Message from Commanding Officer Mentoring Task Force – 4

It has been a long journey and we have covered much ground. As you well know, our role in Afghanistan is to mentor the ANA 4th Bde and by doing so give them the skills, capabilities and confidence to continue the war against the insurgency and protect the people of Uruzgan.

We will not win the war during our deployment however we will contribute significantly to doing so in the long term. We will do this by, not focusing solely and simplistically on killing Taliban, as we all know the Afghan enigma is not that simple. We will do it by assisting the ANA to stand on their own feet and resist the cultivation of extremist terrorist organisations like Al Qedia. We must give them this opportunity at every opportunity. We must accept that at times they will get a bloody nose.  We just need to make sure it never gets broken. This is why we are going to war!

Building skills, capabilities and confidence and standing back to give the ANA the opportunities to use them will be our greatest challenge and does not come without risk. In particular over the last few months there has been much talk about rouge ANA soldiers turning on their Australian mentors. It is a fact that the people of Afghanistan have grown up with extreme violence. If they have a serious dispute they cant ring the Army Fair Go Hotline. In some rare circumstances a rouge individual may resolve a dispute or a grievance – be it real or perceived, with an AK47.

The important thing for us to remember is that the critical majority of 4 Bde soldiers and officers are horrified that in recent time three of their own have turned on their Australian mentors. They can not believe it and they are sickened by it. So now is not the time to take a step back from the ANA, but to take a step forward and continue to increase our relationship with them. We need to work more closely with the ANA soldiers and officers so that we can build trust, and together identify rouge individuals and deal with them appropriately.

We must also never forget that we are guests in the people of Afghanistan’s ancient country, and as guests we must be aware, tolerant and respectful of their culture and traditions. Never disrespect the Afghan soldiers or people for they have a proud history and we are in their country. Remember this always as it also applies to our enemy. If he chooses to fight us, then we will not hesitate to destroy him. But, if you capture him or he surrenders, he is no longer a direct combatant and is now under your protection, so treat your prisoners properly, with respect and make sure no harm comes to them.

Ladies and gentlemen we are going to war and there are some standing among us who will become casualties during our deployment. It is my intention that we all come home alive, however that may not be possible and if one or some of us fall then they and their families will be looked after with great respect and dignity. I ask you not to be naïve, and while on leave make sure you prepare yourself and your families and make peace with those you need to. Our first casualty is standing here now, possibly thinking it wont happen to me.

That said the training we have had has been outstanding and so is the equipment we have been issued. It may not be 100% perfect but it never will be. We are ready for this job and we will deploy as the best trained and best equipped Task Force to leave Australian shores. Don’t forget that the eyes of those that have gone before us, the Army and the Australian people are upon us. Ours is a huge responsibility, but provided we apply our training we will perform magnificently.

Lastly there are five enduring things I ask of you to remember over leave and while we are deployed:

1.            Remember the mission and keep thinking about why we are there and what our long term goals are. It will be HARD at times, but its essential.

2.            Live ‘Every soldier a mentor’. If you cant mentor directly then do it by supporting others and setting an excellent example for the ANA.

3.            Maintain normal and professional standards in all matters – it dosnt matter if its dress and bearing or the execution of a counter ambush drill – don’t be weak, go HARD and don’t ever let the standards drop.

4.            Promote the professional reputation of the Australian soldier. Don’t forget we are in a coalition environment and our reputation as soldiers will be based on our actions. Remember if you compromise our security or reputation by your actions then you have been weak and I will send you home to live with that shame.

5.            Lastly, go HARD on your PT over leave. You can’t let the standards that you have achieved with your physical preparation to decline. So keep working!

That’s all from me, and this is the last time I will address you all together until we get home next year, enjoy your leave, stay safe, and good luck next year.

Kahlil Fegan

Lieutenant Colonel

Commanding Officer Mentoring Task Force – 4