The Northern Territory news Thu 21 Apr 2011
The Northern Territory news; NewspaperNT
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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin
Nationwide News Pty. Limited
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Nationwide News Pty. Limited
www.ntnews.com.au Thursday, April 21, 2011. NT NEWS. 5 P U B : NTNE-WS-DA-TE:21-AGE:705LO-R: C-M Y-K Free parking will be available at Chinatown and West Lane Car Parks from 5am. GrahamMintern IN my final year of school in 1964, I can remember hearing of the intention of the then Prime Minister, Bob Menzies, to introduce conscription by a ballot. As we lived near an army depot and I often heard orders being bellowed, the thought of being on the receiving end of those tirades did not excite me. Sure enough, just after I turned 20, my birth date came out of the barrel and shortly after that I was in the army. My initial 10 weeks training was at Puckapunyal, which was followed by infantry corps training at Singleton for a further 10 weeks. I was then posted to 9RAR at Woodside, just out of Adelaide. 9RAR was a newly formed battalion with many young National Servicemen like me. We trained at various locations such as Cultana, Shoal Water Bay and Canungra. I was selected for an interpreters course and spent 10 weeks at Point Cook completing a Vietnamese language course. After our jungle training course at Canungra, we sailed for Vietnam in November 1968 on the HMAS Sydney. 9RAR was based at Nui Dat in the Phouc Tuy province. Nui Dat was the Australian Task Force headquarters and at the height of the war about 5000 soldiers were based there. The job of an infantry battalion is to patrol the jungle and disrupt enemy activity and that is what we did. For weeks on end, we would patrol the jungle looking for the enemy and indications of their activities. Some of our operations involved working with South Vietnamese forces and, at other times, we worked with US forces. For us, the war and South-East Asia was an experience we were physically prepared for. But for naive young Australians most of us who had never been out of Australia before it was certainly a culture shock. The patriotism of the US soldiers surprised us and the way in which the South Vietnamese went about their everyday life in the midst of a war was an eye opener. For young Vietnamese, war was all they had known; for young Australians, it was very different. After seven months in Vietnam, I returned home and was discharged from the army as my two years National Service was finished. I was lucky to return unscathed but, unfortunately, some 35 brave young men from 9RAR were killed in Vietnam, a further 150 were wounded in action and many more are still carrying mental scars of the war. I have many Vietnam veteran friends, some of whom still carry the scars, but all of whom are proud of what they did for their country. The war and my experiences in Vietnam taught me just how lucky we are to live in this wonderful country and that we must never become complacent and we must do whatever it takes to retain our way of life. - By GRAHAM MINTERN