BOMB training, emergency medical training and wearing body armour were all part of a 10-day visit to the Middle East for Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis.
Mrs Sudmalis has just returned from the trip as part of a parliamentary program, saying it was a life inspiring experience.
Along with five other MPs, she visited various Coalition positions, including Camp Baird, Australia’s main command and logistics base in the Middle East, as well as a trip into war-torn Afghanistan.
She said the program gave her a first-hand experience of life with the ADF in the Middle East region and our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We travelled from Australia with a new deployment rotation and some personnel returning from leave,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
“It was inspiring and brought home to me exactly what Australia is doing over there to ultimately help world peace, which is amazing.
“Australians are doing such a good job. We got to see what our personnel do every day and their role is brilliant.
“We went through training with newly deployed personnel.
“For two and a half days we sat in on the briefings and activities they did. We saw the same images they did. Did the same training for incoming bombs and were taught how to quickly and safely apply a tourniquet. Sixty one per cent of deaths in Afghanistan are due to blast injuries and people bleeding out, so learning how to apply a tourniquet quickly can save someone’s life.
“Wearing up to 17 kilograms of body armour everywhere while in Afghanistan was also a new experience.”
The trip included a visit to ‘Duntroon in the Dust’, a training facility where Australian personnel are training Afghan officers.
“It is well known Coalition troops possibly pulled out of other conflicts too early and left a void in capacity. We are making sure the same error doesn’t happen in Afghanistan,” she said.
She said our troops were making “great progress”, especially in training Afghan personnel.
“There is a much greater level of confidence with army officers. I met one Afghan company officer who had graduated from training under Australians and is now instructing his own forces. The whole idea is to engender confidence in their forces to eventually be a self containing system.”
She said Afghanistan was like a totally different world.
“The trip put a lot of things in perspective for me,” she said.
“The task of a politician is often to try and resolve issues for a single person. At a national level we have to look at and deal with international responsibilities. It is quite a contrast.
“The time spent in the Middle East was inspiring, eye-opening, patriotic and humbling. Our professional and dedicated personnel are a completely sincere representation of all our best national characteristics.
“The opportunity to speak directly, not only to the senior officers, but also to those serving members responsible for logistics, communication, ordinance, training and intelligence is so important. It enables me to communicate any issue brought up in conversation to the Minister for Defence.”
While not commenting on how long our commitment to Afghanistan would continue, Mrs Sudmalis said Australia had committed extra funding to ensure better relationships are in place between Afghan police and fire services and the army.
“There is a great deal of respect for Australia for its commitment and the aid it has provided,” she said.
“There is no point providing millions of dollars if the country doesn’t have a stable secure nation that can’t support humanitarian organisations.
“It is a delicate balance of humanitarian and security and you can’t have one without the other.
“I have a great deeper understanding of its importance now.
“Our presence probably won’t be a short term thing but through our ability the Afghans are moving things in the same direction.
“We haven’t got a huge force over there - it’s in the hundreds.”
But the longer Australia’s involvement in the region goes on the question of support for returning veterans increases.
“It is a big issue, how we will look after our veterans once they return from service,” she said.
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an issue and our government bought in an uncapped level of counselling for our returned service men and women in 2014.
“Our men and women are unbelievably tough. For them to admit they may have an issue is quite a big step. Some stuff they see is extraordinary.”