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New role for diggers in Afghanistan.



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THE HON JOEL FITZGIBBON MP Minister for Defence

www.defence.gov.au

Tuesday, 21 October 2008 134/2008

NEW ROLE FOR DIGGERS IN AFGHANISTAN

The latest rotation of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan has begun operations in Oruzgan Province, the Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, announced today.

The 1st Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF 1), formed by the Darwin-based 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment Battle Group, took over from the 4th Reconstruction Task Force (RTF 4) in Tarin Kowt on 16 October 2008.

“The handover marks a new chapter for the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan, with a new focus on building the capacity of the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan Province,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“It forms part of Australia’s coordinated approach in Oruzgan Province of disrupting extremists, building infrastructure and increasing the capacity of the Afghan Army.

“The Government of Australia is proud of the efforts of all Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan. I would also like to thank the soldiers of the RTF 4 for their hard work in a dangerous environment.”

MRTF 1 Diggers have trained hard for the deployment with a series of exercises in Australia. They have also taken part in several joint operations with their RTF 4 colleagues, patrolling in the former Taliban strongholds of the East and West Dorafshan and the provincial capital Tarin Kowt.

Commanding Officer MRTF 1, Lieutenant Colonel Shane Gabriel, told the formal handover parade that his soldiers had a new focus.

“It is now our responsibility to move forward and conduct our two main tasks: to mentor the Afghan National Army, and to continue the outstanding work conducted so-far on reconstruction, both of which are the hallmarks of an effective counter-insurgency campaign,” Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel said.

Departing RTF 4 Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Yeaman, said his troops were extremely proud of their work, rebuilding the remote and dangerous Oruzgan Province, and were glad to be going home.

“This has been a remarkable six months; we spent 147 out of 186 days on major operations in difficult field conditions, not only dominating the Taliban but delivering major benefits to the people of Oruzgan Province and beyond,” he said.

Media note: Vision of MRTF 1 will be fed to the Federal Press Gallery at 3:00pm. Imagery will be available for download from www.defence.gov.au/media/download.

Media contacts: Christian Taubenschlag (Joel Fitzgibbon): 02 6277 7800 or 0438 595 567 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664