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Monday, April 16, 2007

Group of Australians making a difference

Sunday, 15 April 2007
By Major John McPherson

CAMP VICTORY — There is a small group of Australian Defence Force people working in and around Baghdad who are currently making a big difference to the progress of the coalition in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq.

They are an unusual group in that they are embedded into elements of the multi national force headquarters run by our major coalition partner, the United States, and work not only with Americans but also people from a number of other nationalities.

Based predominantly out of the Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace - with a number within the International Zone in Baghdad proper - the reputations of these 27 Australians are held high throughout the coalition. They are a mix of Army, Navy and Air Force commissioned and non-commissioned officers and their duties directly affect the outcomes of the coalition operation.

They are employed in all facets from troop movement, resource and sustainment, telecommunications, intelligence, explosive ordinance advice, engineering and legal … all the way through to designing and maintaining web pages and troop morale.

And the group is just as diverse as their jobs.

"The most junior member of the group - and only female - is Army Corporal Rebecca Kane who is responsible for the movement of all embedded coalition (non-US) troops into and out of the theatre,” said Flight Sergeant Matt Clarke, who's involved in signals and communications. “The most senior, Royal Australian Navy Captain Paul Kinghorne, is chief of resource and sustainment."

Most are specialists in their respective areas of expertise. Another giving witness to this is LTCOL Craig Hersant who has a highly important role as part the Multi National Corp - Iraq in which he has responsibility for the tasking and operation of a wide range of surveillance assets.

Matt Clarke says without doubt the larrikin of the group would be Navy Chief Petty Officer, Jamie McGinley, who takes his role as a Sergeant Major extremely seriously. "But he's also a bit of a softy and is known to often visit injured coalition troops in the combat hospital and share a few well received Aussie stories," says Matt.

These members of the Australian Defence Force work tirelessly with their American and coalition counterparts day-in and day-out and are essentially the front line operators - although they never fire a shot.

The good old Aussie "G'day Mate" is often heard throughout the halls of the Al Faw Palace headquarters although, sometimes, with a range of American and other country accents.

Although most of the embeds sleep in the same facilities as the rest of the Australians at Camp Victory they can sometimes be overlooked in the wider scheme of things because they aren't seen in the daily work environment with everyone else.

But there should be no doubting the impact their contribution is having on the wider coalition efforts to restore this country to its former grandeur and their work deserves to be fully recognized on the broadest possible front.

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