David is seen in this photo taken in Afghanistan's Surobi District during a 2013 deployment.
David served in the Australian Army, specifically the Infantry, for almost 25 years. He spent most of his time in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, a parachute regiment.
David deployed on several peacekeeping, training and warfighting operations throughout his service. Here are some of his memories from a couple of those deployments:
- In late 2000, I deployed as a peacekeeper with the Multi-national Force and Observers (MFO) whose task it is to monitor the Egyptian – Israeli Border. My rank at this time was Major and my specific role was as the Security and Force Protection Officer which made me responsible for the security of some 2,500 personnel from the U.S., France, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Uruguay and Fiji. This role saw me visiting some fairly unique and amazing sites in and around the Sinai Desert, Egypt and Israel.
- In 2013, for pretty much the entire calendar year, I deployed to Afghanistan as a mentor to the Afghan Special Police, the premier first response counter terrorism force of that country. My rank was Lieutenant Colonel and I was the J7 Training, responsible for two national Counter-Terrorism training schools teaching tactics, techniques and procedures to Afghan Special Forces police. I also oversaw the training of Afghan units by members of NATO Special Forces. I was mainly in Kabul but visited many out of the way provinces, including Tarin Kowt a couple of times where the Australian Task Force was.
Today, David is based in Canberra and is a Program Manager for Leidos Australia. Here are more details on his service and his thoughts on being a veteran:
Who or what inspired you to serve?
I was inspired by the ANZAC [Australian and New Zealand Army Corps] tradition. I remember in 1975 the school I was at being visited by an original ANZAC as part of the 60 year anniversary. I was in the cubs, scouts and cadets before joining the army and going through the Royal Military College Duntroon. I also had a great-uncle who served in the New Guinea campaign with 6 Division during the Wewak Campaign in New Guinea in 1945 and who worked closely with the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ which I thought was pretty cool.
When you think back on your service, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Driving around Kabul, Afghanistan — sometimes lost, or flying in helicopters out to the outlying training areas that were really remote and exposed because of the draw-down that was occurring at the time. It was all very difficult to organise, manage and coordinate any movements, especially with a multinational group of operators and interpreters. You were constantly on edge moving about.
What was your proudest moment as a veteran?
I got the opportunity to visit Anzac Cove in 2001 with a group of soldiers during a break in service and spent quality time walking all over the battlefields that we all know; Anzac Cove, Lone Pine, the Nek, etc. Very humbling. Someone suggested reciting The Ode at the site of the Battle of Lone Pine — very moving.
Who influenced you the most during your time in the service, and why?
I struggle to recall any specific person during my service, many leaders and instructors came in and out across my entire career. Oddly I would have to say then that I was most influenced by ‘the Australian soldier’ who are collectively the most impressive, capable, difficult, quirky, funny, demanding and at times irreverent group you would ever care to meet.
What do you miss most about your time in service?
Working in an environment where you knew automatically that everyone around you was well trained — otherwise they wouldn’t be there — and who you knew would see the job through, no matter how long it takes, no matter what it takes. I’ve certainly worked with other dedicated folks but with the ADF, that’s the start point.
How did your service change you?
People say you are never the same after you have served on wartime operations and I agree. There is something about the extremes you are exposed to, the situations you face and the decisions you make which become etched in your memory. I heard someone say that that they think of the war every day and that is absolutely true. As a result you get this inbuilt ‘compass’ that tells you what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s important and what isn’t. This might come across as me being a little more cynical or grumpy at times but when you see someone on a reality cooking show say something like ‘making this risotto will be the biggest challenge of my life!’ you can only raise your eyebrows and think ‘oh really?’
What does being a veteran mean to you?
There is sort of a club mentality which binds veterans together, young and old, men and women. You feel a responsibility of instilling in others the same sense of duty you felt that will someday help them step up when their country needs them, be it serving in the military or serving in some other capacity (e.g. police, emergency services, medical professional, etc.).
What’s something you want people to know about veterans, that they might not know or realize?
Two things. The first is the significant number of veterans under, say 35. We all assume veterans are grey, be-meddled old folks. It’s not the case anymore and these young veterans need our support and recognition also. My wife was surprised by a get-together one ANZAC Day a few years ago when one of my son’s friends was revealed as a veteran — he was like 25 years old — but my wife and others just hadn’t really considered he was attending because he was a veteran.
The second is the very serious issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s very real! I worked very closely with a number of people exhibiting extreme symptoms of PTSD and the effects can be quite confronting to say the least. The ADF, while it now tries to prevent and handle the consequences of sending people into operations, did not do enough initially to head off the onset of this condition and so we now all need to work hard to address it.
The Leidos Editorial Team consists of communications and marketing employees, contributing partner organizations, and dedicated freelance designers, editors, and writers.
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