Pollies' fly-in visit to Afghanistan
FEDERAL Member for Oxley Milton Dick recently travelled to the Middle East where he took part in the Defence Force Parliamentary Program.
He had the opportunity to see first-hand the conditions which our defence force personnel work in every day, as well as see all the work they are doing to bring peace to the region. Mr Dick spoke about his journey.
Q: You recently travelled to the Middle East where you spent time with the Australian Defence Force. When did you go and how long were you there for?
A: As part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program, I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to spend nine days in the Middle East from July 4-13.
This included spending time at bases in the Middle East and Afghanistan with the men and women of the Australian Defence Force to see the amazing work they do. The experience has left me with even greater respect for our defence force personnel and the incredible sacrifices they make to serve our great country.
Q: You weren't the only parliamentary member to go. How many other politicians went, and was this a tax payer or self-funded trip?
A: The ADF Parliamentary Program offers in a bipartisan manner for Members of Parliament from both the House of Representatives and the Senate the opportunity to experience the work of Australian Defence Force personnel. I was joined by Andrew Wallace MP, Madeline King MP, The Hon. David Feeney MP, Matt Keogh MP, Stephen Jones MP for the duration of the trip who all participated in the activities alongside me.
Q: What was the purpose of your trip to the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan?
A: We travelled to the Middle East and Kabul, Afghanistan, to experience the day-to-day life of deployed Australian Defence Force personnel. There are about 1,700 ADF personnel deployed to the Middle East region.
Our defence force personnel remain actively involved in advising, assisting and training Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq, training and advising the Afghan National Defence Security Forces in Afghanistan and maritime security operations throughout the region.
Q: During your visit there, what did you see and do with our serving Australians?
A: In the Middle East, we were given an overview from the Joint Movements Control Office along with briefings about intelligence and communications security during our trip.
This was extended on the second and third day's to include a strategic overview of the region and activities focussed on body armour, hazard awareness training and weapon handling.
We also had the opportunity to participate in a Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) (Bushmaster) familiarisation, including a drive through of the training area with our serving troops. On the fourth day of the trip, our group took an C130 aircraft to Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai International Airport where we were welcomed by Commander - Brigadier Michael Prictor. During our time in Afghanistan we were given an insight to troop operations as well as receiving briefs about the current and future work of the defence force in the country.
We also visited the Afghan National Army Officer Academy where we saw local training base activity.
Q: You have been to a region which has experienced turmoil and war. What were your thoughts and feelings about being there?
A: I was incredibly proud to see fellow Australians making a real difference to the people of Afghanistan. Alongside other nations Australia has been a leader in helping to provide long term stability in a very dangerous region.
I was reminded of the sacrifice some defence force personnel make and the 41 Australians who have lost their lives.
Q: What impressed you the most about our serving military members?
A: Above all else it was clear to see the professionalism and commitment of our serving personnel on display 24/7. Our troops are the best in the world who are incredibly dedicated to serving our country.
In our community there are many Australian Defence Force families and it must be tough to be separated from loved ones.
Q: During your visit, was there any stage you felt unsafe or nervous?
: Prior to the trip I have to be honest and say there were certainly some nerves, but these were quickly put at ease once we arrived in the Middle East.
The safety of our troops is absolutely paramount in all situations and this carried through to our group who felt safe throughout the trip. However, it was clear to see that our troops work in very dangerous conditions and put their lives at risk every day.
Q: Have you spoken to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten about your experience?
A: Yes, I've spoken with Bill about the experience and how much it meant to me.
On previous occasions I have heard Bill speak of his own experience in the Middle East and the amazing work undertaken by these men and women.
Q: Now you have seen and experienced what our men and women are doing overseas, what is the next step for our government and the Defence Force?
A: Any time our defence personnel are in active service, the great bipartisan cooperation between opposition and government will always continue to support our troops.