Transcript of press conference announcing soldier killed in action in Afghanistan

Chief of Defence Force Gen­er­al David Hur­ley and Min­is­ter for Defence Stephen Smith
DAVID HURLEY:       Good evening ladies and gen­tle­men, it’s with deep regret that I’m here tonight to inform you that an Aus­tralian sol­dier serv­ing with the Men­tor­ing Task Force Three (MTF-3) has been killed in action in Afghanistan.

The sol­dier was con­duct­ing a men­tored patrol with ele­ments of the Afghan Nation­al Army and oth­er coali­tion forces in the Khas Uruz­gan region, 85 kilo­me­tres north-east of Tarin Kot when what is believed to have been an impro­vised explo­sive device det­o­nat­ed at approx­i­mate­ly 0230 hours local Afghan time, or eight o’clock this morn­ing Aus­tralian East­ern time.

The sol­dier was seri­ous­ly wound­ed and received imme­di­ate first aid from his patrol mates before an aero med­ical team trans­ferred him to the Role 2 med­ical facil­i­ty in Tarin Kot where he received fur­ther med­ical treat­ment. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the sol­dier died from his wounds short­ly after arrival.

The sol­der was a respect­ed mem­ber of the Townsville based sec­ond bat­tal­ion the Roy­al Aus­tralian Reg­i­ment.  Although this was his first deploy­ment to Afghanistan he had pre­vi­ous­ly served in East Tim­or in 2009. He deployed to Afghanistan with MTF-3 in June.

We have com­plet­ed the noti­fi­ca­tion of the soldier’s next of kin with­in the last hour. They have asked that we do not release any per­son­al details at this time and I ask that you respect their pri­va­cy.  

The soldier’s col­leagues describe him as a man who excelled at any task he was assigned and a sol­dier who was proud to serve his coun­try.

An ISAF sol­dier was also seri­ous­ly wound­ed in the same inci­dent. He is receiv­ing med­ical treat­ment and is in a sta­ble con­di­tion. No oth­er Aus­tralian or Afghan sol­diers were wound­ed.

Our inves­ti­ga­tion process has already begun and I will not be in a posi­tion to answer many of your ques­tions until the inves­ti­ga­tion process­es have been com­plet­ed.

In the com­ing days, the mem­bers of MTF-3 will pre­pare to send their mate home to his fam­i­ly and friends and we know that this will be a tough job. But I am con­fi­dent that the men and women of MTF-3 will hon­our their mate’s mem­o­ry and con­tin­ue their mis­sion. And at this time our thoughts also turn to the fam­i­lies of the 28 sol­diers who have been killed in Afghanistan.

On behalf of the Aus­tralian Defence Force, I offer the soldier’s fam­i­ly and friends our deep­est sym­pa­thy. They face dif­fi­cult times ahead, but we will take care of them. They will not face these dif­fi­cult days alone.

Min­is­ter.

STEPHEN SMITH:     Thank you very much Gen­er­al Hur­ley, can I join with the Chief of the Defence Force to offer con­do­lences to the fam­i­ly, the friends and the mates of this deceased brave Aus­tralian sol­dier.

As Gen­er­al Hur­ley has indi­cat­ed, the fam­i­ly has asked that no per­son­al details of our fall­en sol­dier be pro­vid­ed, they will be pro­vid­ed in due course in accor­dance with the family’s wish­es.

This is, of course, the twen­ty-ninth fatal­i­ty that we have suf­fered in Afghanistan. The eighth this year com­ing a month or so after the death of Todd Lan­g­ley. This will be a ter­ri­ble blow to an Aus­tralian fam­i­ly tonight. It will also be a ter­ri­ble reminder to 28 oth­er Aus­tralia fam­i­lies and the thoughts of the entire nation will be with those fam­i­lies tonight.

So far as our mis­sion in Afghanistan is con­cerned, I again make the point that we believe we are on track to achieve our mis­sion in Afghanistan. We are on track to tran­si­tion to Afghan-led respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty arrange­ments in Uruz­gan by 2014.

This of course does not make it any eas­i­er for a fam­i­ly, Aus­tralian fam­i­lies, or for the nation to bear the bur­den of anoth­er fatal­i­ty.

We believe that what we are doing in Afghanistan is in our nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests, and also in the inter­na­tion­al community’s inter­ests, help­ing to stare down, as it does, inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism.

So this will be a tough night for 2RAR, a tough night for Army, and a tough night for our nation.

Before the Chief of the Defence Force and I respond to your ques­tions, can I just take this oppor­tu­ni­ty of putting on record Australia’s con­do­lences to New Zealand for the loss of a sol­dier in Afghanistan over the week­end. Cor­po­ral Dou­glas Grant, who has been named today by New Zealand author­i­ties, lost his life in defence of the British Coun­cil in Kab­ul.

On Sat­ur­day I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty of express­ing my con­do­lences to New Zealand Defence Min­is­ter Wayne Mapp, as the Prime Min­is­ter did by tele­phone to New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter, John Key. His death will be felt very much by our ANZAC part­ner New Zealand, and I know that the con­tri­bu­tion that New Zealand made in respond­ing to the attack is very much appre­ci­at­ed by the Unit­ed King­dom.

The Unit­ed Kingdom’s Spe­cial Advis­er for Afghanistan and Pak­istan Ambas­sador Sed­will is in Can­ber­ra today.  I met with him today and he expressed the Unit­ed Kingdom’s great regard for New Zealand’s effort over the week­end and also relayed con­do­lences to New Zealand for the death of their fall­en sol­dier.

Gen­er­al Hur­ley and I are able to response to your ques­tions.

JOURNALIST:            Gen­er­al, can you give us details of a rank or an age of the sol­dier?

DAVID HURLEY:       At the moment please just appre­ci­ate the fam­i­ly would like all those per­son­al details kept pri­vate, thank you.

JOURNALIST:            So it was a patrol that was in the ear­ly hours of the morn­ing. Just how com­mon is it — these night time patrols, are they a fair­ly com­mon occur­rence?

DAVID HURLEY:       Yes, we patrol pret­ty much 24 hours around the clock and it’s not uncom­mon at all for us to do a patrol at night.

JOURNALIST:            Was the patrol part of any par­tic­u­lar oper­a­tion or mis­sion, or was it just a rou­tine patrol?

DAVID HURLEY:       They were oper­at­ing from the patrol base locat­ed in the region, Khas Uruz­gan, con­duct­ing a recon­nais­sance patrol when the inci­dent occurred.

JOURNALIST:            What was the name of the patrol base?

DAVID HURLEY:       Ana­con­da.

JOURNALIST:            And were you able to say whether he was mar­ried or sin­gle or…

DAVID HURLEY:       None of those per­son­al details for release at the moment thanks.

STEPHEN SMITH:     We’ve been asked by the fam­i­ly to not pro­vide any details at this point in time, they’ll be released in due course in accor­dance with the family’s wish­es but we’re not propos­ing to detail that. As you would expect this is a very tough time for the fam­i­ly and they need a short peri­od of time to come to terms with the imme­di­ate bad news that they have received, the ter­ri­ble news they’ve received this after­noon and this evening.

JOURNALIST:            So it was a dis­mount­ed patrol and the oth­er per­son wound­ed was an Afghan sol­dier, is that cor­rect?

DAVID HURLEY:       Dis­mount­ed patrol, and all we can say at the moment the oth­er per­son was a coali­tion mem­ber, and it’s real­ly up to the nation to go through their process­es to inform.

JOURNALIST:            Nor­mal­ly you tell us about wound­ed Afghans, so we can assume that it wasn’t an Afghan.

DAVID HURLEY:       It was not an Afghan, it was a coali­tion sol­dier, ISAF.

JOURNALIST:            And that per­son, how seri­ous­ly wound­ed are they.

DAVID HURLEY:       At the moment all we’re aware of is they’re seri­ous­ly wound­ed, but in a sta­ble con­di­tion. He is in the Role 2 facil­i­ty in Tarin Kot and he’ll pos­si­bly be relo­cat­ed to the Kan­da­har Role 3 Hos­pi­tal.

JOURNALIST:            And did the inci­dent involve any oth­er con­tact with insur­gents or was it just the —

DAVID HURLEY:       No, just the impro­vised explo­sive device is all we’re aware of at this present time.

JOURNALIST:            And you don’t know any­thing about the explo­sion? How the device was trig­gered or any­thing like that?

DAVID HURLEY:       No at this stage all we’re aware of — we believe it was IED, but that hasn’t been con­firmed yet.

All right, any oth­ers? Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST:            I just want­ed to ask the Min­is­ter, I mean, this is 29 th death in Afghanistan. Each death makes it more dif­fi­cult for you to con­vince the nation of the need to be there, what do you say to those peo­ple who say 29 is enough, we should leave?

STEPHEN SMITH:     Well every death that occurs in Afghanistan, the death of any and every Aus­tralian in Afghanistan is a ter­ri­ble tragedy. It’s a tragedy for the fam­i­ly con­cerned, so tonight we’ll have a griev­ing Aus­tralian fam­i­ly. It’s also a ter­ri­ble reminder to 28 oth­er fam­i­lies of the loss that they have suf­fered. But my response is as I indi­cat­ed in my ear­li­er remarks. We believe we’re on track to com­plete our mis­sion in Afghanistan which is to tran­si­tion to Afghan-led secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty by 2014.

We’ve been in Afghanistan for a con­sid­er­able peri­od of time and we’ve been in Afghanistan under Unit­ed Nations man­date, not just with our alliance part­ner, the Unit­ed States, but also with an Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, and we very strong­ly believe that what we’re doing is not just in our own nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests, but also in the inter­na­tion­al community’s inter­ests. And we are part of an inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty effort to make sure that Afghanistan, in par­tic­u­lar the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der area does not again become a breed­ing ground for inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism.

It’s a tragedy for our nation tonight, but equal­ly it’s a tragedy for our nation when­ev­er we are on the receiv­ing end of ter­ror­ist atroc­i­ties whether they occur in South-East Asia, or in Europe, or in the Unit­ed States and we have been on the receiv­ing end of those as well. It’s a tough night for Aus­tralia, it’s a tough night for army, it’s a tough night for 2RAR. This, I think, will be their first fatal­i­ty in Afghanistan and a ter­ri­ble night for the fam­i­ly, but what we’re doing, we very strong­ly believe, is in our nation­al inter­est and we will con­tin­ue to com­plete our mis­sion, togeth­er with our inter­na­tion­al part­ners in Uruz­gan and Afghanistan.

Thank you.

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia

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