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Desk warriors rotting defence force
By Sasha Uzunov
December 28, 2006 01:00am
Article from: Herald-Sun
AN ASIO investigation into Defence Force security follows reports of stolen weapons falling into the hands of drug dealers, hardened criminals and terrorists.
There are fears criminals have obtained shoulder-fired 66mm rocket launchers, which the Australian Army will now restrict to specifically authorised operations.
Couple this with the Private Jake Kovco scandal and our frontline troops in Iraq receiving inadequate equipment.
More scandals are likely to follow as the decades of damage done to the Defence Force by desk warriors comes to the surface.
Desk warriors are the highly paid experts with no hands-on military experience who have created the mess within the Defence Department.
The irony is that these powerful people label those who investigate them as loose cannons or trouble-makers.
But they are the ones who are creating dangerous mischief. The ordinary soldier on the frontline is now suffering because of inadequate equipment and the public is facing security concerns because of missing weapons.
Some media organisations are listening, but others appear to ignore what is happening.
If so-called medical experts are to be questioned as to whether they have medical training, why not defence bureaucrats?
I had experience with instances of stolen weapons when I was a soldier serving with an infantry unit based at Holsworthy Barracks in NSW.
Two sniper rifles were stolen from the unit in 1999.
In 2001, a soldier, who was a storeman at the barracks in Liverpool and suspected of taking the sniper rifles, was caught stealing a 9mm pistol.
Military police raided his home in the neighbouring suburb of Moorebank and found an enormous amount of missing equipment in his garage.
He was thrown out of the army. But the sniper rifles are still missing.
Other equipment, such as night-vision goggles, GPS, or global positioning systems, and firearms would regularly go missing from the unit.
Drug dealers, outlaw bikie gangs and even possible Middle Eastern terrorists were under suspicion.
There was thought to be a racket to steal weapons from Holsworthy Barracks by supplying soldiers with drugs and then blackmailing them.
Another method was for young, attractive women of Middle Eastern background to meet soldiers on internet dating sites.
Young soldiers, being young soldiers, would meet these women and take them back to barracks for sex.
The unit's commanding officer found out and banned women from being brought back to barracks.
In Darwin, bikie gangs obtained night-vision goggles from soldiers serving with 5/7 RAR in exchange for drugs.
For too long security at our army bases has been lax. And for too long desk warriors in the Defence Department have not been held to account.
I only hope the Australian public does not have to pay the price. Taxpayers have already had to foot the salaries of these experts.
Sasha Uzunov is a freelance photo-journalist and former Australian soldier.