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Army October 15, 2009
CDF ACM Angus Houston has written
to The Australian in response to that
newspaper's page 1 article on September
26 entitled "The 83 injured diggers who
became invisible". This is what he wrote:
I TAKE issue with your inaccurate
reporting that the ADF is deliber-
ately trying to hide the number
of ADF personnel wounded in
Afghanistan and the seriousness
of their wounds.
As I have said publicly many
times as CDF, it is my intention
to be as open and transparent with
the Australian public and media as
possible, without compromising
the security of our troops and our
The ADF makes no apology for
protecting the privacy of soldiers
who have been seriously wounded.
It is our belief that in such circum-
stances the health and recovery of
the wounded person must be the
number one priority.
Of those who have been seri-
ously wounded in Afghanistan, the
majority have been from Special
Forces. These soldiers have pro-
tected identity status and the exact
nature of their missions cannot be
disclosed. Regardless, it is ADF pol-
icy to report to the Australian public
incidents in which personnel are
wounded as a result of enemy action
and we provide the media the lat-
est figures on how many Australian
soldiers have been wounded in
Afghanistan since 2005.
"Silence" is not the official poli-
cy, as your paper reports.
Most of our people and their
families do not want media intru-
sion at a time when focusing on
recovery from life-threatening
wounds is paramount. To hold a
media conference around a hos-
pital bed at such a time would be
In time, those wounded in battle
may wish to share their stories pub-
licly and some do. This, however,
is a very personal decision and a
choice that the ADF has no right to
Whether someone tells their
story or not, does not diminish the
selfless sacrifice they have made or
the tremendous respect we have for
all of them.
CDF ACM Angus Houston
THE photo with the story "150th
birthday bash" (Army, October 1)
refers to "a World War II-era Ferret
Unfortunately, this is historically
inaccurate. The Ferret scout car was
developed by the British after World
War II and adopted in the '50s by
the Australian Army. Ferrets were
manufactured well into the '60s and
were last used by the British in the
first Gulf War.
Even though they were still in
service with the Australian Army
during the '60s they were not, so
far as I have been able to determine,
used in Vietnam.
I do not recall when they were
taken out of service from the
Australian Army but it was certainly
President of the Tablelands Military
Vehicle Club Inc
I RECEIVED the signal regarding sol-
diers' safety and its relation to alcohol
I was heartened to see CA making
excessive drinking a command and force
capability issue. Can I say that Army
needs to get to the cause.
I am not embarrassed to admit that
I have problems with drinking and the
risky behaviour that comes with that. It
has impacted my work, family and self
But after many years I now know
the cause of my behaviour and I am
This, however, is no thanks to the
Army. It was not until I discharged from
the regular Army that I was finally diag-
nosed with PTSD and I got the sup-
port I needed through the Veterans and
Veterans Families Counselling Service
(VVCS) and Vet Affairs.
Knowing what I know now, I think
mental health issues are a very large
contributor to alcohol abuse and misuse.
The Defence Force needs to do what
it did for equity 15 years ago. The poli-
cies are getting there but the services
and understanding at the grass-roots
level is not.
The policies are only addressing
the most severe and obvious cases. Too
many people are, as CA put it, slipping
through the cracks.
I don't think punishing people for
DUI etc is the answer. There needs to
be a code of conduct (like footy play-
ers), education (CO's hours), a cultur-
al change. We need to be prepared to
"bench" people who have a problem.
However, I don't think there should
be a name and shame aspect. There
needs to be "drink tanks" in Townsville
and Darwin so people can dry out
locally and get the support they need.
Families need to be able to get involved
(see VVCS programs).
Recently I heard of a CO who took
a soldier off an overseas trip for going
DUI. This sent a clear message -- "don't
get caught" not "don't binge drink".
Generally soldiers join the Army
without drinking and mental health
problems but many leave with one or
the other or both.
Name and unit withheld
AS A parent of the Caves State
School, I would like to express my
sincere thanks to the Army person-
nel who attended the Caves State
School for an Army display and for
our sports carnival.
I was at the sports day and was
very moved by the generosity of
spirit displayed by the Army men
and women. Whether they were
encouraging a race leader, or jog-
ging beside the last to cross the line,
they made each child feel that they
had to give their very best.
I am grateful for the time that
these men and women gave and I
would like to congratulate them on
being wonderful role models with
an obvious community spirit and
pride in their roles in the Australian
I only wish that more people
could have witnessed these sports
games and realise that the Army and
its people are not only about war
The Caves, Queensland
RSM-A WO Stephen Ward responds:
THANKS for highlighting this issue.
You raise a very valid point about
how Army is trying to deal with the
issue of alcohol and mental health as
There is a great deal of research and
improvement to education programs and
policy being conducted in this area at
the moment. New policy is being devel-
oped, indeed some has already been
introduced, to enable our Commanders
to better manage our workforce when
these issues arise.
I congratulate and support you in
your efforts for admitting to yourself
that you have an alcohol-related issue
and that you have sought assistance.
We encourage all soldiers to take
carriage of their wellbeing by seeking
help when and where it is required.
Gradually we are educating command-
ers and their soldiers that having these
types of issues, and the risky behaviour
associated with it, is like any type of
health problem and needs to be man-
Additionally, there are plans to
develop a comprehensive Department
of Veterans Affairs support process for
those who require such assistance after
separation from the ADF.
VVCS is now an integral part of our
In order to care for those that have a
health problem related to alcohol abuse,
the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs
Service (ATODS) has established formal
links with external provider agencies in
local areas. Referrals to these expert
providers can be arranged through the
senior medical officer in the area.
The chain of command is a primary
resource that can provide advice, refer-
ral and support. COs are responsible for
managing those who require treatment.
Alcohol abuse and its consequenc-
es and how to treat it is an education
process that we keep chipping away
at. Personnel who present to work and
show signs of either alcohol- or drug-
related consumption are to be managed
according to extant policy. This may
result in removal from an AO, etc to
ensure the safety of others and/or sub-
sequent administrative or disciplinary
action. However, in conjunction with
this, commanders are to also support
and assist personnel in relation to any
personal and/or medical issues related
to the incident.
need Army's help Inaccurate reporting
Ferreting out the facts
Thank you good sports
Responsible drinking: Soldiers in Afghanistan share stories and a beer on
Photo by Capt Haydn Barlow
HOW TO HAVE
Preference is given to
letters under 300 words.
All letter writers must
include their name, unit,
location and contact
number for purposes of
Letters might be
rejected if they are too
long, abusive or can be
answered by the author's
Efforts will be made to
seek official responses,
where appropriate, but
responses are not guar-
Email letters to
or mail them to Army
Russell Offices, Canberra
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