This is what winning feels like…

This is what winning feels like:- Quiet exultation, tinged with bittersweet sadness. 

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My latest article on fighting order evoked some very interesting responses on one of the Facebook pages I posted it on. 

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Doctrinally, a lot of my ideas are now out of date for the Australian army. In fact, the army has now adopted the Fight Light concept in a huge way. 

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I can’t and won’t claim full credit for this. But I will say that a group I was working with a few years ago (starting before I joined them in 2005) were instrumental in influencing these changes. 

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This discovery makes me feel like a washed-up has-been…..but for all the right reasons. And it’s a wonderful feeling. 

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I’ve been out of the loop awhile now with regards to the service due to real life. 

Job loss, arrival of children, job loss again, my marriage imploding, and just for a change – some more job loss. 

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I first started traveling this path back in 2005 because of the pioneering work of the discussion forums Military Kit Review (MKR) and its successor Fire Support Base (FSB).

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Much criticism of ADF (Australian Defence Force) procurement practices was made at the time. Given the gag order that most serving members are forced to live under, this led to some severe consequences for many who dared to speak out about the deficiencies in personal combat equipment such as body armour, boots, packs and other essentials to a soldiers continued survival and comfort.

There were a lot of systemic issues within the ADF and Defence Materials Organization at the time. The issues were many, with a lot of inappropriate behavior for a government organization.

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Many of you who have “fought the green” know what it’s like to raise issues and call their baby ugly. The system reacts badly to anyone that doesn’t toe the party line. 

In fact, it’s still a point of pride that the ADF’s first social media policy was formulated specifically to shut us up. 

How bad was the reaction from the army towards these allegations?

 

There were two types of reaction from the Green Machine: 

 

The first response was systemic. The army has a system of product feedback to improve upon in-service equipment, referred to as RODUM’s. At one stage, all submitted RODUM’s for personal equipment were deleted, shredded, mis-directed or simply ignored. Any serving member that dared to submit them would be put through the wringer and suffer negative impacts upon their career. 

In addition, on their tours of units and establishments around the country, a great many of our senior leadership deliberately ignored and disregarded any questions or enquiries the troops had on these issues. 

The second response was a more sinister and personal attack on whistle-blowers. 

 

The original founding member of MKR (C/S Jumpmaster, aka Dayne Simmons) was forced out of the Army – not because of his performance or mindset, but because he had dared ask questions and seek accountability for government processes and procedures. This happens to be a right of any citizen in our nation. Dayne has suffered a great deal mentally and physically, partly because of his service, and partly because of the way he was treated by the service. 

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Other members of MKR and FSB also had their careers and families threatened.

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I was a civilian working in underground coal mining when a Brigadier called my employer and suggested I wasn’t suitable as an employee because of what I was doing. My boss was used to skulduggery from the unions and shot back that anyone who was willing to do what was right, no matter the consequences – was precisely the sort of employee he wanted. 

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A large misappropriation of Commonwealth assets and resources were expended in an attempt to gag my old mentor Bill Stoate (C/S Caligula) when he setup Fire Support Base to take over the reins from Dayne and Mil Kit Review. Considering that old Bill was 100% Totally Permanently Incapacitated (in a wheelchair sucking on an oxygen bottle) due to his service in Vietnam, it was the height of irony that he ran rings around his opponents, often completely outmanoeuvring them. I shudder to think how much more effective he would have been if his health had been better. 

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It was my old mentor Bill who crystallised the campaign to instigate meaningful change into the ADF procurement systems and operational mindset. He formulated, commenced and executed a multi-pronged campaign. For the first time in this country, a man of the old school used new technology (social media) to influence the ADF. 

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He also supervised a behind the scenes effort to get position papers, statements of requirements and white papers for equipment and processes into the ADF about his analysed requirements. These documents were submitted at Ministerial level, often through influential ADF units to circumvent the obstructionist corporate culture found in the ADF. 

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Involved parties were from all walks of life, all Corps, mustering and ratings. Full time or part time, currently serving or ex-serving. We even had commercial and industry representatives. The effort involved anyone that had relevant knowledge to add. 

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In the classical words of continuous improvement methodology: all stakeholders were consulted. 

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Of course, when a hidebound organization decides to dig in its heels, not much is achieved. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the army vehemently resisted all suggested changes from the troops every step of the way. 

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As we’re all aware, experience in the military is often bought and paid for with blood. It was our hope with Fire Support Base to reduce the cost to our people by shortening that processing time. 

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I’m pretty chuffed that most of the concepts we and so many others started working on in 2005 have been formally adopted. It’s now considered old-hat. 

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It’s absolutely brilliant that this has occurred. 

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There are some lessons to be learned from this whole sorry affair. Primary amongst them is that meaningful change can be effected. But it requires true moral courage. A clear vision and self-determination of what is right must be maintained. 

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In any other country, Dayne and Bill would receive medals for their work, for their unstinting service to the betterment of others. In this country, they were just two broken down veterans, their glory times separated by a lifetime and different worlds. Their common bonds were a belonging to the same Battalion at different points in history. Their biggest bond was a common belief to look after their mates and ensure better outcomes their tribe. Both of these men sacrificed a lot for those simple, lofty ideals that we call mateship. They believed vehemently in looking after their fellow Diggers. 

I played a very small part it in all, but I wouldn’t have given any of it up for the world.

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It’s a comfort now, as I gain maturity and turn into a grumpy old fart, that I have served my country in two ways:

• One, as a soldier in the ADF. 

• The second in helping to instigate meaningful change into our systems to reduce injury, misery and lost lives. 

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It’s a comfort to look my kids in the eye and tell them that some things in this world are worthy of sacrifice. I can tell them honestly that it’s worth doing the right thing, no matter what. 

Not everyone will understand what was done for them, and that’s ok too. 

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I’m a Nigel Nobody in this industry, but I was blessed to walk in the shadow of giants. 

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I’m headed out for some bushwalking next week. I’m planning partaking of a wee dram of the good stuff for a celebratory toast (or two, or ten) with a patrol mate accompanied in spirit by a dead man who didn’t live to see his goals achieved. 

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We’ve done it boys…. we’ve won. 

Here’s to Old Faithful.

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Forward! 


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