The Service Attachés and Advisers Group (SAAG) concluded this year’s engagement program with a trip to Defence bases and industry sites in Brisbane.
CAPTION: Members of the Service Attachés and Advisers Group tour RAAF Base Amberley in Brisbane as part of their engagement program. Story by Kristi Cheng.
Visits to Gallipoli Barracks, RAAF Base Amberley and industry sites wrapped up a tour of Australia’s major cities by the SAAG over the past two years.
Earlier this year, the group visited Sydney, Tasmania, Perth and Exmouth, on an engagement program that aimed to showcase Defence Force and defence industry capability to accredited foreign military attachés.
It was the last tour with the group for Vietnamese defence attaché Senior Colonel Tran Truong Son, whose posting to Canberra is due to finish next month.
He said the tours allowed more interactions with his defence attaché colleagues to discuss regional and international situations, create people-to-people linkages and promote bilateral relations.
“I, myself, think that it’s very helpful for us to understand ADF, especially the units, and to understand defence industry,” Colonel Tran said.
An example of that close Defence relationship was apparent at the RAAF Amberley visit, where the SAAG was briefed on and toured a C-17A Globemaster III.
RAAF used the same model in the strategic airlift of four Vietnamese level-two field hospital contingents to South Sudan, when Australia and Vietnam worked together on the United Nations peacekeeping mission.
This was also the last SAAG tour for Wing Commander Sean Ahern, Deputy Director of Defence Visits and Attaché Management.
For him, the cultural aspects of the tour – which always recognise Australia’s traditional owners – made it unique.
“In addition to the high-technology displays at Defence and Defence industry sites, the SAAG had a great opportunity to reflect on the ancient stories and culture of the area during an Aboriginal art walking tour around Brisbane,” Wing Commander Ahern said.
“The walking tour allowed the SAAG to see fantastic Aboriginal art and places of Brisbane that they would not normally see, which I think provided a greater understanding of Australian culture.”
The group also visited a range of Queensland Defence industry sites, including Thales – most noted, particularly in recent times, for their production of Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles.
For Pete Stevens, Operations Manager for Thales Australia, it was valuable to have Australian and foreign military representatives develop an understanding of Defence industry capability.
“It’s always really good to get an end-user perspective of the work we do, because it’s not often you get that feedback. Showcasing what we do to foreign countries as well, I think, is really good for us,” Mr Stevens said.
“If they walk away with an appreciation of the complexity of the fleet [of Bushmasters and Hawkeis] and the skills that exists within the Defence workforce, then we’ve achieved what we aim to do.”
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Burgerhout, defence attaché for the Netherlands, said it was nice to see the Bushmasters – vehicles he hadn’t had the chance to see back home.
The Netherlands first purchased Bushmasters from Australia in 2006 for their operations in Afghanistan, and is the second-largest operator of the vehicles today.
He added that he now has a to-do for when he goes home: having seen the outside as part of the tour, he’ll need to try to see the inside.
He shared Colonel Tran’s thoughts on the value of the tours in exposing defence attachés to the range of Defence industry and personnel across Australia.
“It is, for me, a good opportunity to meet industry, to meet people from companies. I’m grateful to the team in International Policy Division for organising with units and industry to accommodate such a large group of us,” Lieutenant Colonel Burgerhout said.
“It’s nice to see your colleagues under different circumstances, to meet them, to laugh, to discuss – to enjoy.”