DRA Comment Concerning The Dismissal of the Charges Against The Reserve Commandos
The Judge Advocate's decision to dismiss the charges at the first opportunity is not surprising and reflects the fundamentally flawed basis of the prosecution. The prosecution had no sensible explanation as to how a soldier could owe a duty to take reasonable care when in close combat with the enemy. The soldiers were very highly trained reservists who volunteered to serve their country in Afghanistan.
The prosecution was unable to say what the soldiers should have done instead of what they did. No one believed the soldiers had any other option than to defend their mates and themselves against an enemy who was trying to kill them. The soldiers were charged concerning decisions made during 30 seconds of mortal combat at night.
The soldiers, their families, the Australian Defence Force and the Australian public were entitled to think that the decision to bring such serious charges was very carefully considered.
In view of the early dismissal of the charges at a preliminary stage, serious questions now need to be asked as to why the charges were preferred at all when they had so little substance. Why have reserve members and their families been put to so much unnecessary distress and humiliation?
DRA is concerned that the defence leadership and its media organisation did not oversight what was being done or protect reservists who were being vilified.
It stands for DRA and the defence community to support reservists on active service. This is an ongoing need. Particularly objectionable is the frequent comment that because soldiers are reservists they seem to lack in training or expertise.
It should not be assumed that because a unit leaves Australia predominately manned by members of the Army Reserve it is less trained, less prepared or less competent than a Regular Army unit. All Australian Defence Force units deploying overseas are subjected to rigorous pre-deployment training and have to be certified as competent for the assigned operation. Reserve units may be as well or better trained, as reservists do bring additional life skills and experience.
Major General J E (Jim) Barry AM MBE RFD ED (Retd)
National President, Defence Reserves Association