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Diggers return home from Afghanistan.



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THE HON JOEL FITZGIBBON MP Minister for Defence

www.defence.gov.au

Thursday, 23 October 2008 137/2008

DIGGERS RETURN HOME FROM AFGHANISTAN

Reconstruction Task Force 4 (RTF 4) soldiers have begun returning home to Australia after a six-month tour, battling heat and dust, while working with the local community to improve provincial infrastructure.

The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, said the soldiers’ efforts in such difficult and dangerous conditions were greatly appreciated.

“I commend each and every one of these soldiers for their achievements and the progress they have made in promoting a more stable and secure Afghanistan.

“I would also like to thank the families and friends of these soldiers, for their ongoing support and care during their loved ones’ deployment.”

RTF 4 Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Yeaman, said his troops were proud of their work and glad to be home with family and friends.

“The soldiers have performed brilliantly and they should be very proud of what they have achieved in dangerous and extremely arduous conditions,” he said.

During the tour, which began in April of this year, RTF 4 pushed deep into the former Taliban stronghold of the Baluchi Valley, denying the area to the Taliban and building a major patrol base - Patrol Base Qudus.

The RTF also deployed on an 800km short-notice operation to re-open Highway One from Kandahar to the capital Kabul, countering a Taliban ambush on the way, and creating the conditions for a major ISAF operation to install a new turbine at the Kajaki Dam.

The Engineers, with Infantry and Cavalry support, carried out $9.1 million worth of major and minor projects in the Tarin Kowt area, including Patrol Base Qudus and an all-weather river crossing, a school and a bazaar in the Baluchi Pass.

“Everything we did was undertaken with the cooperation and engagement of the local people, and it is a tribute to the Diggers’ military skills, and cultural sensitivity, that we have provided the environment for a permissive area where genuine progress is now being made for the local people,” Lieutenant Colonel Yeaman said.

RTF 4 has handed over responsibility for its area of responsibility to the 1st Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF 1) which began its eight-month tour on 16 October 2008.

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