Brand MHR’s Middle East stint deepens understanding of defence operations

Brand MHR Madeline King during her tour of the Middle East.
Brand MHR Madeline King has a deeper understanding of what ADF personnel endure after spending two weeks with them in the Middle East
Brand MHR Madeline King during her tour of the Middle East. Brand MHR Madeline King has a deeper understanding of what ADF personnel endure after spending two weeks with them in the Middle East

BRAND MHR Madeleine King has a deeper understanding of what Australian Defence Force personnel have to endure while on operations after spending two weeks in the Middle East.

Ms King was part of six-person delegation of Federal politicians who took part in the ADF Parliamentary Program that visited the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan from July 5-12.

“Our defence forces are undertaking Operation Highroad which is making a significant contribution to the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support train, advice and assist mission across Afghanistan,” she said.

“The service women and men of the Australian forces working across the Middle East Region are dedicated and committed; representing the national interests of Australia in one of the most challenging environments in the world with the utmost professionalism and pride.”

Ms King said the group undertook two days of training and briefings at the UAE before flying to Kabul in a noisy Hercules transport plane wearing full body armour.

“The landing was pretty steep and we couldn’t see anything,” she said.

“You could only tell how close you were when the landing gear went down and we were sitting sideways holding on to some mesh.”

The politicians got to see Australian-built Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles in action, as well as force protection units, ‘guardian angels’, medics and trainers working with various Afghanistan units, such as the ANA’s Officer Academy and the Kabul Garrison Command.

They also met with translators working with the ADF and embassy staff.

“We travelled through the city in the heavily armoured vehicles with our body armour,” she said.

“It was great to see young girls on the street walking to school and people selling balloons.

“And while it was only a small thing it had an effect on me as it made me remember how far they have come and they are making progress.”

She believed there was cause for optimism, despite the recent suicide bomb attack near the German embassy on May 31 that killed at least 150 people and wounded more than 300 others.

“All the troops we met were very enthused about the task and were really enjoying their work and can see the value of it, she said.

“The whole experience was really uplifting.”

Ms King said the recent achievements of Rockingham-based warship HMAS Arunta, which returned from a nine-month deployment last Sunday, was mentioned frequently in briefings the delegation had with top brass.

“They showed us clips of the drug interceptions the Arunta made and to have the ship mentioned in such high regard in the middle of Kabul was so rewarding,” she said.

Ms King said the trip had increased her appreciation of how professional Australian defence force personnel were.

“They are supremely good at their jobs and they are dedicated to the task and are so committed to what they are doing,” she said.

“They are in it for the moral fight of making Afghanistan a stable place and a good place where people can grow and live.”

It was also good to understand the conditions that they have to work under.

“You can read as much as your want in a book or see it on TV but it’s never the same as getting to talk to them directly,” she said.

Around 270 ADF members from the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and defence civilians are deployed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Highroad.

There are about 1700 ADF personnel deployed to the Middle East region.

They 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.

The Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program offers Australian politicians from both the House of Representatives and the Senate the opportunity to experience ‘a day in the life’ of Australian Defence Force personnel.

Ms King is hoping to spend some time with navy and air force units on future deployments.

The other politicians on the trip were Matt Keogh, David Feeney, Stephen Jones, Milton Dick and Andrew Wallace.