Chris Masters speaks of our forces in Afghanistan
Acclaimed journalist Mr Chris Masters, of Pearl Beach, addressed the Rotary Club of Woy Woy about his latest book.
Coming from a family famed for its journalism skills, Mr Masters was educated at Macquarie Boys School at Parramatta getting his leaving certificate in 1965.
He joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation shortly after leaving school and in 1983 he joined the Four Corners program as an investigative journalist.
He remains the program's longest-serving journalist.
He then changed his style by writing books on a range of sometimes controversial topics including crime, corruption and religion.
Mr Masters' new book is about the Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan.
He said he found it a difficult subject to research because of the secretive nature of special services.
Writing the book was a 10-year effort.
He said he believed there was something special about Australian soldiers who come from an open society that believes in the fair go.
Mr Masters became interested in the war in Afghanistan, which he said had become Australia's longest war.
He said he had travelled to Afghanistan three times starting in 2007.
The humanitarian side of the conflict attracted his attention and by 2010 this had changed to a mentoring and training issue so that the locals could gain control of their country.
He said he also wrote the book because he felt that the current generation knew more about the first and second world wars that their grandfathers had fought in than the one that their children were occupied in today.
The bravery of the young troops who were going out to the villages with the mantra of "courageous restraint" with their fingers off the trigger was commendable, Mr Masters said.
He saw for himself how in 2010 an improved explosive device caused the death of some of his young compatriots in the army camp and that reinforced his determination to write about what was going on in Afghanistan.
He said he was fortunate in 2011 to meet some of the special forces at Whyalla, where in the desert, mud brick fortresses such as those in Afghanistan were built for training purposes.
Afghan immigrants were used to give authenticity to the experience.
According to Mr Masters, there were essentially three groups of special forces: the Special Air Services Regiment, the Commandos and the Special Operations Engineer Regiment who defuse the bombs.
One of the characters who feature in the book is Mr Albert Trinh, a boat person and a son of a boat person.
He grew up in Melbourne and decided to join the army as a way of giving back to Australia.
He survived four near death experiences in Afghanistan.
In combat, on one occasion he found himself surrounded by red smoke which had come from a canister in the front of his chest armour that had been hit by a bullet.
Another time he stepped on a detonator which exploded but did not set off the main charge.
Later he was supported in combat by a US Apache helicopter that unfortunately fired its guns too close to his team and he was the only one not injured.
The final time was during the biggest mission the Australians were engaged in when he was hit in the chest and invalided out but again he survived.
He said it was interesting to see the way that ordinary people stepped up in extraordinary circumstances.
To combat the income from drugs, it was important not to interfere with the livelihood of the average farmer but to somehow stop the income being used by the Taliban for combat, he said.
The key was to attack the drugs distribution after the farmers had been paid.
They therefore had to take on the drug lords who had their own defence force to prevent loss of their drugs which were worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Newsletter, 12 Dec 2017
Vic Deeble, Rotary Club of Woy Woy