Afghan Diggers remember
Corporal Cameron Gilbride from Mentoring Taskforce 4 based at Patrol Base Wali in the Mirabad Valley, Afghanistan, and a letter from his mother sent on Tuesday April 24. (Please note portions of the letter that have included personal details, eg. addresses, phone numbers, have been edited out) Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
As dawn breaks over Afghanistan's rugged, dangerous hills today, a group of Australian soldiers will gather - their weapons loaded and ready for any sign of trouble - to remember those first Anzacs 97 years ago.
The event will be the most remote of Australia's Anzac Day commemorations, conducted by members of an Australian patrol inside a defensive circle of Bushmaster armoured vehicles at an undisclosed location on southern Afghanistan's arid dasht (desert).
Lieutenant-Colonel Kahlil Fegan, commander of the Australian Mentoring Task Force, said this patrol, accompanied by Afghan soldiers, was heading out to an isolated area of Oruzgan Province, harbouring overnight in the dasht then rising early to continue their journey.
''They are going to pause and do a ceremony out there,'' he said.
''They will be the most isolated Australian soldiers anywhere in the world celebrating a dawn service.''
Lieutenant-Colonel Fegan said the soldiers would maintain tight security and could even have surveillance aircraft or drones aloft looking for any trouble. ''When it's safe, they will pause and do that small, very quiet ceremony in the dark,'' he said.
''They will pause for a little bit, remember what Anzac Day is all about, remember the fallen, particularly our brothers here who have lost their lives. And then they will crack on. For them, Anzac Day is a day like any other here, on operations out facing the enemy.''
Lieutenant-Colonel Fegan said because of continuing activities, not everyone would be able to take part in all traditional Anzac activities. But in larger bases at Tarin Kowt and Kandahar, those troops not otherwise engaged would play some sport, enjoy an afternoon barbecue and partake of that rarity in an operational area - a beer ration.
''They will get two cans. It's on ice now as we speak and it's being guarded. We are all good to go.''
For those unable to take part on Anzac Day, another barbecue will be held at the first available opportunity, including the beer issue.
Lieutenant-Colonel Fegan said he had taken part in three Anzac Days on operations, but this one was special.
''It is in a war zone and in an area where many of us have known people who have fallen fighting the Taliban,'' he said.
''Unfortunately for us, operations don't cease. The operations are absolutely 100 per cent ongoing. The insurgents don't respect the day like we d,o so they are going to be out doing everything in their power to target us.
''Even though it's a very special day, we can't drop our guard one inch.''AAP