Gemma Jones and Jessica Marszalek
August 13 2013
SPEAKING to troops in Townsville, Kevin Rudd told his own war story about how he too had gone outside "the wire" into the danger zone in Afghanistan.
Casting himself as a Prime Minister who had ventured beyond safe Australian bases in the war-torn country, he said he had "gone out" into the field once or twice.
Mr Rudd made the remarks after thanking 100 soldiers at Lavarack Barracks for their service to Australia and he promised to do more to help their comrades who struggle to return to civilian life.
Many raised their hands when he asked who had served in Afghanistan.
He urged them to visit the War Memorial in Canberra to see the latest exhibition on the Afghanistan War, which has claimed 40 Australians, including four who were based at Townsville, and shared his own experience of the conflict.
"If you get down to Canberra have a look at the new exhibit on Afghanistan," he said.
"The War Memorial has got the best piece of what I would describe as live action film of what it is like to be in the field in Afghanistan ... right at the point of engagement with the enemy.
"I was just taken aback, I have been to Tarin Kowt many times, probably five or six times now, and I have been basically behind the wire, once or twice I have gone out."
He said the exhibition "reminds us that this was not the odd angry shot - Afghanistan - this is a real, hard-fought war on the ground."
Mr Rudd's spokeswoman said he had ventured outside an Australian base during a three-day visit as Foreign Minister in March 2011.
The spokeswoman said Mr Rudd, who visited an Australian base with his wife Therese Rein last month, saw the work of troops during the time in the field.
After a tour of the Townsville on Tuesday in which he inspected a camouflage exercise and two Light Weight Howitzer gunners, he asked the soldiers to gather so he could thank them for their bravery.
"For all of you here and through to your comrades still in Afghanistan, another reason for coming here today is just to say thank you for the work that you and the Australian Defence Force have done in all of our name in Afghanistan," he said.
"As you know, in Afghanistan, 40 of our best and bravest have not come home, 250-odd have been wounded."
Referring to Private Benjamin Ranaudo, Private Matthew Lambert, Captain Bryce Duffy and Lance Corporal Luke Gavin, he said: "And you've lost four or five here from this very base at Lavarack and we remember them today as well."
Mr Rudd made the visit after campaigning at a nearby childcare centre in the LNP-held seat of Herbert, which is on a 2.2 per cent margin, where he pledged $30.6 million to train more childcare, disability support and aged care workers.