Chief of Army, Army Birthday Reception 2011
3 March 2011
Introduction: Protocol List
Ministers, Members of Parliament, CDF and Secretary, VCDF, Past Chiefs of Army, Noela Anderson representing the Director of the AWM, special guests ladies and gentlemen, to you all a very good evening and a warm welcome. Tonight we have come together to celebrate an auspicious occasion; 110 years of the Australian Army serving our nation.
Throughout our 110 year history, two million Australians have served under the Rising Sun. From our fledging days of nationhood in 1901; through mass scale campaigns abroad during World Wars One and Two; through Korea and Vietnam; and to counter terrorism and international stabilisation today, our Army has a proud history. It is a history written far more eloquently in the building across the square than I could describe in a few words here tonight, and so, rather than tell a story, I would like to make just a couple of simple points at this gathering.
The over 102,000 names on the Memorial's wall of remembrance speak unambiguously about our preparedness to serve, and about the sacrifice this service has meant to our institution, and the Nation at large. We have been at war for 45 of our 110 years, and we are at war today. Our history shows us to be a strongly apolitical organisation; egalitarian in our culture and with a track record of success and leadership which has resulted in The Australian Army being one of our country’s most valued and treasured national institutions.
Could I now move on to speak briefly of our people. As a soldier, an officer, and now, Chief of Army, I have just entered into my 44th year of service with the Australian Army. As I have come to the latter role in recent years, I have become increasingly proud of our people. They are well educated, tenacious, enthusiastic and resilient. They believe in their missions, and they have a resolve to see the job done and done properly. These aren't just words, their truth is very evident to those of us who see and deal with our troops and their families in the aftermath of deaths and wounding on the battlefield and of injuries here in Australia and more widely.
Inevitably our troops, and their veteran fore bares look for comparisons between our modern troops and those giants of our Anzac legend. I can honestly say that in my not inconsiderable experience, our troops today are every bit as good, in every way, as were the incumbents of our Army at any time over the last 110 years. They aren't all saints, they never have been, but their culture, their ethos and their professionalism is the envy of many.
Next, I don’t think you can talk about our people without acknowledging Army families. Let me use some words from my birthday speech yesterday morning. As Cyclone Yasi approached Townsville, the Army needed to move 5 Aviation Regiment’s helicopters out of harm’s way. But we needed to move them only so far South that they would be immediately available for tasking after the cyclone had swept through northern Queensland.
The Regiment's aircrew and ground-crew therefore moved over 30 helicopters to Mackay airport, 330 kilometers to the south, leaving their partners and children in Townsville to face what they knew would be a particularly devastating cyclone without them. This reinforces to me that we need to recognise not just the professional dedication and discipline of the soldiers involved. The unselfish willingness of their families to put the welfare of the wider community before their own, very understandable, concerns for family safety, was also highly commendable ? and probably un-noticed by most Australians.
Yet such attitudes by our soldiers and their families are what makes the Army work, as both a military force and as a respected national institution.
Finally, I’d just like to mention the challenges of the future, as we’re here not only to celebrate the past, but to look forward to where we’re going. As it has been over the past 110 years, looking forward is a very difficult business. We need to strive, in this very generation of generals, to reinforce in our own minds where we think we’re going and to then ensure that we are properly postured, learned and agile enough, to meet the challenges of the coming decades.
The history of our Army has been written by our soldiers. Our success in the future will be written by our generals. We have many challenges in this regard, fiscal, intellectual, the evolution of the military art and the balance between security and defence. But perhaps our biggest challenge will be to convince our people that the major element of our capability is them, not their fancy equipment.
Ladies and Gentlemen that concludes my remarks, but before asking the CDF to propose a toast, could I ask that we pause for a minute to reflect on the sacrifice paid by 12 young soldiers in the 12 months since our last birthday, and to reflect on the challenges of our colleagues who are deployed on operations.
Thank you for coming this evening to honor our Army – your Army - on its 110th birthday. CDF sir, would you please propose a toast.