“Even heroes have their heroes,” The Australian reports:
For Victoria Cross-holder Ben Roberts-Smith, the benchmark for valor was set by his mate Sergeant Locke.
The Special Air Service Regiment corporal says Locke’s courage probably saved his life and stopped a heavily outnumbered Australian patrol being overrun on a mountain top in Afghanistan late one afternoon in 2006.
“He was a very, very brave person, Matt, in every sense of the word,” Roberts-Smith says.
I was slightly surprised by this story about SASR trooper Ben Roberts-Smith and his service in Uruzgan, southern Afghanistan. Roberts-Smith distinguished himself in combat and received Australia’s highest reward for gallantry, the Victoria Cross, in 2010.
I was surprised, that is, to read anything at all about Australians in Afghanistan.
To say the Australian Defense Force is a hard nut to crack for the media is an understatement. I frequently talked to Dutch reporters who were embedded with Dutch troops on operations with Aussies in Uruzgan. Whenever the Australians were involved, a media black-out was imposed on them.
One reporter told me he just didn’t understand it. “Don’t they want the public to know what their troops are going through?’ he said.
Most Australians are behind the Afghanistan mission. Both political parties are behind it, too. All the same, negative stories are not something the ADF and those in political power are willing to risk.
I felt the strong hand of the ADF a year ago, when the Dutch were still deployed in Uruzgan. I arranged to go on an embed with them. I said I wanted to cover the cooperation between Dutch and Australian troops. Everything was organized — or so I thought.
When, a month later, I hadn’t heard back from the Dutch military, I started making some calls. I heard that my trip was off and I was now so far down the list, it was clear I wasn’t ever going.
A few weeks later the rumor floated around that the ADF had canned my embed when they heard I wanted to cover their activities too. “We don’t want him jumping the fence,” they said.
So, a hard nut to crack, yes — unless the story is one they want to be told. Roberts-Smith’s story is clearly one the ever-vigilant ADF PR hawks wanted to be told.