Friday, March 25, 2005

More than Willing 

A nice perspective from the southern end of the Coalition of the Willing, as 450 Australian infantrymen are preparing to deploy to work with the British and the Japanese forces on securing and reconstructing the southern Iraq:
"Roger Noble, the battle-hardened commander of 450 troops who will leave soon for Iraq, has a problem. 'More of my soldiers want to go than are going. They are pushing at the doors,' he says. "The blokes that are going are as happy as Larry [Australian colloquialism for "very happy"] - they are keen to go and do the job.'

"Why would anybody want to leave Australia for Iraq's desert, an inhospitable place where temperatures can reach 50 degrees, fierce sandstorms turn day into night and terrorists may try to blow you up?

"Lance Corporal Jason Lane says he would have been disappointed if he had not been selected to go because he sees himself as a professional soldier and 'it's what we do... and those who consider themselves professional see going to Iraq as their duty in much the same away as a doctor sees it as his or her duty to treat patients'...

" 'Many people in the defence force consider themselves patriots - there's a strong patriotic element in the defence force today,' he says. 'When I joined in the early 1990s it wasn't so visible. But now there is a sense of pride in what we have achieved in East Timor and Iraq. And people want to be part of that. In sporting analogy it's being on the winning team'...

"Trooper Clint Gordon, 20, says he is thrilled to be going because he set himself a goal years ago to serve his country, just as his great-grandfather did in the First World War and other family members since. 'It's all about being proud to be on an Australian team,' he says. 'I'm wearing the Australian colours and I'm serving my country. It's what I have always wanted to do.'

"Steven Nightingall, 38, made a dramatic lifestyle change four years ago when he quit working as a solicitor in Melbourne and joined the army. Now a lance corporal, he says he would have been disappointed if he had missed Iraq. 'It's like being a professional rugby player - you don't want to sit on the bench,' he says. 'It's good to be going overseas together to do what we are trained to do.'

"Private Benton Hyde, 20, from Wollongong, says he 'can't wait' to go. 'It's what I joined the army for,' he says. 'I've only been a soldier for 12 months but I have worked hard. It's exciting to go over there with your mates to help out the people of another country so they can get back to controlling themselves'."
Thanks, guys!

As an aside, it seems that often more than their governments, and certainly more than their fellow countrymen and women, the soldier of all nations are the ones keenest on staying in Iraq and doing their job. I remember reading report of the Spanish soldiers being angry and ashamed at being withdrawn by their government; I know that the Polish troops are very happy with their deployment, too, and if it was up to the Polish top brass they would be staying in Iraq indefinitely. On the positive side of things: I'd rather stick with the principle of the civilian control of the military and not vice versa.


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