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Post by George »

Understanding the mind set of a special forces operator is difficult. Sooki was an Australian SASR soldier who died on a beach in Brazil. This was his obituary.

Sooki suffered a heart attack whilst on Rec Leave back in Brazil. He and his Samba School partner (30 years his junior. Thank God for Viagra) were strolling hand in hand along the beach when he keeled over dead. At least the players didn't get him. Following behind cars on a motorbike, then riding up and shooting players in the act of kidnappings, proved such a deterrant that kidnappings in Colombia decreased over 80% during 2006.

The funeral was in September 2006.

My love and affection for both the man and the soldier. More an indication into the soul of the man. Truly a man's man, with a huge dash of larrikin and upper class prick thrown in. Left me his arsenal of weapons in his Will. Like I could get the weapons home!!! Christ, can you imagine the Customs man at Sydney.

And why do you need this small arsenal of weapons, Sir?
Because they were left to me in a Will.
I see. I didn't know that Adanan Koshogi was dead. And of course, you have had all of these weapons rendered, haven't you?
No? Then you have a legitimate End User certificate and an export licence from Brazil?
I see, Sir. Can I show you our Interrogation Room? You'll find it bare and Spartan in that cozy chat sort of way. Come this way Sir. No, you can leave the weapons. You'll be an old man before you are escorted from Sunny Her Majesty's.

You'd have absolutely loved the bastard. Pin Head drops using a new demo canopy. Six members of Air. Seven exited the aircraft. All seven landed within the circle of truth, the seventh, completely naked. Said naked man, wearing a balaklava, ran to the nearby fence, jumped over and tore off at high speed on a motor bike, never to be discovered. Six members of Air were at a loss to explain because he hadn't stripped off until the light and after the first four had decanted.

In Africa, during a training mission for river crossings, a very large croc with very sharp teeth and an appetite for African soldiers, attempted to reduce the number of men crossing the river. Said Instructor motored his little Zodiac around, ripped out a Whizz Bang (quarter stick of TNT for the un-initiated) and casually tossed it into the snapping jaws which swallowed it whole. The local aquatic life dined out for a week on roasted croc.

In Borneo, patrolling along a fresh reed track mentering the jungle, he confronted a rather large monkey. Said to be a guerrilla but it wasn't carrying any weapons, so I'm not sure. Whipped off his pack, got out the makings and sat down and made a brew. Said monkey also sat and watched until he was bored, then grunted and shuffled off and the patrol restarted.

On Robin Sage in the US, the Airborne were close and closing in and the team were in the lead. To be successful, they had to remain at large. So, the story goes, they broke into a Liquor Store and stole some spirits, went back to their Hide and stashed the bottles nearby where they had carefully established a fake hide. It was found and the happy Vertical Envelopment Experts, decided it was not appropriate to share. Later, four British members in US Airborne Uniforms walked into the control point of Robin Sage, complete with weapons. They then led rescuers back to ten very sleepy but happy soldiers, four of whom were almost naked and had no weapons.

During a Selection, he told three young men who were near to completing the NavEx (Navigation and endurance Exercise), that when they got to the GR they would be told that there was no transport and they would have to walk back – another 25 kms and that it was dangerous because of the logging trucks. But he said it was a trick. They were looking for the right response from a potential Candidate. That response was to stand up, put your gear back on, beat your chest like a monkey, shout out Hoo Hoo Hoo, like the Yanks do, beat your chest again and cry out loudly, “Danger is no stranger to a Selection Ranger,” then dance around the Cadre. They did. He cracked a rib laughing and they were RTU’d, his original intent. Said members were not particularly Selection material and had hidden it from Cadre Staff but a student had a word in his shell like ear and he had followed them and knew what they were like.

When I was away, my daughter got ill and I couldn’t get back. Sooki was at the Regiment, doing nothing and decided to ring me just to see how things were. 40 Hours later he was at my house, taking over my family and supervising the medical treatment, the lawn mowing and doing the shopping.

In Ireland, on holiday, we were visiting the old folk in the back country of Cork, when asked by my Grandmother what he did for a living, he told her he was a ‘fancy man’. She scoffed, whereupon he jumped to his feet, stripped off and did a sexual dance in front of her, then held his hand out and asked for ten quid. She refused, quite stunned, then grinned and said that if he could “get it hard without touching it” she’d pay him.

In Singapore…

In Berlize…

In Germany…

You get the picture.

This was my friend. But if you had a problem or your family, and I asked him to help, he would have died in the attempt. He believed innately in the brotherhood of the warrior.

Training. When I first met Sooki, I was a training wizard, having undergone an immense amount of training and learning. But the boy was absolutely brilliant and made me feel like an absolute novice. He had one driving principle – no compromise in training. In Australia we have a saying – train hard, fight easy. Sounds good to quote to people but few actually understand what it means. Sooki had the psychological understanding that enabled him to take his comprehension of training to a higher plane.

He taught me that if you trained someone and you never compromised in that training in any way, shape or form, then they had a better than above average potential of surviving combat. He based this on the chaos theory. Sooki believed in the old adage that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, but he also believed that the enemy included any higher HQ’s. He knew from experience that contact with the enemy meant a continual compromise of the battle plan until success was achieved. So his theory of no compromise in training was based on the premise that if you contact the enemy you will be forced to compromise, and if the HQ gets hold of your plan they will compromise it through change.

He got hold of the training programs of a range of groups. When it involved small craft, he used the training program of SBS to train up the operatives in all facets of SBS small craft work. Thus no matter what the ‘surprise’, nothing was a surprise and you had both the knowledge and the training to handle it. He had books on animals from every continent and knew the habits of every animal he was likely to meet in the jungle, forest or savannah. He read botany books and knew all about the flora to be encountered in any environment he was likely to operate in. When he went to Mountain, he read every book on the expeditions that climbed Everest, K2 or any other prominent peak. Thus when he underwent training, he knew in advance the problems that might be encountered, the speed of changing weather conditions and the methods of survival. His beliefs were predicated on the knowledge that the human being is fallible.

He believed that if you had a plan that included a 70km trek across a desert, then you rehearsed with a 150km trek across the desert. If you had to swim five km, then you rehearsed your ability to swim 15km. And he believed that de-briefs were wrong.

I have been able to apply his training principles to most things I have learnt in life. I certainly applied them to my writing courses, to my foray into the defence industry for both British Aerospace and Tenix and in the work I have done for the ADF on a contractual basis.

Justification. Decisions made in the heat of battle are made at a time when the adrenalin is at its peak, when the emotional level is at its highest and the concerns are at their broadest. That means that the decisions you make are impacted by your concern for the patrol, the ability to complete the mission, the strategic consequences and your personal reputation. A debrief a day or a week later is not made under the same circumstances.

He did agree that the debrief is required but contended that the value of the debrief on combat decisions was intrinsically flawed. After the incident, the testosterone levels have dropped, there is no adrenalin and your emotional level is well under control. So you don’t have the psychological values to justify the decisions. But you will be looking for justification for your actions and will have to think about what does justify the choices.

He did in fact believe that such justification should not be sought for at least five years after the incident. He believed that hindsight based on further experience against which such decisions could be compared is what gives those pressure decisions their validity.

Equally, he thought the debrief was a watershed of emotion for patrol members, especially where casualties occur, and is a stress relief valve at the emotional level. He also thought the debrief was optimal for the decisions on patrol composition, logistics and personnel selection. He saw the justification of decisions under fire as an intrinsic flaw in the system, a way to point the finger and apportion blame.

And he firmly believed that if you had to justify a decision that saved a life, then the values under which you were working, were questionable. In the Regiment, debrief occur with highly trained and qualified members, usually with a degree of experience, thus each person knew what they would do in the same circumstances, so why were they seeking justification for a decision – unless that decision was so outrageous that it had cost a life?

Beliefs and Values. His University of life lectures he presented to me over the years found a kindred spirit in me. You know why I never attended my Uncle’s funeral and this is a similar belief he took with him to his grave.

Sooki didn’t believe in a life ever after. He believed that the soul the religions talk about, is the complex of memories individuals retain after someone dies. He believed that once you were buried, you rotted in the ground until some 33rd century paleontologist found your bones and attempted to reconstruct your life from fragments of funerary wear. He believed your essential being, the animating and vital principles credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity, lived on amid the people who knew, cared or loved you, through their memories.

His reason for this was that people always only remember the good times, subconsciously repressing the bad or unpleasant things the deceased might have done or been involved in. Thus the ‘good’ memories are retained and passed on to the emerging family and eventually become family history. But those memories become the soul of the person, the essential being that defined who they were to each individual in the same manner the local priest tells you to remember your dearly departed’s soul.

He valued loyalty above all else. He convinced me early in life that heroes were dangerous people. He asked the simple question of whether I knew of any heroes who earned that title where people didn’t die? And he was correct. Everyone we know as a hero, within the military context of hero, was smack bang in the middle of a lot of death and dying. He always said that heroes never made friends because no one wanted to die to make a hero.

But loyalty was the best praise you could give someone. Loyalty would get you through anything and he quoted the stories of the Japanese prison camps and the loyalty developed between all prisoners and the lengths they went to survive. He believed that dying in support of a friend was not loyalty. He thought it a waste of time. He thought coming up with a plan that saved both was the ultimate feat of loyalty.

He believed in the brotherhood of the warrior, similar in nature to the Code of the Bushido and the retention of the martial skills to defend the way of life society chooses. He was convinced that like any other employment, the warrior was held in high esteem one day and reviled the next because society was fickle. Society never saw itself in peril until their blood was spilt. Yet he was never bitter about that. He believed that many people joined defence forces for the status and were never really intending to be placed in harms way, so it was the warrior caste, the elite soldier who was the backbone of the military. He believed that if the warrior caste ever fell, then society was doomed to revert to tribalism.

He believed that any soldier who never kept a 25% weather eye on the evolving nature of his enemies or potential enemies warfare, was orchestrating his own downfall. He believed that your enemies saw their own evolution much quicker than you because they had to change tactics to encompass that evolution. Thus any soldier who did not detect a difference or variation in tactics, would be caught out after two or three evolutionary changes because the new tactics would circumvent your old tactics. Fourth generation warfare proves his point. He always told me that fifth generation warfare had already began its gestation period and that the next evolution in warfare would involve the destruction of keystones of economic life – the financial institutions, the environment, Unionism, medical systems, the judicial system and religion, all those things that give us hope.

Most of all, he taught me to trust myself, my instincts. He proved to me more than once that the more you know, the more you have to learn. If you are on a journey of discovery then you have to know what questions to ask and what answers are required, or you learn nothing.

Nothing has happened since that has convinced me otherwise and he remains about 50% of my personality.

And I do know why we do it. We do it out of fear. We fear that if we leave it to anyone else, it won’t be done as well, as quickly or as selflessly as it would if we do it. It isn’t a stated fear but one buried deep inside because we have all been told about ego and conceit – the belief that no one else is as good as us. But they are wrong. It is ego and conceit that drives us to know how we will stand up when the time comes because it is the fear of the unknown. If it were not, then why would we even try. No one knows us better than ourselves.


Graham Parks
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