The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday when SAS hero and Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith announced that he was staying in the army for the time being.

Ben Roberts-Smith

Corporal Roberts-Smith is the poster boy from central casting for the Australian Defence Force and he had previously told senior officers that he planned to leave the service following 18 years in the army and nine tours of duty with the SAS.

“Like any member of the ADF, there will come a time for me to move on. However, if and when that time comes, I will remain connected to the SASR, the Army and the ADF,’’ he said.

The man mountain with the laconic smile, the devoted wife Emma and cute twin daughters Eve and Elizabeth is a genuine hero and a recruiting dream for the army.

The fact that the man known fondly as “Big Ben” or “RS” to his mates was planning to leave the army did not surprise anyone who understands the rigours of military life and the incredible demands of high-end special-forces service.

Corporal Roberts-Smith has had more bullets flying past his head and has killed more enemy fighters in a few short years than most soldiers do in a lifetime.

Just reading the public citation that accompanied his Victoria Cross for Australia send a shiver down the spine of most civilians. The classified version that details the damage he inflicted on the other side is apparently frightening.

“On the 11th June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar Province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander,” the citation reads.

“As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.”

Incredible stuff and the sight of this two-metre plus, unshaven and heavily armed giant racing towards them like a Spartan warrior must have put the fear of god into the enemy fighters.

To pass selection for the Special Air Service Regiment is a feat in itself but to serve on nine active tours of duty is a remarkable though not uncommon achievement among the tight knit SAS community based at Campbell Barracks, Swanbourne near Perth.

Finding recruits that are up to the demands of SAS service is not easy. The families of SAS soldiers also sacrifice an enormous amount in support of their menfolk and Emma Roberts-Smith has had to stay at home on tenterhooks, waiting for that dreaded phone call, as her man has served with distinction in some of the most dangerous places on earth.

His planned departure signalled a tipping point for the military brass who are concerned about the loss of special-forces skills as the Afghanistan campaign draws to a close.

Commanders see the end of the war as a “decision point” for weary soldiers and some are well aware of the need to do something about providing a satisfying career path for their highest achieving soldiers.

The challenge in these days of shrinking budgets is to ensure that meaningful jobs can be found for the tier one operators. Many of those who are leaving, and there are quite a few including senior officers and soldiers, believe that the army is reverting to a 1990s force and that those in charge don’t know how to reverse the trend.

There are two fights going on, one on the battlefield and one in Canberra and as one former senior SAS operator put it, “We are not winning either.”

The urgent challenge for the top brass is to harness the knowledge and experience of operational commanders and operators and to promote younger guys into the senior command tent before they get restless. This could mean promoting them over the top of more senior officers who have served their time.

The fact that Big Ben has decided to stay on for now is good news for the SAS, the army and the nation. The challenge for the brass will be keeping him.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEDST

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    • infamous16 says:

      05:30am | 12/02/13

      I agree, a soldier’s worth should be determined by how many Afghan men they kill in their own land who are fighting for their own independence after successfully booting out the Soviets and are now under U.S. occupation. Many of whom are fathers, brothers and sons who are fighting for their own self determination, but it’s best these terrorists be killed. We should also spare a thought for the family these hired assassins leave behind as they profit from this occupation. Bravo! You are a real man for killing a largely untrained militia.

    • marley says:

      07:33am | 12/02/13

      That’s a terrific misrepresentation of what’s going on in Afghanistan.  What’s happening is a war to keep the Taliban from returning to power and brutally repressing that 50% or 60% of the population which doesn’t happen to be Pashtun, plus those Pashtuns who want better for their daughters than a life spent in purdah.  When the Taliban marched into Afghanistan in the mid 90s, it wasn’t to liberate the country from a foreign oppressor;  it was to seize power, and impose Sunni Pashtun rule on the population. That’s why the number of refugees from Afghanistan reached the highest levels since the Russian occupation during the Taliban era, and why, when the Taliban were booted out by the allies, 5 million Afghans went home.  But of course, none of that fits with your scenario, does it?

    • Jim Moriarty says:

      07:33am | 12/02/13

      My partner served in Afghanistan. You have no idea what’s it like. It’s easy to shoot your mouth off when you’re sitting in a chair.

      I don’t agree with the War on Terror, but support the troops 100%.

    • Nathan says:

      07:45am | 12/02/13

      And you are a real man for being so vocal hidden behind your keyboard. 

      Guess what he is VC winner and yes he killed allot of Taliban and kicked ass who should be celebrated, but for his bravery. I don’t know if we should or should not gone to Afghanistan but what i do know is that our government sends these men and women and they do a dam fine job.

      This was not a pro war piece.

    • Chillin says:

      07:50am | 12/02/13

      Except the US are giving them self determination.

    • Simon M says:

      07:53am | 12/02/13

      You are an Idiot.


      I supose you’ve been to Afghanistan have you? Care to report your version of the ‘truth’. They are not fighting for, as you put it, ‘their own self determination’ but rather for a return to extremist Islamic rule, as they had from 1996 - 2001. I suppose your happy with honour killings and little girls being executed for wanting an education? You may not support the war or the politicians that send the troops there, but support the troops, as its not their choice to be there, and they risk their lives on a daily basis

    • Colin says:

      08:04am | 12/02/13

      @ infamous16

      “We should also spare a thought for the family these hired assassins leave behind as they profit from this occupation. Bravo! You are a real man for killing a largely untrained militia.”

      Indeed. Unfortunately, infamous16, your words will fall largely on deaf ears; the majority of commentators on here are of the ‘Guts and Glory’, ‘An eye-for-an-eye’, ‘If you aint with us you is agin’ us’ kind of people…

    • marley says:

      08:29am | 12/02/13

      @Colin - I see you know as much about Afghanistan as infamous16 does.  You don’t have to be a “blood and guts” lover to know that the Taliban are not fighting for “Afghan self-determination.” 

      By the way, how do you resolve the conflict between your views on the ghastly oppression of women by the patriarchy, and your quiescence at Taliban efforts to impose a much worse patriarchy in Afghanistan?  Is it that your support for women’s rights ends the moment more than talk is required?

    • adolph stalin says:

      08:36am | 12/02/13

      somehow i dont think the poor 18 year old girl who the taliban cut off her nose and ears because she was fleeing an abusive husband would agree with you

    • Peter says:

      09:22am | 12/02/13

      What a flog you are.
      Supporter of the Taliban, the mass murder of people who want an better way of life. You enjoy women and girls being shot, having acid thrown over them? You’re pro kids having bombs strapped to them?
      If you’re so pro Taliban please feel free to go visit Afghanistan.

    • Colin says:

      09:31am | 12/02/13

      @  marley

      “Is it that your support for women’s rights ends the moment more than talk is required?”

      You just don’t get it, do you?

      Violence is wrong. Violence against women is wrong. Killing other people to show them that killing other people is wrong, is wrong. Violence. Killing.Oppression. ALL wrong.

      And your stupid assertion that I should condone violence because I support the fight against the oppression of women is so full of dogmatic nonsense that I now realise how deeply ingrained the ‘Might is RIght’ mentality on you and the other war-mongers on here. It is simply frightening.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:09am | 12/02/13

      Perhaps Colin and Infamous would do better to direct their outrage towards the politicians who sent the soldiers there, rather than at the soldiers who are simply doing their job.

    • marley says:

      10:36am | 12/02/13

      @Colin - what you’re saying is, women can count on you for support as long as all you have to do is sit at a computer and write a blog.  Women can’t count on you if it means you might have to protect them from an abusive male, or from an abusive political group like the Taliban.  I expect the response to that would be “thanks for nothing.”

      I find it frightening that you think keeping your own hands clean is more important than protecting the vulnerable, whether women or children or anyone else, from abuse and violence.  You would stand to one side while people are abused, and let the abuse continue.  You would allow the greater evil rather than engage in the lesser one of trying to stop the abuse.  And the sad thing is, you can’t even see that its the disinterest of people like yourself that allows the violence to continue. You should get a job with the UN:  all hand-wringing while hundreds of thousands of people are massacred.

    • Stephen T says:

      10:58am | 12/02/13

      @Marley: Well said Marley you have captured Colin to a ‘t’.

    • Chillin says:

      11:17am | 12/02/13

      I haven’t seen a better ‘owned’ on the site, ever.

    • SAm says:

      11:22am | 12/02/13

      my good friend is there right now..pretty stupid post Infamous. I dont agree with the war (never had) but if your going to suggest our troops just doing their jobs (and a great one) are ‘terrorists’ you find anyone on your side

    • RobJ says:

      11:26am | 12/02/13

      “Except the US are giving them self determination.”

      No they aren’t, they’re propping up the utterly corrupt Karzai Govt. Do you even know what ‘self-determination’ means?

    • LJ Dots says:

      11:41am | 12/02/13

      I was sitting in the upper bleachers at The Punch stadium, when I saw that one fizz past.. That’s outta’ here.

    • Roxanne says:

      11:41am | 12/02/13

      @marley, absolutely the best put down I have seen.  Well done sir!

    • Chillin says:

      11:57am | 12/02/13


      The Taliban was SO much a better option.  As long as they are slaughtering their own people, it’s okay right?

      Rage on!  The world is evil, America is evil, blah blah blah.

    • jtz says:

      12:03pm | 12/02/13

      @infamous and colin, how about the poor family of the two sikh men behaeded in Pakistan because they refused to convert or pay jizya. How about the 5000 Sikhs and Hindus forced from thier lands in Norther Pakistan How about he hundreds of Sikhs and Hindus who lived in Afghanistan before the taliban who are forced to hide ans were told by the taliban to wear arm bands the same as the jews under nazi germany.

      How abou the innocnent ppl killed on the bus in Europe.

      Maybe instead of looking in one spot you open your eyes.

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:47pm | 12/02/13

      A man who fights for nothing can’t be counted on for anything

    • RobJ says:

      02:22pm | 12/02/13

      “The Taliban was SO much a better option.  As long as they are slaughtering their own people, it’s okay right?”

      Now now Chillin, just because I highlighted your lack of understanding as to the meaning of ‘self determination’ there’s no need for you to attempt to put words in my mouth.

    • NSS says:

      02:32pm | 12/02/13

      The Afghan conflict is defended as righteous in trying to prevent an oppressive, regressive regime from retaking power. Fine, a laudable aim (if ultimately futile) and I have no problem with brave soldiers doing their job.

      It’s odd that the same passion and effort is not expended in decrying and opposing the hateful behaviour of Wahabists in Saudi Arabia, such as the recent appalling, no horrifying case of a Saudi father who raped, beat and burned to death his five year old daughter because he “doubted her virginity.”  It seems we need Saudi oil far more than their women need liberating.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      02:55pm | 12/02/13

      @Colin and infamous16
      Don’t look at me- I support my troops 100%- yet that is why I personally want them OUT of Afghanistan.

      People brave enough to put themselves in harms way to DEFEND AUSTRALIA, should NOT be thrown into danger zones for mere diplomatic appeasement of an ally.
      ESPECIALLY to protect a revolting country that refuses to change their brutish medieval culture after over a decade of occupation.

      They clearly don’t seem to want us there (for reasons right or wrong), and we shouldn’t be wasting our lives and blood on them.

    • marley says:

      05:45pm | 12/02/13

      @Concerned Citizen - as it happens, I agree that our troops should be pulled out.  But the complete misrepresentation by “infamous16” of the reasons for their being there is not an argument for getting them out.  We can argue all day about whether the intervention will achieve its goals (I think not) but we shouldn’t be lying about the Taliban and their goals either.

    • Zack says:

      05:53am | 12/02/13

      Can someone remind me if the defense budget was slashed by Gillard/Swan/ALP? Somehow these problems always end up being a Gillard cause.

    • Nope says:

      08:49am | 12/02/13


      yes, we get it.

    • Mr Sam says:

      11:51am | 12/02/13

      ‘Julia Gillard’s approval with voters has slipped significantly and she now finds herself once again as unpopular as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, today’s Essential Report finds.

      The Prime Minister’s net disapproval rating with voters has fallen from -8 to -19 since January, with a five point fall in her approval rating to 36% and a six point rise in her disapproval’

      Nope you realise if she doesn’t step down she essentially lied about why she back-stabbed Rudd? Now you get it champ!

    • jtz says:

      06:43pm | 12/02/13

      @nope i love like you. In the most recent pay agreement the ADF was asked to vote on it. The result was a huge no to what was being offered but yet it went through. The reason stated was that if they continued to negotiate they would loose all rights to back pay. Could you imagine if a company did this, the reaction of labor and the unions.

    • Everyday ADF says:

      06:17am | 12/02/13

      An interesting article and a good point. Special Forces soldiers, and their Navy and Air Force counterparts, are high value elements of ADF capability. The focus, though, should not just be on the fact that CPL Roberts-Smith is leaving. The same lack of purpose, direction, budget support and clear future cited in this article are leading to worrying numbers of non-SF personnel leaving as well. While this might not be as sexy from a news perspective, it is just as important. Our conventional forces are just as important as our SF and we can’t afford to lose them either. So while we acknowledge soldiers like CPL Roberts-Smith and the importance of retaining them, let’s make sure we also keep pressure on the government and our command elements to ensure we do all we can to retain every single ADF member we can, regardless of what they do. After all, without the cooks, drivers, medics, clerks, mechanics, box packers etc the chicken stranglers will find it pretty hard to to their job.

    • Middo says:

      01:17pm | 12/02/13

      McPhedran makes a good point about the value of trained and experienced operators, and you’ve correctly identified that it is not just SASR or other special operatives who are valuable to the ADF. The cost of replacing support staff (cooks, clerks, supply operators) is also significant, let alone the cost of replacing specialists – pilots, air traffic controllers, seaman officers, engineers, linguists etc. Whilst training is expensive, re-building experienced gained in the ADF (not from overseas forces) is invaluable. 
      Retention measures are only considered after the horse has bolted leading to the capability being damaged in the medium term. Often, those who benefit from targeted retention measures only benefit those who were going to stay in any case. Retention initiatives are purely monetary which fails to recognise the fact that most people leave for reasons other than money. Job satisfaction, geographic stability, and conditions of service (the benefits that come with the job) almost always carry more weight than purely remuneration for Service members. It is these intangible factors which are routinely ignored by career management agencies in the ADF, or by policy-makers in personnel branches. When you can’t get in to see a doctor or dentist at your local medical centre because Joint Health Command have failed to convince a GP or dental hygienist to work for them, an incidental effect is that your right (and expectation) to receive high quality medical services in a timely manner is impinged upon. I don’t want to start a debate about community health standards; free medical treatment is a condition of service in the ADF – part of your employment package if you like. If it’s not available when you need it, a part of your overall package is not being provided.
      I hold career management agencies in particular contempt for their failure place sufficient emphasis on retention of good people. Too often career agencies and managers in the ADF fail to be held to account for poor career planning, or decision making. They are not HR specialists, and often it shows. Template or cookie-cutter approaches to career management fail to recognise or reward high performers, or fail to effectively manage those who aren’t cutting the mustard.

    • AFR says:

      06:35am | 12/02/13

      “The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday when SAS hero and Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith announced that he was staying in the army for the time being.”

      Really? Methinks you are exaggerating somewhat….

    • craig2 says:

      07:07am | 12/02/13

      I agree, I felt relief that this guy was going to leave the army and move into a saner life. Ben has done his time and another career awaits him.

    • Colin says:

      07:23am | 12/02/13

      @  craig2

      “Ben has done his time and another career awaits him…”

      What ‘career’ would that be? Nightclub bouncer?Security guard? One of Dr No’s henchman..?

    • Jim Moriarty says:

      07:35am | 12/02/13


      I hope you realise how ignorant and classist you sound.

    • Chillin says:

      07:41am | 12/02/13


      He does it on purpose.


      Public speaker, Business owner (VIP protection, security), Security adviser…more successful than you in every aspect.

    • Colin says:

      07:51am | 12/02/13

      @ Jim Moriarty

      “...ignorant and classist…”

      Because I point out the obvious? Goodness, you DO have a big chip on your shoulder about ‘class’, don’t you..?

      @ Chillin

      “Public speaker, Business owner (VIP protection, security), Security adviser…more successful than you in every aspect. “

      Wow. That’s what you define as ‘successful’ is it? What low levels of achievement you must have. Oh, yes, soooooo much more successful than me..! tongue laugh

    • AFR says:

      08:05am | 12/02/13

      Just to clarify my earlier comment: I think what he has done for his nation is awesome. Something I couldn’t for a second imagine myself doing. But the other night I was watching the news and the LEAD ITEM was how he was leaving the army, Like it was some sort of national shock that a dude wants to change careers after risking his life for a a decade, and maybe spend more time with family or whatever he likes to do in his downtime.

    • Tim says:

      08:17am | 12/02/13

      Oh and AFR,
      completely agree.

    • Jim Moriarty says:

      08:18am | 12/02/13


      Well, considering I actually personally know a lot of people who have served and gone onto successful careers and you are mouthing off about a subject you know nothing about, I would say I’m the classy one here.

      And I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever mentioned class.

    • Colin says:

      09:02am | 12/02/13

      @ Jim Moriarty

      “Well, considering I actually personally know a lot of people who have served and gone onto successful careers…”

      Yes, Jim, but is that ‘success’ defined in terms of the way Chillin described it? Or is it REAL success..?

      “And I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever mentioned class. “

      Perhaps. But my response was predicated on the way that you immediately launched into an attack on my comment as if it was - without question - modelled by my perception of ‘class’. When, in reality, it was based on the fact that his claim to fame is in committing acts of violence, ergo I compared that to similar ‘civilian’ types of employment…

    • Ando says:

      10:08am | 12/02/13

      Please stop replying to Colin.The novelty has worn off and its become painful to watch.

    • Tim says:

      10:09am | 12/02/13

      I have a very strong suspicion that what you consider “skills” that would be valued by employers are completely different to reality along with what most other people would believe.

      The same goes for your definition of success.

      “When, in reality, it was based on the fact that his claim to fame is in committing acts of violence,”

      I don’t think his claim to fame is actually violence.
      It’s service to his country, courage, leadership, intelligence and dedication to his profession and fellow servicemen. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t buy in to the whole military digger “myth” much. People admire him because he has done things that they simply couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to.

      Apparently to you that equates to the skills of a bouncer or security guard. About as far off the mark as you could possibly get.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:14am | 12/02/13

      Military training is actually looked upon favourably in business circles. I imagine he won’t be wanting for a paycheck. Who wouldn’t want to hire a proven, self motivates leader of men who can perform with grace under pressure?

      If he wants to, private contracting int he middle east is also very lucrative.

    • Chillin says:

      10:58am | 12/02/13


      I know he’s a troll, I reply for my own entertainment.  If you want to see entertainment, head over to the soldier story where you will see he was well and truly owned by marley.

    • Chillin says:

      11:15am | 12/02/13

      * up the soldier story

    • M. Mouse says:

      12:20pm | 12/02/13

      My husband left the ADF after 21 years and has had a very sucessful career using the skills he learned in the Regiment.

      Thank goodness, because we wouldn’t be able to make ends meet on his army pension.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      12:43pm | 12/02/13

      @Colin, actually his claim to fame is putting his life at risk in order to protect others, something you can never hope to achieve.

    • neil says:

      04:22pm | 12/02/13


      Yeah he will probably end up a no-hoper like his dead-beat dad.

      Major General Len Roberts-Smith, RFD, QC

    • jtz says:

      06:47pm | 12/02/13

      @Colin how about accountant

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:44am | 12/02/13

      When I worked with them in the 90s, there were words put about regarding exactly the idea you suggest - promoting people past more senior people, or simply getting rid of people who had achieved “ceiling rank”.

      It didn’t go down terribly well then, and the same resistance will exist now, I fear.

      I think it’s absolutely necessary.  We need the best to be able to be the best, and not be hamstrung because someone above them, obviously less capable, has “achieved ceiling rank” and is now holding others back.

      Hard choices need to be made in how promotion is earned and reviewed, I fear.

    • Retired Soldier says:

      08:20am | 12/02/13

      Colin - there will be people you have never heard of head hunting this fine soldier. The job he will be offered will be something that you wouldn’t have the mentality nor the guts to do. The pay will be likely less than what he currently receives whilst on Active Service but he will still be representing Australia in a role he is well qualified for and which is more than people like you can ever do. I would love to stand you before any soldier and ask that you repeat your words about RS.

    • Colin says:

      09:23am | 12/02/13

      @ Retired Soldier

      “I would love to stand you before any soldier and ask that you repeat your words about RS. “

      Yes, because you would take great delight in the violence that would ensue. And that would justify everything, wouldn’t it? Your attitude and many of the others on here regarding what constitutes right and wrong really scares the $hit out of me.

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:05pm | 12/02/13

      Actions have consequences Colin. You have the right to denigrate anyone you like - just don’t be surpised if you cop a smack across the chops for it while the rest of us laugh at you wink

      Luckily you’ll still have the internet to hide behind wink

    • PsychoHyena says:

      03:26pm | 12/02/13

      @Colin, actually they’re more likely to laugh at your stupidity.

    • Meph says:

      04:33pm | 12/02/13


      “Yes, because you would take great delight in the violence that would ensue.”

      Showing your ignorance here old bean, about all you’d cop is being laughed out of the room. These guys couldn’t be where they are if they were the mindless thugs you seem to think they are.

      To get rid of all violence in humanity, as you seem to think is required, would necessitate that humanity also got rid of greed and envy. That hasn’t happened in tens of thousands of years, and certainly won’t happen in my lifetime.

      Until your utopian society is even remotely viable, there will always need to be brave souls who are willing and able to take a stand to defend those less able than themselves. Maybe if we took better care of the ones with this kind of heroism in their blood, we could make better soldiers of them all.

    • L. says:

      07:05am | 12/02/13

      The solution seems pretty obvious to me..

      Let these guys go and pursue life, and pay them very healthy contracts to be part time training staff. Make the $$ good, and enough should sign on to cover the training year.

      What else can you do?

    • Nathan says:

      07:47am | 12/02/13

      i think that is the smartest option, you want to retain their knowledge and skills as best you can but you can’t think they will be in the army forever.

    • L. says:

      08:22am | 12/02/13

      Actually Nathan, they do it already with former regiment members. But I think they are only paid the standard army daily rate for such people.

      Bump up the $$ and more will stay around.

    • Mr Sam says:

      08:28am | 12/02/13

      Funny how incompetent politicians of the highest selfish orders get a nice paycheck and pension with perks but our men and women in the armed forces don’t get respect and reward.

    • simonfromlakemba says:

      09:38am | 12/02/13

      As someone who processes rental applications of a lot of Australia’s Defence Force I can tell you they get paid very well.

    • EC says:

      10:32am | 12/02/13


      Really? Highly paid in comparison to what? I think you are confusing the housing allowances paid to compensate personnel for the fact that they get moved every couple of years and can rarely afford to buy their own property every time they are posted.

      If you are interested, you can find all the base salary rates on the Defence website.

      Care to share the details of your salary?

    • Sandra says:

      11:23am | 12/02/13

      My exs were both in the army and I thought that they were paid well. One, who was a low rank had no tertiary education/apprenticeship and was actually posted at ADFA so he would never be posted OS or made to fight (whilst he decided to stay in this position) was on +65k. Then there is the cheaper loans, subsidised housing, free medical (expected) unlimited sick days, free flights back home (I was moved interstate for my job and didnt receive this benefit) and general discounts on every day items from fitness equipment and shoes to flower deliveries and even krispy kreme!!! And this was for a few hours work every day!!!

      My sister works like a dog, has a tertiary education and earns less than 45k Whilst trying to pay off her mortgage without any benefits.

    • EC says:

      11:45am | 12/02/13


      I appreciate your concern that your sister is highly qualified and being paid a relatively low salary in comparison to those being paid to the ADF but I believe it is all about relativity and what the market is prepared to pay for certain skills, qualifications, experience, etc.

      The point I was trying to make is that, in my opinion, the pay rates for the ADF do not appropriately reflect the requirements of the job, especially in comparison to the private sector. I can understand that if your ex chose a posting that would ensure he wasn’t deployed or sent anywhere, this could affect your view of people in the service. I’ve had soldiers under my command in the past that have utilised a range of methods to avoid deploying on operations and exercises, this isn’t new and is a sad aspect of human behaviour when this is an essential element of your employment.

      In regards to the cheap loans, this scheme was designed to offset the cost of purchasing a property that you may be forced to sell when you relocate. The subsidised housing is also a key condition of service due to the cost of relocations, workforce mobility issues, etc. My current company (private sector) also subsides the accommodation costs for employees living and working in the north-west of Australia due to the inflated housing prices in that part of the market, so it is not only a military specific issue. The free medical is also part of the conditions of service and intended to keep personnel fit, healthy and deployable. We did not technically receive unlimited sick days. If we were sick or injured we were given sick leave on advice from medical professionals, but only for as long as was required. If you were sick or injured for long periods of time, your medical classification could be reviewed which could result in a medical discharge if the condition was serious enough. The free flights were a nice benefit and a good way to get home from Townsville for Christmas but were only applicable to single personnel.

      In regards to your last comment about ADF personnel only working a few hours each day, I respect that this is your point of view but I feel that it is incorrect. I have met soldiers who would work continuously for days at a time whilst on operations or exercises and I’ve also come across soldiers who wouldn’t do anything at all unless ordered and then be out the door the moment 4 o’clock came. Having said that, I have now seen the private sector and realise that there is a similar, if not greater, number of people who do the same.

      Essentially it comes down to generalisations that ADF members only work a few hours per day and are well paid for it. Yes, there are some personnel that will abuse the system, but I suspect it is exactly the same in every workplace.

    • L. says:

      11:55am | 12/02/13

      SSandra says

      “unlimited sick days”

      Haha.. yeah, just try and take one and see how far you get. In the army there is no such thing as simply calling in sick.

      “free flights back home”

      One per year, and only for single soldiers. Not a huge cost as a ‘perk’.

      “general discounts on every day items from fitness equipment and shoes to flower deliveries and even krispy kreme!!! “

      haha.. lots of different jobs get this. Hell, joing the RACQ or RACV and you to can get these discounts. These are not exclusive to ADF members.

      Simon Says

      “As someone who processes rental applications of a lot of Australia’s Defence Force I can tell you they get paid very well. “

      Really? I was a soldier for 10 years. I wouldn’t have called my wage ‘very well paid’. $150K/yr is getting to the well paid spectrum of society, and not many ADF members get that.

    • simonfromlakemba says:

      03:28pm | 12/02/13

      Comments didn’t get through earlier.

      Front what I have been told they usually get $300pw and some upto $600pw

      I have leased two properties to two single people Defence/Navy, one at $900pw and the other at $950pw in the last 3 months. Not a great use of tax payers money. Add to that discounted loans and the other benefits it’s not exactly a terrible situation and the ADF isn’t compulsory so no one made people join.

      But seeing people at around 26 years old on $80-$90k+ with no Uni degree in the ADF is a bit worrying, so in my opinion they are very well paid.

      I’m in sales, so self made. Not sure what my salary has to do with anything though.

    • Jim Moriarty says:

      06:50pm | 12/02/13


      The scheme is called Defense Service Home Loans. It’s funded by Defence and administered through DVA and Westpac. They have insurance as well.

      The scheme is aimed at service retention, because the longer you serve, the more of a subsidy you get.

    • Doc says:

      07:50am | 12/02/13

      Blokes who are natural leaders (perhaps the LCpl, perhaps not) ought to be moved into positions where they are able to have some say in the management of the military.  They’ve been there, done that, and know what it’s actually like.  So many staff officers lack the experience, and of course successive governments see the military as a useful tool, to throw back in the shed once finished with.  Our military is facing significant strife over the next 15 to 20 years, right at a time when regional neighbours are strengthening their militaries.  Interesting timess ahead.

    • John says:

      08:06am | 12/02/13

      I never swallowed the hook, line and sinker story of AL-qaeda doing 9/11, meaning the entire justifications for war in the Afghanistan and Iraq are classified as invalid. Our Western Politicals, Our Intelligence agencys and our military’s and media are the real cancer as they deceive the people. CIA, FBI, German Intelligence, French Intelligence, British Intelligence (deceptionists). I would never serve in any western military that perpetuates myths and fictional enemy’s like they do today. The only military I server is the military of truth.

      The only real bravery is going agonist the tide, going against the mass’s. Military desertion is said to dishonorable, I see it as honorable. Man is supposed to serve good not evil, serving in western military’s today is serving evil. I say this as a christian with european blood flowing through my veins. I’m not saying the Taliban are the good guys, but that we are the badder guys.

      Do you also realize we are supporting AL-qaeda in Syria to topple assad, our politicians, media and military’s and intelligence agency’s are supporting the very people we are supposed to be enemy’s with. Don’t you guys see the picture yet? We are deceived, our soldiers are used as canon fodder. Soldiers are lied to about boogie men that don’t exist, in order to secure the financial interests and national interests of other nations.

      Western Politicians are trash, Our media is trash and our military are ordered around by trash.

    • Chillin says:

      08:27am | 12/02/13

      and 9/11 was thermite…

    • Doc says:

      08:40am | 12/02/13

      You don’t believe something so suddenly everything you believe is right and the rest of the world is wrong?

    • Chillin says:

      09:41am | 12/02/13

      That’s what I got out of it Doc.  If you can’t satisfy John, then it’s not true or it’s invalid and the rest of the world is wrong.

    • porloc says:

      08:29am | 12/02/13

      The United Kingdom has revived its splendid army and many of the famous old regiments are large and effective units again. As well the army has a higher public profile than in Australia. Units returning from service in Afghanistan have grand welcoming home parades through the centre of towns and cities across the UK. These are moving tributes to the service of the brave men and women of the services and allow the public to show their appreciation. The Black Watch parading through Scottish towns, The Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders in Canterbury or the massive 11th Light Brigade parading through Worcester are moving sights.
      There have been a couple of demonstrations by Muslim fanatics who had to be protected by the police. There are always idiots like infamous 16 but we can safely ignore them - most do.

    • L. says:

      12:15pm | 12/02/13


      The Brits have gutted and over extended their military across all three services.

      The UK military has closed and sold off bases and in so doing disbanded or amalgamated units which have been in existance for hundreds of years.

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:16pm | 12/02/13

      Agreed…I think you’ll find those ‘grand old units’ have been amalgamAted and folded into various new units where a battalion might now hold the name of a famous regiment of days gone by.  The Black Watch is now only a battalion that is part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland which was an amalgamation of 7 Scottish regiments into a single Regiment is only 1 example.

    • Dan says:

      08:34am | 12/02/13

      Good to see Ben is remaining in the SASR. However, could you remind us, Ian, who wrote yesterday that he was resigning to go into private business?

    • Rose says:

      08:39am | 12/02/13

      I really don’t care whether he stays in the army or not. I do however think it is a private decision for him and his family to make and I wish them well in whatever they choose to do.

    • Patriot says:

      08:55am | 12/02/13

      “The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief”

      Really? Methinks the nation, other than the tiny number of people who follow what goes on in Defence,  couldn’t care one way or the other what this guy’s next career move is.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      09:06am | 12/02/13

      As someone who doesn’t agree with our current occupation in Afghanistan, I can honestly say putting that aside, after reading Mr Smith’s achievements, if anybody has earned an early retirement, it’s him.
      Though I believe a promotion is in order- he clearly knows how to coordinate our soldiers in the field, after all.

    • Richard says:

      09:38am | 12/02/13

      The ADF does need to retain trained members and the Govt needs to keep its promises to Defence members when they retire after years of service. The Govt and the current one in particular need to honour the concept of FAIR INDEXATION. This election is the opportunity we need to send a message.

    • EC says:

      10:35am | 12/02/13

      I completely agree. I would have also loved to have accessed my super straight after having served 15 years in the Army. Pity we can’t get a super scheme like the politicians enjoy.

    • Jason says:

      09:49am | 12/02/13

      Ian, you clearly need to check your sources again.  Clearly you were fed some nonsense from some mid level officers looking to promote themselves on the back of an RS story.  Special Forces officers are as ambitious as anyone.  That is great.  But don’t be a pawn for self-interest.  You have done this a few times now.  I hope you give your source a slap on the wrist.

    • bananabender56 says:

      10:25am | 12/02/13

      Interesting to see the different perspectives here - in the article I think there was only 1 ‘hero’ - if this was a US article the person would have been a hero for winning a purple heart. I think the US forces work on the principle you’re a hero until proven otherwise, while Australia looks at it the other way.

    • BP says:

      11:11am | 12/02/13

      Agree Jason. Don’t know about other News Ltd papers, but the Tiser in Adelaide used the original story as page 1 lead. It wasn’t worthy of that even when we all thought it was true! I’m worrying more and more about the veracity of stories I read in the media these days. The pressure is on to publish immediately and the old practice of check, check and check again is, sadly, often going out the window.

    • chuck says:

      10:02am | 12/02/13

      To think that people like Ben RS puts his life on the line for people like cowards in the form of Inf16 is unbelievable.

    • Sunray says:

      10:26am | 12/02/13

      By far, the greatest finacial drain on the Defence Force is ADFA, which is not anything like, cost effective. Get rid of it and there will be room for gifted, experienced leaders, whose days are not consumed by planning and plotting their next career move up the promotion ladder.

    • Sunray Minor says:

      12:51pm | 12/02/13

      I agree; all officers should complete undergraduate degrees at civilian universities. I would keep ADFA though, change its role, and reduce the size/scope of some of the other joint training schools such as School of Languages, ADF Warfare Centre, as well as the single service training empires.

      After one year of successful study, candidates would be eligible to apply to their respective services. Those who are successful would be selected to be enlisted/commissioned in their second year of study and complete some part- time basic training in return for an undergraduate salary, payable only as long as academic and fitness standards were maintained. Those who successfully complete their third year of study would have their HECS frozen until they completed their initial period of service at which point their HECS would be waived.

      After graduating, assuming you did not want/need to complete honours, all military commissioned officers would be sent to ADFA to complete their graduate diploma in military studies. The three services and both genders would be intermixed, thus meeting the original intent of ADFA to build inter-Service connections (networking is the modern term). On completion, graduates would complete their single-service training. One would hope that with the age at entry being higher than 17 or 18 that the average candidate might be more mature and therefore the incidence of puerile behaviour might be reduced.

      ADFA, as well as being responsible for basic officer training, would also conduct post-graduate training for all three services, such as promotion courses and Command and Staff Course. ADFA would be responsible for specialist courses such as language training, as well as the oversight of training policy for all three services such as compliance with the AQF etc.

    • elevator snobbery gone mad says:

      12:12pm | 12/02/13

      A garbo (if there are any left after privatisation) as opposed to a MR truck drive,r is no less than an ex or an in the army type..They are just a human being who sells their labour. Why praise them up the army,or the cops even the ambos,all are just sitting ducks for p*ssing in the pocket hero worshippers.They do a job and its no better than anyone else or do we have the class division raring its head again,thanks due to the snob gen x.Grow up all you would be duck hunters and face facts. True heroes keep their mouth shut, only boofheads mouth off…2/1 he ends a burnt-out case used by those new guard fools circling the keyboards

    • Roxanne says:

      12:30pm | 12/02/13

      I don’t recall Ben big mouthing himself.  Always struck me as humble, as did the other VC winner.

    • porloc says:

      12:40pm | 12/02/13

      L, are you aware of the current state of the British Army? Those big batallions don’t look like phantoms to me.

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:54pm | 12/02/13

      Given that Cpl Roberts-Smith never actually intended on leaving the Army, nor made any actual moves to, and had to release a statement after certain reports ‘made up a story’ based on a half heard story….I’m kinda wondering why you bothered witht his followup at all??

      At the conclusion of ANY period of high intensity deployments and conflicts there are ALWAYS large numbers of Service Personel who will leave for civilian life. ALWAYS. Its a fact of life. After spending years of training then years rotating in and out of deployments its perfectly understandable that many don’t want to go back through the years of bullshit that is peacetime soldiering.

      This story was a non-event 3 months ago when it was already common knowledge he was going on leave.

    • Audra Blue says:

      03:40pm | 12/02/13

      I just hope for his and his family’s sake that he gets counselling when he returns from active duty.  PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is an awful thing for families and the afflicted to live with.  It destroys lives and ends relationships and he seems like too much of a good guy to have to go through all that.

    • just my opinion as it is says:

      04:19pm | 12/02/13

      There was no inference anywhere, internally or implied mouthing off of or by the subject.If at all, I would assume that he does not want the crap bandied around by hero bloggers. But if you see it that stupid way, who am I to argue with drongO who jumps to conclusion. I ask why and what for. No reply needed just what is written will happen.Consider this fact, that he might just to have to live a life now, that he may not want to live.And all, because of the supposedly all-australian mindset,that most people don’t want anything to do with. IE A POLITICAL RSL PUPPET.For if he bucks the system,he will be considered a damaged case, their eyes.Nobody should be allowed to pressure anyone…end of my story

    • Chris says:

      04:40pm | 12/02/13

      The title of the article is highly ambiguous: on one hand, Ben is so worthless that the army must cease valuing him; on the other hand, Ben is so valuable that the army must change its attitude to people like him.

    • stephen says:

      05:14pm | 12/02/13

      The ‘challenge for the brass’ will not be to keep him, (apparently this soldier is staying in the ADF) but it will be the momentum it has to maintain as this government implements the withdrawal form Afghanistan.
      But for the life of me I do not understand why all our service personnel are not in that country defeating our enemy.
      If we have declared that the Taliban is injurious to the Afghans and to ourselves if they get a toe-hold in Africa - that is happening right now - and if radical Islam gets established in Europe, then why are we not serious about the threat, and send all available forces at our command ?
      Forget the monetary cost ; if they are as serious threat to us as we are told, then they must be defeated ; otherwise we should surrender, and our men and women in the ADF can come home and get in the news like they have been lately : undressed, and over here.

    • Pops was a digger says:

      05:41pm | 12/02/13

      As the grandson of a digger who represented this country, was wounded and spent the rest of his life rarely speaking about his service, who along with his peers seldom “celebrated” conflict and wished only for peace but understood the price that must be paid for freedom: my pops would not approve of WHAT you say but gave the best years of his life for your freedom to say it. A little respect for those who serve, please?

    • Mitchell says:

      06:13pm | 12/02/13

      In regards to the discussion on how to retain experienced, skilled and talented military service personnel, I would have to agree with a few previous comments.

      Highly talented and experienced officers and soldiers who importantly have the ability to wffectively teach, should be and to a degree currently are retained by the ADF. Special forces personnel with plenty of intellect and teaching ability are retained and placed into training command positions, from Private to mid-level officer rank (field officer). They are integral to developing comprehensive training programs. However, Australia isn’t the only nation we look to recruit personnel for such positions. Australia has a very successful program selecting and poaching extremely talented foreign personnel, particularly from the US and UK forces. Australia does some things very well, but we are not ignorant enough not to realise we could not improve in other areas. Amphibious operations are a perfect example, where many if our senior instructors at the maritime warfare centre are US or British.

      Special forces are not the only profession in the military we should focus on for retention. Field cooks are a good example. Pre Timor, the ADF had out sourced its catering function. However, during Op Astute ( East Timor) the ADF found that no civilian cater could produce the quality and quantity of food required on operations. This saw the revival of the Catering Corps in the Army. Cooks and stewards not only have the purpose of producing food, but nutritional, healthy food with very limited food and catering resources. The Australian population demand physically and mentally tough soldiers. Quality food is crucial to this. So please keep in mind that even though catering isn’t as sexy as special forces, it is as crucial. Especially in a conventional war as part of the functioning war machine. The ADF in the next two years is about to have a demanding situation where they see many of the RAAF’s air traffic controllers discharging. Reasons for this range from very low pay compared and extremely high hours compared to their civilian counterparts. The RAAF just put on offer a retention bonus for ATCs about to conclude their ROSO. However, nearly all have refused the offer due to the poor conditions of the RAAF.

      To the fellow who believes that certain training institutions should be minimised, I would argue the following points. The warfare training centre is critical for Army development. There are not many institutions in Australia that instruct on military warfare like there are universities that lecture medicine or mathematics. The other training institutions such as the School of Languages not only teach subjects as plain as languages, but the military related topics that supplement them. Not many language in schools in Australia produce personnel for a profession of espionage, surveillance and psych-ops.

      ADFA has the purpose of maturing selected young leaders with a good level of intelligence, morals and leadership. I would support members completing a year of university education before commencing at ADFA. However, developing leaders in a tri-service environment in very important. Australia goes to war and protects our interests at the tri-service level, not single service. A good reason why the SAS recruits tri-service not just Army.

      In regards to our Victoria Cross members, I believe the argument over Renton shouldn’t dwell on them as the individual. These are normal people who have performed extradionary deeds selflessly. Whether they wish to stay in the ADF or take another path will always be decided by a plethora of influences. Money will never make people stay in the Army lifestyle. However, the ADF should target selected personnel, including our most brave and honourable for retention. At the end of the day though, the ADF relies on the public demanding this to force our politicians to act and support the ADF and its mission. The ADF doesn’t really ever get what it wants without heavy political influence. For example, the Army didn’t want the tiger helicopter. Is it a coincident that the machines are assembled in Kevin Rudds electorate on agreement with the corporation. The ADF should never be left to its own devices unchecked though, an a countable ADF is a good ADF. All officers I know would agree with this.


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