Thursday, September 27, 2012

General John Cantwell on War in Afghanistan



General John Cantwell
Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra,  where retired General John Cantwell is speaking on  Australia’s military involvement in the Gulf and Afghanistan. This is to launch his book   "Exit wounds: one man’s war on terror" (with Greg Bearup). There are around 500 people in the audience, including senior current and former military officers. General Cantwell recommended "The General's regrets: John Cantwell" (Melanie Sim with Alex Sloan, ABC Radio, 27 September, 2012 12:55PM AEST).
Public Lecture

Exit wounds: one man’s war on terror by Major-General John Cantwell with Greg Bearup

Canberra Times / ANU Literary Event: Meet the Author Series 2012
Australia has been at war for the past twenty years and yet there has been no stand-out account from these conflicts. The Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts have constituted major Australian military involvements since the Vietnam War. In the case of Afghanistan, Australia has paid much in blood and treasure. This lecture elucidates Australia’s military involvements in the Gulf and Afghanistan from a practitioner’s perspective. Major-General John Cantwell’s book Exit Wounds is his searing story of the realities of Australia’s recent wars and the enduring scars they leave on our armed forces.
Major-General John Cantwell AO DSC retired from the Australian Army in early 2012 after a unique career spanning almost 40 years. Starting as a 17-year-old Private in 1973, he rose through the ranks in a career that included Commanding Officer of the Royal Military College at Duntroon, Commander of a brigade of around 3,000 troops, the Deputy Chief of the Army, and Head of the Force Structure Review as part of the 2009 Defence White Paper. He was also Interim Head (and later, Chief of Operations) of the Victoria Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, coordinating all Commonwealth, State and non-government efforts to recover from the deadly Black Saturday fires in 2009.
Major-General Cantwell served in three distinct wars: combat duty in Operation Desert Storm in 1991; as the Director of Strategic Operations in the US-led coalition headquarters in Baghdad in 2006; and as the Commander of all Australian forces in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East area of operations in 2010. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership in action in Afghanistan, has been made a Member of the Order of Australia and an Officer of the Order of Australia, and received the United States Legion of Merit.
Book sales and signings will follow the lecture. 
Presented by The Canberra Times and ANU Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies

1 comment:

Retired Staff Sergeant David Hartshorn said...

The one sentence from Exit Wounds that sums up retired Major General John Cantwell as a commander is: “As much as possible I shield the unit commanders in Afghanistan from the deadening touch of defence bureaucrats and political wrangling, but not always successfully”. John has demystified, in my view, one star rank and above. The Australian generals of the 70s and 80s who influenced my early army career, and dare I say John’s, still mostly displayed the British “stiff upper lip” attitude of show no emotion. John has shattered that myth forever. He has also reminded me about the positive aspects of army mate ship and camaraderie, which have been and will be evident for time immemorial. John has provided a fascinating insight into the policy and decision making at senior officer level, and shown that even at his level, an army general on leave is still at the mercy of policies of “the muted defence public affairs machinery.” While every combat death is sad, the saddest incident for me was the one involving the two soldiers who detonated a buried improvised explosive device while doing pushups in their platoon over watch position. As I finished John’s story I was left with a strong wish that his mates from the first gulf war, Steve and Pete, who John said he has not been able to reconnect with, will get to read this moving account of the unique experience they shared together on the battlefield.