Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No shame in army's role, says chief

AUSTRALIAN Army chief Peter Leahy has moved to reassure infantry troops frustrated that they are not seeing enough combat.
The exclusion of Australia's infantry troops from frontline conflicts, including in Iraq, has left many feeling "ashamed of wearing their Australian uniform", Army Major Jim Hammett has written.
The infantry, which makes up about a third of the army's combat forces, had not been assigned offensive actions since the Vietnam War and the special forces were seeing all the combat, he wrote.
In a separate article cited by Fairfax newspapers, Captain Greg Colton, second in command of the Sydney-based 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, said infantry morale had
deteriorated in the past 10 years as regular infantry units were given only "second-rate operational tasks".
Lieutenant General Leahy today said infantry soldiers in his army had every reason to be proud of themselves but he was aware of some frustrations.
"I've travelled around on visits to our deployments, these are some views that I have got, and I must say they are not ones I share entirely because what we've seen is a changing nature of war," he told ABC radio.
"This is no longer infantry wearing red jackets and white cross straps, taking on the army of another king.
"What we're seeing now is that we're required to work in different populations to work to protect, to support and persuade.
"And the important work that our infantry are doing in the Solomon Islands, in East Timor, and other places, gives us a clear indication of that."
Lt Gen Leahy said he understood some soldiers wanted "a bit more of a go", but they had to understand war had changed.
"I know that the infantry have real basic skills, that they can do that traditional role of seek ... and kill and destroy.
"But we're not asking for that at the moment, that's not the environment we're in.


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