A secret Army study has detailed the widespread logistical problems faced by Australian forces in Iraq 15 years ago. ‘The Howard government had decided early in 2002 to begin planning the Iraq War, a year before John Howard announced Australia’s involvement….But it could not admit this to the public or even the ADF
The report, obtained by the ABC and marked “for Australian eyes only”, revealed how frontline troops were often without crucial supplies for battle and military commanders struggled to get the personnel required.
According to the 156-page document there were also deep concerns about a vaccination program for soldiers that was described as “poorly thought out”.
The research, to be declassified today, was compiled by Albert Palazzo of the Australian Army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre.
Dr Palazzo’s report, completed in 2008, concludes the Navy’s elite Clearance Diving Team 3 endured the worst logistical support, and its members were treated like “second-class citizens”.
University of New South Wales Professor Clinton Fernandes, who first secured the secret study, said it detailed how ADF personnel were quietly dispatched to US CENTCOM headquarters in Florida in 2002 to begin planning the Iraq war, a year before John Howard announced Australia’s involvement.
“What the document shows is that the Howard Government had decided early in 2002 that it was going to join the United States in any operation in Iraq whatever it might be, but it couldn’t admit this to the public or even to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) at large,” he said.
“So only a few people within a very tight planning compartment were told about it.
“They had to plan in seclusion from the rest of the defence force — as a result there were lots of logistical problems.”
No camouflage gear for combat support squadron
Getting Australian personnel and equipment to the Middle East proved difficult, according to the report, because of the RAAF’s “complete lack of strategic transport capability” and the government’s “inability to provide the ADF with a clear indication of its intentions and a timetable for the commitment of forces”.
“By failing to make a timely announcement on the nation’s participation, the Howard government succeeded in boxing itself into a corner, while at the same time abdicating one of its few strategic decision opportunities to the United States,” Dr Palazzo wrote in his report.
The report describes how “commanders also encountered problems in getting the staff they wanted”, often because the people with the “optimum skills” did not have valid passports and visas.
Dr Palazzo describes force preparation as “inconsistent” and notes that units were deployed with “different levels of equipment”.
“The Expeditionary Combat Support Squadron deployed without key personnel items including individual protection equipment, combat body armour and camouflage clothing,” the report reads.
No laundry or fresh clothes for ‘second-class’ divers
According to Dr Palazzo, “the unit with the most poorly thought-out logistic plan, and the recipient of the worst support during the deployment” was the Royal Australian Navy’s elite Clearance Diving Team 3.
His report said it did not take the divers long to get the “impression that they were second-class citizens as far as logistics were concerned”.
Much of the poor treatment of the divers is blamed on an international private contractor that “prioritised its clients by profit potential”.
“During their three months in Iraq, the divers did not receive a change of cloths (sic),” the report reads.
“They deployed with three sets of camouflage and lived in them for the duration. There were no laundry facilities at any of their locations in Iraq.”
The “controversial and poorly thought-out” vaccination program to protect Australian personnel from biological weapon attacks is also heavily scrutinised in the document.
“News of the inoculation program came as a surprise to most of the troops awaiting deployment or already in the Gulf,” the report reads.
“For some it caused considerable angst.”
This article first appeared on ABC News