Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 9 2009 Contents 4
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The Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner,
has reaffirmed there will be no increase to Australian
troops numbers in Afghanistan at a press conference
Senator Faulkner said the major focus of his
meetings with senior US Defense officials had been
Australia's ongoing commitment with the International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
When asked about Australia’s contribution to
operations in Afghanistan, Senator Faulkner reaffirmed
that current ADF numbers were right.
“I think there is a very clear understanding and
appreciation of the fact that Australia increased the
number of troops to Afghanistan very significantly on 29
April this year,” Senator Faulkner said.
Senator Faulkner also talked of the importance of
counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, as well as
working with the local Afghan population as outlined in
US General McChrystal’s 60-day assessment.
Defence annual Report
Tabled in October, the 2008-09 Annual Report
highlighted a busy past year for Defence, which has
welcomed two new Ministers and a new Secretary in a
relatively short period of time.
Operationally, Defence continued the high-tempo
of the previous year, with 18 operations around
the world at a cost of $1 194.9 million, and a peak
contribution of 3 500 personnel.
In the financial year 2008-09 Defence again
achieved unqualified financial statements. A new
Freedom of Information and Records Management
Branch was also established to ensure that Defence is
positioned to implement a pro-disclosure culture.
The Annual Report also detailed the latest personnel
figures for Defence ADF and APS employees. The
permanent strength of the ADF increased by 1 925
people, to a total of 55 068, while the APS component
of Defence decreased by 641. Among the services Army
reported the greatest increase, with an additional 1 403
personnel, followed by 421 in Air Force and 101 in Navy.
The number of separations from the ADF also
continued to decrease, with 9.4 per cent of the military’s
force, or 5 043 leaving – 93 fewer than in 2007-08.
The Defence Annual Report is the principal formal
accountability mechanism between Defence, the
Government, and Parliament. It also provides a valuable
reference guide for Defence’s activities for the 2008-09
financial year. The full report can be found at http://
continued page 7 >
sAs dog found
after year in
An Australian Special Forces explosive
detection dog has been found alive and
well more than a year after she went
missing in action in Afghanistan.
Black Labrador “Sabi” was recovered by a
US soldier at an isolated patrol base in Oruzgan
Province, after going missing in the same
September 2008 battle during which Trooper Mark
Donaldson, VC, earned his Victoria Cross.
The ensuing media interest saw the story picked
up by agencies around the world, including in Russia
and by The Letterman Show in the United States.
Nine Australian soldiers, including Sabi’s
handler, were wounded during the fighting.
The US soldier who recovered Sabi, who
can be identified only by his first name John,
was aware that Australian Special Forces were
missing one of their explosive detection dogs. He
said it was immediately obvious that Sabi was no
“I took the dog and gave it some commands it
understood,” John said.
John said he thanked the man who was with
Sabi and shook his hand.
Sabi was then flown to Tarin Kowt to be reunited
with one of her Australian Special Forces trainers.
“I nudged a tennis ball to her with my foot and
she took it straight away,” the trainer said.
“It’s a game we used to play over and over
during her training. It’s amazing, just incredible to
have her back.”
After meeting Her Majesty the Queen in
the United Kingdom, Trooper Mark Donaldson,
VC, said Sabi’s return had closed a chapter of
their shared history.
“She’s the last piece of the puzzle,” Trooper
“Having Sabi back gives some closure for the
handler and the rest of us that served with her in
2008. It’s a fantastic morale booster for the guys.”
At the time of her disappearance, Sabi was
coming to the end of her second tour of duty in
Afghanistan, having previously deployed in 2007.
Sabi has since undergone a period of
quarantine including a veterinary assessment, and
is awaiting a decision to be made about the timing
of her return to Australia.
Two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and crew
recently have returned home after an
eight-month tour to Afghanistan.
Rotary Wing Group (RWG-4) Commanding
Officer Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Karl Hamlyn said
the tasks carried out by 60 members of the group
had been a real test of character and endurance.
“RWG personnel were confronted with
extreme heat and dust, however the aircraft and
crew were able to remain serviceable and operate
at peak performance,” LTCOL Hamlyn said.
“There’s a pretty big effort all round to move a
million pounds of cargo around Afghanistan.”
During the tour, aircraft and crew completed
more than 780 flying hours, and lifted more than
7000 passengers and more than a million pounds
(approx. 453 593 kgs) of cargo.
Lieutenant Colonel Hamlyn said the benefit
of having a high level of flight readiness was best
seen in the amount of passengers, many of whom
are Coalition forces, safely across Afghanistan.
“When put into context, that means more than
7 000 people haven’t been exposed to travelling
by road and the associated dangers of improvised
explosive devices,” LTCOL Hamlyn said.
Both aircraft were partially dismantled for the
journey back to Australia, with the first helicopter
leaving on a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 during
the last week of October.
The two medium-lift helicopters will return
to Afghanistan following the winter break to
commence operations in March next year.
The results of two studies on the health of
personnel that deployed on missions to East
Timor and Bougainville have been released.
The Bougainville Health Study included
veterans who deployed between 1997 and 2003,
while the East Timor Health Study focused on ADF
personnel who deployed between 1999 and 2005.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and
Science Greg Combet said the studies examined
mortality and cancer rates, mental health, as well as
general health and lifestyle factors.
The studies found mortality and cancer rates
for the Bougainville and East Timor veterans were
no different to the rates of personnel who did not
deploy. The study also found that there were no
significant differences in symptoms of post-
traumatic stress for East Timor and Bougainville
veterans compared to non-veterans.
Fatigue was the most common symptom
reported by veterans from both studies which is
also the most commonly reported symptom in
similar studies, both nationally and internationally.
“These results will help inform policy that will
support the health of ADF members, and identify
any need for improvement in areas of healthcare to
members post-deployment,” Mr Combet said.
The next study funded under this program will
examine the health effects of deployment to the
Middle East Area of Operations and is scheduled
to begin at the end of this year.
logistics to win
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN)
supply community has received the
national award for Excellence in People
Development at the Chartered Institute
of Logistics and Transport Australia
(CILTA) annual awards ceremony at
Newcastle in October.
Captain Steve O’Keefe and Lieutenant Jodie
Wilkinson were in attendance to accept the award
on behalf of the Navy supply community.
BeLOW: sabi and a us army CH-47 Chinook
helicopter on the flightline at Tarin Kowt.
InseT: sabi receives a long overdue bath
moments after her return to the australian
special Forces compound near Tarin Kowt in
afghanistan. Photos: CAPT Stuart Wood
aBOVe: Logistics Manager in the Capability Development Group, Lieutenant Jodie Wilkinson,
and Chief of staff at the australian Defence Force Warfare Centre, Captain steve O'Keefe, with
their national award from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport australia.
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