob Moerland do not have that problem.