Tuesday, May 30
It can't be a coincidence that they all have the same "blue steel" pose ready to unleash for the newspaper cameramen. The confident broad stance, the arms resting relaxed-but-alert across the weapons, the swathe of storage belts and pouches arranged just so, the inevitable sports sunglasses, the boom microphone, and in this latest example, a jaunty black sweatband.
Initially, I'm as impressed as the next reader: dress me in dark camouflage gear, drape me in 40Kg of guns, water canteens and dehydrated food, then stand me in the full heat of the Dili sunshine while the Herald's photographer frames his shot, and it would take more than a black sweat band to prevent me melting into a puddle in the road.
But then it gets me thinking: I've seen that look before! I've seen the exact same pose and the same jaunty Aussie take on regulation equipment again and again!
It doesn't matter whether they're overseas supervising disarmament in East Timor, returning from surveillance in Afghanistan, or just mucking about Sydney harbour threatening ferries in another anti-terrorism exercise, Australia's super-troopers always strike the same pose, with the same gear.
Is it a coincidence that legendary director Ridley Scott chose an Australian to play the toughest veteran special forces character in Black Hawk Down? The very same actor who played The Hulk for Ang Lee? I don't think so. I think the Australian SAS and their "blue steel" pose are now a stereotype as universally known as the Australian cricket team's expert sledging and the Crocodile Hunter's need to spoon with dangerous wildlife.
If I were the head of the SAS, of course, I'd be delighted. If I were the Defence Minister or the Prime Minister, I'd be very chuffed. Nothing looks more reassuring, defence-budget-boosting and vote winning on the front page of the daily newspaper than an Aussie Bloke Who's Got Everything Under Control, Thanks. I'm only surprised that other branches of the Australian defence forces have yet to cotton-on.
For years now, the Navy have given the press nothing but shots of patrol boats and destroyers with nary a human face in them, and even those in ridiculous white shorts and long white socks. Not even Eric Bana could make those look confident and quietly aggressive. The RAAF, meanwhile, has so few modern aircraft to work with, that the only time we see a photo in the newspaper is when they once again fall out of the sky.
Take a leaf out of the SAS book, people: get a big, boofy bloke in front whatever large, expensive piece of technology has just failed to deliver as promised, get him dressed like he knows what he's doing, and then train him to strike a pose!
The nincompoops responsible for the debacle with the helicopters that still can't fly in bad weather need a cocky, iron-jawed pilot/model to pose in front of the doomed chopper with a spanner, as if to say, "No worries, I'll soon have her right".
The bureaucrats who've let so much of the nation's armaments get a bit rusty need a slightly greasy, well-muscled Army technician to pose hefting a massive artillery shell as if confident it'll go off only when it's expected to.
And the drop-kicks who lost Private Kovco's body and then lost the report from the investigation need a buff, hunky desk jockey with one broad hand gripping the paperwork tight to his chest as he gazes out the window at the airfield below, all working smoothly and efficiently. Tightly cropped and correctly lit, we'll never be able to spot the cargo already beginning to spill off the conveyor belt.