Part Six - The New Breed

 

Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Bernard Day

Warrant Officer Class Two ‘Joe’ Day is a typical example of today’s Armoured soldier. His experiences in the Second Gulf War displayed all the qualities of character needed in the modern Royal Australian Armoured Corps. He was sent on exchange with the United States Marine Corps, serving with 1st Light Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion, which is part of the renowned 1st Marine Division.

Joe had hardly set foot in America when his unit was warned for service in Iraq. The conversation set out below deals with this service and with some observations by Joe on various matters pertaining to the RAAC. Some extraneous items have been deleted, especially the umms and ahhs.

Author: Joe thanks for talking to me. Firstly, were you nominated for some US decorations?

Day: Yes. They put me up for some awards, but they’ve been lost. I don’t know where they are. I’ve been told they were coming but that was eight months ago.

A:  Was it a Silver Star or a Bronze Star or…

D: There’s definitely a Bronze Star and an achievement medal…some others perhaps. There’s I think the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Medal. 

A: I’ve interviewed people about the honours system in Vietnam and quite a few were bitter about it, as to who should have got what. But I suppose that doesn’t matter now and doesn’t apply in your case.

D: I think that problem still exists some how-it’s kind of common across the board.

(This problem seems endemic. Several soldiers to the author’s knowledge have been awarded low grade US medals for exchange duty, yet others such as Day are refused the right to wear combat medals for no apparent reason.)

A: When you were in recruit training, did you ask for Armour or were you allocated?

D: I desperately asked for Armour! They only had a couple of positions going and I had a competitive streak in me. They had me going to Infantry without any questions to ‘try for Armour’ and I asked for it. I was pretty proud of getting it, as there were only two positions from about 40 in the Platoon.

A: I can remember just before I joined the Army, the recruiting bloke gave me a booklet and on the inside first page there was a picture of an infantryman slogging along with a pack on his back. The next page showed a signaler operating a radio set, a 19 set I think. The next page showed a Centurion tank coming over a hill and I thought, ‘That’s for me!’”

D: (Laughs) Well, it wasn’t that romantic for me. I didn’t have a clue about Armour. I knew about tanks and armoured cars and stuff like that, I’d seen them, so I went in with my eyes wide shut, as it were.

A: Now, when you were told you were being detached to the USMC how did you feel about it?

D: Oh, I was happy, I was relieved because it was a long time in coming. The position had been up for grabs for several years. And I had to ‘make deals with the devil’ to get there, so I guess I had achieved a goal and pretty excited about it at least before we left.

A: I won’t ask you to expand on what ‘deals’ you did and who the ‘devil’ was but I can imagine!

D: Only one position in all of Armoured Corps, so yeah, pretty hard.

A: Now, how did you adjust to the Marine training and general ethos?

D: I went through a rapid learning curve! I had to learn really quick and on the run! I’m trying to remember….I guess I just went in with a confident attitude. I’d been pretty well briefed by my predecessor, P J Mcneil before going over and he gave me some publications and their training manuals and such. This gave me some idea. We were aware there was something on the horizon (Iraq) so there was a bit of urgency for me to ‘Marine-ise’ myself.

But you can’t do it (properly) until you’re there. In the end, I adjusted well and I had to sink or swim. My time line for adjusting was about two weeks from arriving in the country to when we deployed!

A: That’s got to be the steepest curve I’ve heard about for some while!

D: Yeah, I reckon that’s about as bad as you’d want it to go. I bought myself time! I put in long hours studying, putting in long hours with the troops before we loaded the ships. After spending late nights with them, trying to work out who they were and what they….because I went into a command position so, not only with them but responsible for them. First as a vehicle crew and later, the whole Platoon. I was aware of that, too, and I didn’t want to stuff that up!

I mean, in retrospect, I think they were the ones doing the learning from me in the end. But, at the time, I thought I was out of my depth until I got used to being around them and then I realised that they weren’t that much different from the average Aussie.

A: We’ve all seen the movie version with the ‘Sir, yes sir’, the rough treatment and all the rest of that hoo haa. I’ve seen a few Marines on exercises and so forth. The only impression I have of them is reading their history and what you see on the movies. I suppose the reality is different.

D: They’re a very proud branch of the US military, very proud of being Marines. It’s tougher to get in the Marines than any other branch other than the Special Forces. They love their tradition and they do like to beat their chest a bit, but that’s part of what motivates them. Once you get past that, the outside…they’re a breed that puts in the effort, they put in the hard training yards to be not just all for show.

A: They’re quite big on fitness, I understand.

D: Oh yeah, yeah, their physical fitness regime is a lot more like we were about twenty years ago. They’re a fit bunch of young fellows, and they love their weight lifting and running. They’re pretty good all round in fitness. I’d say on par with the average Australian ‘grunt.’ (Infantryman)

A: How did they relate to you? A guy with kangaroo feathers, so to speak  arriving, a complete stranger, how did that sort of thing go?

D: Well, my position had been filled by an Australian for the previous six years, so they (his platoon) were used to an Australian. The Marines in general weren’t used to seeing this fellow with a strange accent and a funny looking uniform wandering around. Again, I think, I came there with them having a preconceived idea of me from my predecessor. He did an outstanding job, I think.

Aussies have a big reputation with Marines, a huge reputation! So that bit of it wasn’t real hard. It was all probably me; I was more nervous than they were!

A: It’s strange how that sort of thing goes. You’re faced with a strange situation, with everyone eyeing each other off a little bit, but once you get used to each other, everything falls into place.

D: Yeah, you become like them. The best answer to that question- you go forward two years to the many farewell parties and ceremonies they had for us. They were giving me the highest honour they could give in that they called me a Marine. (This is no understatement or mere hyperbole. The United States Marine Corps guards its own with extreme jealousy and to be granted this accolade is, from their point of view, high honour indeed.)

A lot of my guys actually forgot that I was an Australian, a foreigner!

A: Except for the accent, I suppose!

D: They got even used to that! Until they heard another Aussie as sometimes happens, then they’d say, ‘Hey, that was an Aussie’ and I’d say ‘Yeah, just like me!’ To which they’d say, ‘Oh yeah but you’re a Marine Aussie!’ So, yeah we…sometimes I  forgot I was an Aussie! Once you’ve been with them so long and been through so much with them….

A: All right. Now your Australian training, that is in our Corps, I presume must have done something on the Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) before you went there.

D: Oh yes, I was well trained on LAVs. I was there from the beginning. I became a gunnery instructor with the first lot. I was in one of the trial Troops for the LAVs when we did the trials in ‘90/’91. I spent a while at Kapooka (training recruits) and then came back as a LAV Troop Sergeant.

A: A bunch of us ‘old salts’ went over to Ennogera a couple of weeks ago and they put us through the LAV and it’s not a vehicle for big men, is it?

D: No, it’s not but you get used to it. My (Marine) CO was six feet three (about 2.01 metres) and about as wide across the shoulders, he was a big man. It’s amazing how quickly you can worm your way through small holes when you have to! Yes they’re quite cramped, much more technically advanced now.

A: All right! Your first contact. I gather it was in Iraq?

D: Yeah! I thought about that question. The first contact turned out to be a non-event for us. The very first one we were directly involved in there was a lot of….we went across the border real early, in fact six hours before anyone else being the reconnaissance (element). There was a lot of artillery and air going on hitting targets. We weren’t sure what was there, they being pre-designated targets.

On the first day we saw an Iraqi BRDM (command vehicle) going across the desert. There’s a bit of a funny story, now in hindsight, though I wasn’t all that happy at the time! There was a lot of argument going on as to what it was, exactly. And this thing’s getting further and further away and we’re tracking it ready to fire at it if we had to and in the end a tank (Abrams, M1) came along and took care of it. They robbed us of our first real go at the enemy! That was our first contact.

At one stage, one of my junior crew commanders called it in as a Scud Missile Launcher and that caused all sorts of problems up further in the chain (of command), while I was trying to get on the radio to tell that it was just a BRDM trying to get away!

A: I saw in your article in Ironsides you talk about the TOW anti-armour weapon system. (Tube launched Optically tracked Wire guided, TOW). I’ve dealt with it briefly. How did it go?

D:  Really well. We stuck with the wire-guided version because we couldn’t get the ‘Top Tac’, another version of it. This, they were trying to bring in before we left. It’s designed to put a missile into the top of a tank instead of the side. (Tank top armour is considerably thinner than front or side). But, we stuck with the standard TOW. Very, very effective against just about any armour you can think of.

A: I trained on the ENTAC many years ago, and what a waste of time that was! (Engine Teleguide Anti Char, a second generation French missile)

D: Yes, I know it, but TOW is far superior to that! They’re so confident, they fire them out of helicopters as well. A very good missile, getting a little old but they’re still quite happy to use it.

A: I suppose from the other side, the Iraqis are using RPGs and still find them quite effective.

D: (reflectively) Yeah, yeah.

A: Now, all of your equipment-how did it function in the desert? I mean, I read about the GPS going out in a sand storm and these sorts of things. How did it all go?

D: Yeah….that kind of environment would have to be one of the toughest you could have-you have heat, dust, and at one stage rain which turned everything to mud, so, pretty tough on the electronic gear and pretty tough on the vehicles as far as overheating was concerned and all that.

To borrow from…we adapted and overcame (the problems) and the Marines  were just like Aussies, they just find ways of fixing things themselves and keep them working. I mean, a dust storm is going to knock out GPS and everything.

(As an aside, this is illustrative of the difference between the Allied forces and the Iraqi army-well trained and well motivated soldiers will do just those things Joe describes.)

A: Air cleaners and that sort of thing I suppose?

D: Yeah, we had a horrendous dust storm I remember in the first ‘push’ and that stopped everyone, including the enemy, dead in our tracks for almost 24 hours! And all you were doing the whole next day was cleaning every thing-weapons first, they were the priority and they had completely seized through dust. The LAVs have air hoses in them, so that makes it a lot easier. We just hooked that up, started the engine and blasted every thing clean.

A: To take a different tack, I’ve heard that every Marine’s basic MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) is ‘rifleman’, whether he’s a ‘tanker’ or pilot or whatever.

D: Yes, that’s their ethos,  that’s their mentality! Every Marine’s a rifleman and after that they have their specialties. That’s what they live by. It’s not a bad thing and reminds me of the Army in the old days. Every soldier’s a rifleman.

A:  Now, Warrant Officer Class Two is fairly high up in our Non Commissioned structure. How did that relate to the Marine NCO stucture, say, Gunnery Sergeant or Command Sergeant Major or the like? 

D: Technically, Warrant Officer Class two would match up with Marine Master Sergeant or First Sergeant. An Australian Warrant Officer is vastly different to a Marine Staff NCO. Sergeant Major? Well, there’s only one of them in a Battalion so it’s easy to link him to Regimental Sergeant Major. (in our Army) They do very similar jobs.

My position was more recognized as being more on par with the Officer side because Marine Warrant Officers are commissioned Officers.

A:  Like the US Army Warrant Officers who do special tasks.

D: Yes. That’s right. So my position was linked more to the Marine rank of Chief Warrant Officer, and to the Marine Gunner which is a specialised Chief Warrant Officer, he’s an infantryman and he’s the weapons and tactics expert for the Battalion and that’s pretty much what I was used as.

We didn’t have a Gunner, so I filled that role, especially in the second year I was with them.

A: There’s a lot of difference in radio procedure and jargon and terminology. How did you get along with that?

D: (Laughs) With a lot of humour! They have a very different way of talking, especially on the radio. They’re a lot more casual than we are. They drop all the really secure type speech we go through, the really correct type voice procedure. They dropped that years ago-they speak plain English (on the radio) or plain American English I guess for most things. They still have nicknames and call signs and so forth and they use those when they talk to each other. So, I found it very, very easy once I got over the fact that I was so used to the strict radio discipline. It was easy to drop down a notch to speak as they did.

A: I can distinctly remember listening on my radio in Vietnam and hearing people from the 173rd Airborne Brigade saying things like ‘Did you speak to that Aussie, he’s over there on 44.80 (frequency) if you want him’ and stuff like that.

D: Yes, they’re not as concerned about comsec (communication security). These days it’s all encoded digitally any way, so it doesn’t matter as much if there is that kind of violation. Radio technology has come a long way for security purposes. That didn’t bother me that much.

My call sign was Mad Max, or simply Max. Typical Americans they have their funny call signs. Key personnel for example-the Division Commander his call sign was Chaos. The guy who took over from me was call signed ‘Breaker’ as in Breaker Morant.

A: They know a little Australian history, then?

D: Oh yes, he got that from an American who knows all the AFL football teams names and he’s quite into Australia! So he knows all about Breaker Morant.

A: Did you ever sing the Marine Hymn with them?

D: No, we didn’t. They played it a couple of times. No they don’t sing that, (laughs) at least they don’t walk around singing it. They play it on parades and special occasions.

A: You obviously saw a couple of tank-versus-tank engagements-what was it like?

D: Confusing! For me…we were more spectators than really participants. Because…tanks are like bullies! They come in and take over everything; they push you out of the way and say ‘OK we’re here now!’ And that’s true anywhere in the world I reckon! You watch a tank go past you and then his gun opens up and you realise that he’s locking horns with another tank!

And in our case, there was no contest! Our tanks were literally obliterating every thing in their path.

So, standing back, looking, there was only one real time when I could actually see what was going on. The enemy were pretty close. It was quite confusing once they get involved in their brawls, there’s tanks going every where and helicopters and other aircraft with bombs dropping and the like. A lot of fire-you don’t know who’s shooting at who and you think you’re being shot at then you realise that… I swore that I was being shot at because I saw a big flash and I saw-you can see the swirl of the ammunition, especially in a heat haze and I swore that we were being fired at but…not so.

A: You’ve obviously heard of the phrase ‘The fog of battle’ and that describes it!

D: The fog of war?

A: Yes, quite right, the fog of war.

D: Well, that is the most apt phrase, because it’s like a fog!  You go into battle, into contact with the enemy whether it’s just an encounter (by chance) or it’s planned and the closer you get to it, the grayer it gets and before you know it, you’re in the mist and you don’t know….all you know about what’s going on is what you’re doing right now.

Radios are nearly useless because everyone’s trying to talk at the same time, you’re trying to get information, you’re trying to (locate) your friendly call signs you’ve got to find out where the hell the enemy is. Very, very, very confusing!

A: That leads quite nicely into my next question. What do you think is the hardest aspect of AFV operations-physical or mental?

D: Ah! Well, it’s mental. Yes, it is mental, but the physical side of it is the fact that in a crew-for me, I stood up for 14 days-I wasn’t sitting in my turret, I was standing. And I was awake for, probably more than eighty percent of that time. And that would not be an exaggeration. So, physically, we were exhausted, much like an endurance rally driver would be. That’s not a very good comparison because rally drivers don’t get shot at!

A: If you were going to use a word or a phrase about Armour, our Corps, how would you characterise it?

D: Well, I would say that it’s-in terms of cavalry, it’s the tip of the spear. To me it’s the ‘sharp end’ in the conventional sense. But then, if I was talking about tanks, I would say that it’s the hammer. Artillery guys don’t like me saying this, but I think Armour actually shapes the battle.

A: Joseph Stalin said, “Artillery is the God of war”. The United States Armor Corps says that, “Armor is the combat arm of decision”. People go on these days about all the anti-armour stuff and so on, so I interrupt them and say that if you start a battle with 500 tanks and the other fellow starts the battle with 500 tanks and at the end of the battle you have 100 tanks left and he has none-what can you do with your 100 tanks? Anything you please!

D: Exactly! Yeah, you’re right. I laugh and I worry about people who talk about anti-armour weapons. Anti-armour weapons only once in the (recent) history of warfare been effective with even a tactical result against enemy armour. But not operationally or strategically, no result! Just a speed bump, really. People who talk like that (about anti-armour weapons) are pretty foolish; they don’t know what they’re talking about in relation to armour. And you’re right! You can lose tanks, but if you still have them and the enemy has none, then you are king!

I describe the tank as ‘king’ of any battlefield and the cavalry as the ‘nuisance machine’ that can really mess up an enemy’s plan. Extremely useful, cavalry and I think we’ve forgotten that in the Australian Army.

A: One of the items I read in that issue of “Ironsides” was that you used snipers successfully.  Were there any attached to you?

D: I was given three snipers once in Baghdad. We were being harassed by enemy snipers all day. At that stage, we were trying to control refugees. So, it was getting harder and harder to do that as we were worrying about our own protection. So, they sent me the three snipers, a team from an infantry battalion. I gave then the mission they wanted. I told them to get themselves to a high point and kill those people who are firing at us.

You just get rid of them! And the young Staff Sergeant which rank is closer to our Sergeant, he went off like a kid on a fishing trip. So they went off and were gone all night and you could hear the shooting going on. They came back and had got quite a few and from that time on I realised what the value of snipers really was.

From then on, because I was the Platoon weapons officer, we made it almost law that everyone who carries a rifle is a minimum marksman and all scouts designated as snipers. If I could have every soldier become a sniper, I would! We used them as guardian angels and tell them, find a high point and cover our arses!

A: I suppose from a Marine’s point of view, that simple, straightforward instruction or order is what they really look for.

D: That’s exactly how they operate. They like good clear orders. And simple-they’re trained well enough to handle the task you give them and they’re very capable. You wouldn’t give them as much scope as, say, you’d give an Australian, at that level, but they were more than competent and I was more than confident with our snipers. We lost a lot of guys though doing those missions. Extremely dangerous!

It does wonders for your own troop’s morale, though. It’s like having a helicopter over head all the time, or a couple of tanks! It adds to your effectiveness and you’re willing to risk your self whereas before you wouldn’t.

Though, there’s a few Marines who had miraculous escapes. A friend has three Purple Hearts (a medal, one for each wounding) and some who probably should be dead, but they survived. Had their vehicle blown out from under them by a mine or whatever.

A: What characters have you come across in your career?

D: (Laughs) That too tough to ask! I’ve known some fantastic people. There’s a whole lot…like your time, they seem to come in groups, when you’re young… One, Ray Brown, a really good friend….he was probably one of the biggest characters I knew. We played football together, we were in the same Troop together, go out and socialise. He could make us laugh any hour of the day. Just some funny things he used to say and do, practical jokes-he got himself in some big trouble with them. I don’t know if I should really talk about it…..he nearly wound up in jail, a couple of times!

More than characters, I have some really good mates. They are characters in their own right, the larrikin type who drag you into mischief; but they are more mates than that. I remember once when I was in New Zealand. A friend, Bob Borg, who’s out of the Army now… we decided it would be a good idea to borrow one of the New Zealand Army Land Rovers and go on a bit of a tour around the North Island.

We ended up hooking up with some New Zealand rugby players and…I don’t know where we wound up, some rugby club in the middle of New Zealand somewhere. And driving them around, just mucking around with them. They talked us into a tug-of-war match with some Maori women and there were about five of us blokes….we thought ‘yeah, we can do that!’

We know how to do tug-of-war! (Laughs) They kicked our arse! They pulled us straight across the floor! Big women! He (Bob) is more of a mate now; we keep in contact. 

A: Is there a yarn you can tell about the Corps, funny, sad, whatever?

D: I suppose my personal story is the biggest yarn I have. When it comes to experiences, I don’t see much of the funny side of things even though there might be funny moments. So, a lot of what we do, while not sad, is serious. I have a more serious side than that-I try to focus on keeping people in check with the reality of what we actually do.

I think that our young soldiers have the right to know the truth about what we do is. Warfighting is not a, not really a funny thing. When I first came back from America people were saying you must have a stack of funny things to say. I remember, (laughing) none of this was funny! I have to be honest with you. It was quite serious. We had a lot of problems with IEDs.  (Improvised Explosive Devices) Part of our job was to go out and find these guys who were setting these things…they were killing us, literally killing us. So, my Marines, my scouts, were all Mexican Americans. Real (laughs) funny young guys. My personal scouts were Compos and Corria and they (laughing) ….people used to say I picked on them too much.

But I used to make them do some damned dangerous things! They were always going to be my (pet) snipers. I had them on a job once and another guy who was with them, they found an IED that was in a big truck tyre. And they found (in it) something like five artillery shells all joined together with detonator cord and plastic explosive with an antenna hanging out of it.

One of them asked, (in broad American accent) “Should this tyre have an antenna hanging out of it?” And he’s got his head shoved right inside and I shouted, “Get the hell out of there!” Sure enough, it was being watched and went off, but after we were well away! It was just like seeing a bunch of inept Mexicans on a movie!

I used get angry with them and make them get into fire positions….they’d never take their water and they’d never take enough ammunition. I’d tell them, “I could leave you up there all day!” And one day I did! The next time they were going to learn! Next time I sent them up this hill and said, “Don’t be seen getting up there!” This hill was the rockiest, steepest hill in all of Iraq! They got out of the vehicle and started crawling with me saying, “Get your water.”

They’d hadn’t taken their ‘camelbacks’ (a water holding device strapped to the back with a tube for ease of consumption) as opposed to water bottles. Now, they couldn’t carry them, so they were throwing them in front of themselves (while crawling), and it wasn’t very long before both water bottles ended up bursting! So, they were still crawling up this hill….they must have crawled for 200 metres and they finally got up there and they were exhausted.

They just did nothing but lay down on top of this hill! And they weren’t even looking, so I had to get out, grab their two ‘camelbacks’ and run up the hill saying, “You dumb Mexican bastards, next time get your gear properly! (laughs) If I wanted you to crawl up the hill, I would have told you!” To which they replied, “You mean, sir, we could have run up like you just did?”

They would have stayed there all day if I had made them! And they wouldn’t have questioned it!

 

A: You gave an address on ANZAC Day 2003. It was received pretty well, I understand.

D: Yes, I did both years. They got right involved! The night before, I  grabbed all the Marines and told them all about the history side of it. Told them what ANZAC actually stands for and how the ANZACS were formed, the basically volunteer Army, going to Egypt to train how they were wasting away in the desert-they could all relate to that! Then told them about Gallipoli itself.

They were quite interested as they don’t hear much about other’s history. In the morning we had the dawn ceremony-I’ll tell you, there’s always a way you can find alcohol in places, especially places that don’t have it! I just put the word out I need some rum or whatever-liquor they call it, strong spirits. I made a giant pot full of rum and coffee…

A: Gunfire breakfast!

D: Yeah! And it was one of the nicest ones I’ve had. The Marines made me a flagpole with lanyard and pulley so I could hoist the flag up and down. And one of them wanted to be (flag orderly) and to pull the flag up and down to half mast on my command. The next year I nearly missed out as we were supposed to go into Faluja but were kept out of the fight in a FOB, a forward operations base, a bit like the fire bases in Vietnam.

A: It’s good that some Australian military history is being disseminated to the Americans……

D: Oh, they know a lot! The (1st Marine) Division’s logo has the Southern Cross on it, and it’s tune is ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

A: Is it? I’ll be damned!

D: So, the First Marine Division has a lot of Australian background. They remember their Australian history very well. And they are taught it, where the tune comes from, what the Southern Cross means. Probably the most decorated Division in the Marine Corps. On ANZAC day this year, I got an email with a photo from an American Marine officer I was with. He’d hoisted an Australian flag on ANZAC day. I had to tell them, “You don’t say ‘happy ANZAC day’ as it’s a commemoration, but they do anyway. But it’s them showing respect. My CO, the Colonel, he did the same thing, having an Australian flag up for the day because he was moved by what I was talking about. I didn’t try to brag about Australia, but tried to relate our military experiences with theirs, and they appreciated that.

A: This gets me to my next question. When you operated five or six days without sleep, how did efficiency decline? Did you find yourself giving wrong grid references or calling the wrong person on radio or anything like that?

D: I don’t know how that was measured because everyone felt the same way. Adrenaline can only take you so far! The fatigue was absolutely incredible! We did make mistakes- I’m positive I did. I might have sent the wrong grid reference or given the wrong position and I hope someone picked it up and corrected me. We had some fatal mistakes where some young guys found themselves in the middle of a minefield when they were not alert. One of them was killed-he was on foot- because of it. (fatigue)

So that kind of thing-the big word, complacency, fatigue is very much linked to complacency, the more tired you get, the more short cuts you’re going to take. The less wary you are. I think the mental approach has a lot to do with how you handle it. We had the idea that we were not going to let that get to us! That helped, though we dropped our guard once or twice when we really could have had some trouble. Luckily, we got away with it. The Marines are really ready for that-they’re so physically fit.

A: My last question. How did you find Saddam’s palace in Tikrit, really good?

D: (Laughs) We weren’t allowed in it!

A: Hang on, I’ve got a picture of you here waving an Aussie flag on top of a Presidential palace! There’s a bloke with an American flag and….

D: That’s not Saddam’s, that’s his first wife’s palace, part of the palace complex. But, you see, we were robbed! My Platoon was the first one in there and we effectively could have claimed it as our ‘own’ if we wanted. But we had to maintain security-my task was to mind the bridge that was there. As things wound down a little, I said to my (vehicle) gunner, ‘Come on down and we’ll have a look at this palace.’ So we found a way in and my Platoon Sergeant grabbed an American flag and I said, ‘Let’s go up and get pictures.’

But we got in big trouble for that! The General was actually watching us through binoculars! And he saw that Aussie flag and knew exactly who I was-it could only be one person! They sent down one of the Operations officers from HQ to my position-‘If you ever do that again!’-what could they do? So, we had our picture taken on top of the palace.

We decided to use every toilet on every floor. They were all blocked off of course, no plumbing connected. We hadn’t used a real toilet in about four weeks so we decided to use every single one. I told my blokes, Go and sit on some porcelain, you won’t get it for a while!

A: So you got the flag waved and backside kicked!

D: Yeah, we got our arses kicked for that one and I was told not to go near the palace again! (Laughs)

A: Joe, is there any thing else you would like to say of interest?

D: Well, no not really. Except to say to people, Wars are not fun! I’m really trying to get people to concentrate on the war-like aspects of training!

A: Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.