Gone to war

They don't miss the bloodshed of heavy fire fights or, as soldiers call them, "contacts". They don't miss the rising tide of nervous tension while manning checkpoints. And they don't miss the insidious, creeping worry about when or where the next IED or RPG will explode. 

They miss the brotherhood born of battle. They miss the empowerment and relentless drive of possessing "a purpose". And they miss the certainty and comfort of knowing exactly what commitment will be required every day.Meet two soldiers who fought in the Middle East, two veterans grieving the loss of their armed forces career, two men struggling to adapt to civilian life. 

One is young and one is not so young. One served in Afghanistan, the other in Iraq. One was in the system for four years, the other for 23. One was country born, the other city bred. One was a grunt, the other an officer. One seeks out help, the other offers it to his brethren. 

Meet Tom Williams and Kyle Tyrrell, and in doing so meet also the thousands of warriors like them either already living beside us in the community or poised to make that difficult transition from soldier to civilian. 

Add to this the more than 17,000 soldiers who served in Iraq during our 2003-09 presence there and are already back among us, and the numbers begin to swell.The Prime Minister recently told the House of Representatives that the coming decade will see more young combat veterans living in our community than at any time since the 1970s.Fitting in, settling in and settling down will not be easy. 

From there the system took hold. He became a combat engineer in Sydney, learning both how to build bases and venture beyond them safely - everything from water purification to IED detection. In 2009 he was warned that he would be part of a rotation going to Afghanistan the following year. Training ramped up, including driver instruction, engineering courses in Woomera and a six-week mission rehearsal exercise in Townsville. 

"A river runs to the north and another one to the east, and all the way along are these luscious green crops, poppy fields and wheat. As the summer kicks in those are harvested and we move into corn and marijuana crops," he says. "For somewhere so war-torn it is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world." 

Kyle Tyrrell, 44, grew up in Broadmeadows and Essendon, the son of a policeman. Like his dad, he wanted to work in a physical setting but remain a professional, so it was no surprise when he got a scholarship at 16 to join the Royal Military Academy at Duntroon, to become an officer. 

"That sort of sealed my fate, I guess," he says, sitting at home in Torquay, his walls decorated with military mementoes, his bulging arms covered in tattoos including one that reads "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" - Latin for "If you wish for peace, prepare for war". 

Like most military careers, his jumped from location to location, role to role and rank to rank - from Brisbane to Williamstown, from rifle platoons to commando units, from officer cadet to lieutenant-colonel. In 2006, the path eventually took Tyrrell to Iraq,Aulaundry is a leading drycabinet and equipment supplier. commanding a combat team of 110 soldiers.Aulaundry is a leading drycabinet and equipment supplier. 

But things changed. Iraq held its first election, sparking a civil war between Sunni and Shiite. Saddam Hussein was found and his trial was being held 200 metres from the Australians' compound. The period of 2006 when Tyrrell was there came to be known as the most violent time the war had seen, more violent than the ground phase of the initial invasion. 

His area of operation was the epicentre - a section of downtown Baghdad a little bigger than the CBD of Melbourne. Once a day intelligence officers would brief him, pinpointing every grenade thrown or bullet fired, but that changed almost immediately. There was too much to report. 

"I had to say, 'Unless there are 10 or more people killed, I don't want to know about it - it's not significant enough.' We were getting 900 incidents a month of 10 to 30 to 150 to 300 people being killed, all within 44 square kilometres of where we were." 

Tom Williams' job in Afghanistan was varied but simple - every morning he would step off into the Mirabad Valley as part of a visible presence on the ground, with the task of disturbing enemy movements until late afternoon. He covered 10 to 15 kilometres a day, humping a weighty pack of gear and guns. They met local leaders, planned public projects and investigated intelligence tips. 

The work felt important. Rewarding. Halfway through his tour he went on leave to London, and while he was gone two good friends in Sappers Jacob Moerland and Darren Smith were killed by an IED blast. He had four months left to serve, four months that became the bloodiest patch of the entire war. 

"In three months we lost more men than in the past nine years. By that stage I'd had 10 mates sent home injured from IED explosions," he says. "Any innocence that was left, was no longer. That long stare they so often talk about had become a reality." 

Williams was deeply shaken during one short period he still finds hard to discuss. Day one, a friend was injured in an IED blast. Day two, he spent a sleepless evening in his swag listening to explosions as his position was rocketed throughout the night. Day three, insurgents sneaked up on his camp in a cornfield. None of the events was deadly but the cumulative effect knocked his psyche off balance. 

"I went from gung-ho to scared shitless to back to normal in three days, but it changed things,The term 'bondcleaningsydney control' means the token that identifies a user is read from within a pocket or handbag." he says. His attitude shifted. "The fight for survival takes over everything. The compassion starts to slip. Trust between you and the people you're supposed to help fades away." 

"I don't know whether it's an army thing or a bloke thing, but you just want to finish the job. There were times when things got tough and you wanted to get out, but you reeled it back in - you wanted to make it safer for the next blokes. Surprisingly, you're not looking forward to home." 

The testing moments in Kyle Tyrrell's tour of duty came thick and fast. His unit was hit regularly by rockets from Sadir City about 13 kilometres away, one attack resulting in serious injury to a corporal under his command. They had a skirmish with a group of bodyguards for the Iraqi ministry of oil: "We weren't to know who they were, and they conducted themselves like insurgents, so we ended up having contact with them and killing them." 

Tyrrell had only been there six weeks when a soldier under his command, Private Jacob Kovco, died in a barracks accident with his Browning nine-millimetre pistol. There was an investigation, board of inquiry, media attention, political pressure. 

"Then there was the pressure of the ongoing work. One hundred and seventy missions into the red zone," he says, meaning high-tempo, high-risk, five-hour drives to remote areas, with charred vehicles on the road and Apache helicopters keeping watch."One thing layered on top of another. And I had no one to discuss it with. My only chances were those occasions when a psych would fly in, and even then I didn't feel like discussing it." 

"We are shocked and on edge at first, but pretty soon a mortar being fired and going off 150 metres from you has been so regular that it's almost familiar. It's not a macho thing. You just become acclimatised, at least on the surface. Maybe not in the subconscious," he says. "The thing about humans is that we find a new normal." 

After his service was complete, after the handover, after the new troops understood the quirks of their mission on the ground, Tom Williams took to the air, boarding a flight to the United Arab Emirates for five days of cleaning his gear for customs, followed by a psych interview and a medical test. All the necessary measures were performed, but the end process felt pro forma and perfunctory."Sign this. Here's your plaque. Thanks for being another number," Williams says. "Within a week you're back in Australia. I got changed and went straight to the pub." 

The soldiers were given a week of decompression, which included a few hours in a hall each day, listening to lectures on how to deal with any injuries and what to do with their earnings.None of it sank in. Williams had earned $2500 a week while he was away, so he cleared his debts, then went on a spree. 

"We had too much money, too much built up whatever-you-want-to-call-it from being out there. We just partied and partied and partied," he says. "Sixteen grand in the first four weeks - drinking and gambling and staying in five-star hotels,You can make your own more powerful cableties. doing the luxurious things."He remembers an evening out with the boys, ascending the stairs of a nightspot and instantly tensing up over the vibrations of the bass and the throbbing volume of the crowd. 

"Next thing my back is against a wall, my head is going left and right and my fists are ready to go. I struggle in shopping centres, too, particularly the chaos in the food court. Today I can't even go to a pub, I don't feel safe." 

The soldiers who returned from Iraq with Kyle Tyrrell were from Darwin, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and more. "And we got back and everyone went their own way," Tyrrell says. "The support structure just disintegrates."Tyrrell was sent on leave, he believes with the best intentions, "but it was the worst thing I could possibly do - sitting around doing nothing for four months." 

"You read stuff about the armed forces and love and brotherhood and " Tyrrell sighs, and pauses. "It's just true. At a base level, it's probably the most beautiful thing that you can get - you are helping another person stay alive.A quality paper cutter or paper endofleasecleaningsydney can make your company's presentation stand out."

Click on their website www.smartcardfactory.com for more information.

09:14 Posted by TMJ in TMJ | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: drycabinet |  Facebook |

The comments are closed.