The Australian Army Training Team – Vietnam was the most highly decorated Australian unit in that war. It fought some hard battles and was filled with hard men.
One of them was Ian Felton. He served 20 years as a soldier in the Australian Army, rising through the ranks to become one of its senior soldiers – a Warrant Officer Class 2. Ian has recently written to the Chief of the Australian Defence Force to express his disgust at military involvement in the Mardi Gras. It is a very strong letter, and is republished with slight edits below.
Dear General Hurley,
My name is Ian Felton.
I am an ex-serviceman, having served 20 years and 17 days in the Australian Army from 1968 to 1988. I served in many capacities and was proud of the uniform I wore.
I am ashamed and disgusted with the overall administration of the Defence Department since my retirement; ashamed and disgusted with the decisions and policies of the hierarchy who hold the complete security of Australia in their jurisdiction and portfolios.
I have never seen a more blatant abuse of the Defence Force, than finding that our head of the Australian Defence Force, in conjunction with the politicians, has committed the ultimate crime and insult to those who wear the ADF uniform.
General David Hurley you have bought shame on the Australian Defence Force.
You have now permitted ADF members to wear uniform and participate in the Sydney Mardi Gras, and this has been permitted for two years now.
This is not one member of the ADF we are talking about parading now, but platoons of service men and women.
General Hurley, by your prolonged support of service men and women wearing uniform and participating in the Sydney Mardi Gras, you have paid the ultimate insult to all service men and women who have donned the Australian uniform, from the days of the Boer War to the First and Second World Wars, Korea and Vietnam, and all conflicts since.
When one enlists into the Defence Force, they are obliged to swear allegiance to the Queen, and the Commonwealth. By that allegiance they swear also to uphold the respect of the Australian Army uniform, and what it stands for and represents.
You, General Hurley, have allowed homosexuality in the Defence Force to be openly paraded for the public to see by condoning participation in the Sydney Mardi Gras.
By condoning their participation whilst wearing the sacred uniform of the Australian Defence Force, you have not only insulted all ex-servicemen and woman, but exposed the vulnerability and mindset of those who have the security of our country in their hands.
The service personnel marching have one thought in mind: that is recognition of their sexuality. You have allowed the use of the uniform on an unauthorised parade.
The uniform is only to be worn on military parades, commemoration parades and other parades that are in accordance with military protocol, and that uphold the good order of military discipline and procedure.
These questions need to be addressed. By allowing military personnel to attend the Mardi Gras in uniform, are they deigned to be on official duty? Are they covered by compensation, both going to and from the parade? Are they covered under military or civilian law for any injuries suffered by attending the parade, ie riots, civil disturbance etc? How much compensation will the Australian taxpayer be held for in case of personal injury and subsequent medical requirements?
General Hurley, you have broken all protocol of military impartiality.
By allowing the use of the military uniform on a parade such as the Mardi Gras, you have turned my uniform, and every other proud soldier’s uniform, into a clown’s costume. Not only that, but by allowing the uniform to be worn in a Mardi Gras, you have introduced the military into a three ring circus.
There is homosexuality in the Army, Navy and Air Force. There is homosexuality in all walks of life, be it the church, the police, school teachers and every trade or profession.
Homosexuality is a very personal matter; one between the person and God. Allowing service people to flaunt their sexuality in uniform is demonstrating their allegiance to their sexuality and persona, as opposed to the real purpose of being a member of the Australian Defence Force.
If you have any credibility, General Hurley, you and your staff might advise the Minister for Defence to cease forthwith with this blatant support of service people in uniform marching in any parade that is unmilitary, let alone a ridiculous pantomime/circus called a Mardi Gras.
I came up through the ranks in my twenty years service. I learnt through experience and, hence, wisdom. I was not streamlined through Officer Cadet School. As a member of AATTV, the most highly decorated unit to come out of Vietnam, I was taught two things.
One was to keep your head down; the second was to watch your mate’s back.
I have checked my military records and find I did serve under a Major General Michael Jeffery who, as you are no doubt aware, became our Governor General. He is a great military man.
Thankfully, I find I did not serve under you.
I always kept my head down and watched my mate’s back. In your Army, I would be wary of who was not watching my back, but my arse.
Your preoccupation with supporting the gay military members in their Mardi Gras parade, makes one wonder, if certain members of the military hierarchy are, not in actual fact, covering their arse.
Ex Wo2, twenty years service