Torture-Resistance course weakens Army.

By Damien de Pyle

The current Federal court case around the Conduct After Capture (CAC) course is just the latest in a long line of complaints about how the Army is shooting itself in the foot by hurting its own capabilities.

The course is meant to train soldiers to resist interrogation and exploitation techniques that may be used by an enemy force in the unlikely scenario that an Australian soldier is captured. Yet, soldiers who have spoken out about the course have consistently said that the way this course is being run is making things worse rather than better.

SAS hero Stuart Bonner who went through the training said that he thought, ‘There may be serious health ramifications from some of the techniques they used against us.’

Other SAS soldiers like Evan Donaldson claim that the course sexually assaulted him leaving him with PTSD and blood running down his leg for the rest of the course.

The sexual perversions happening on this course go well beyond sexual assaults with Craig Dunlop from the Herald Sun reporting that the course uses sex toys, homosexual porn, dog collars, and forced participants to desecrate Bibles with some of these items.

Why are these sexual acts being committed without any evidence that foreign governments or terrorist organisations even use these techniques themselves?

It’s no wonder that the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has found that participants in this course are 38 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population and 15 times more likely than the veteran population. The course is leaving soldiers with PTSD and other mental health injuries which lead to expensive replacements.

Figures from 2004 found that one SAS soldier costs the taxpayer $2 million in training and irreplaceable experience. Obviously, those numbers will be higher 19 years later, and a course which leaves soldiers harming themselves and being medically discharged will be costing the taxpayer potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in retraining, medical costs, invalid pensions, and DVA claims. This an expense that can be easily avoided by changing how the course is run.

The Royal Commission also found there had been no studies into how effective the course was at training soldiers for resisting interrogation and exploitation techniques.

Common sense tells us that it’s pretty difficult to learn anything when you’ve been sleep deprived for three days and suffering from symptoms akin to acute psychosis. It’s also not too difficult to think that torturing, sexually assaulting, and forcing soldiers into sexually perverted scenarios might actually help enemy forces to turn our soldiers against the country that did this to them.

A simple question we can ask ourselves is, ‘Does this training give the enemy more to work with, or less when interrogating our soldiers?’

Trauma is definitely a weak point that can be exploited by an enemy force, so why is our Army purposefully trying to traumatise its own soldiers?

I have heard many people argue that we need to have a tough Army, and doing these things will toughen up these soldiers. I certainly agree with these people that we need to have a tough Army, especially when you see all of the political correctness that has been forced onto the Army with this growing left-wing agenda.

However, the main weaknesses in the Army are cultural weaknesses that target the warrior spirit in soldiers, and remove the collective identities that have formed a huge part of the Army’s history. We can see this with the removal of ‘death symbols’ from platoon and company logos which in some cases have a rich history stemming from the Vietnam War or even earlier. This directive even got rid of Spartan symbology because it promotes ‘extreme militarism’ which was just a baffling decision.

Soldiers look up to these historic warriors because of their great virtues which should also be encouraged in our Army. Yet, even among these great warriors, the idea of purposefully injuring your own soldiers to toughen them up is non-existent. Hardship is what built the strong warriors of old, not injury. The Army does contain hardship, and this is important for the development of strong and resilient soldiers. We should always seek to encourage this hardship.

Trauma is not produced from hardship, it’s produced from injury. The Conduct After Capture course does have elements of hardship, which is good and should be maintained in a future version of this course. The problem is that many of the techniques on this course create injuries, not hardship. Forcing soldiers to do sexually perverted acts is not hardship, it’s moral injury. Sexually assaulting soldiers is not hardship, it’s sexual injury. Even torture is a traumatic hardship that purposefully causes injury.

A course that purposefully produces injuries is a course that needs to change. We would be appalled if we heard that the Army had a course that just shot soldiers in the shoulder to toughen them up, because we know that purposefully causing an injury is just plain stupid. Likewise, this torture-resistance course has been criticised by elite soldiers for over a decade for purposefully causing injuries.

This is the basis for the ReformCAC campaign which seeks to make changes to this course to stop the injuries that are happening to Australian soldiers. We want a course that produces resilient soldiers prepared for the rigours of captivity, not soldiers with mental injuries which end up costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars. Our goal is to reform the course to support Defence’s capabilities, while also keeping our soldiers strong to fight the next day.

We also want the government to provide greater support for soldiers who have gone through this training and have become injured as a result. This includes DVA accepting all mental health claims from the course participants. It also includes the federal Parliament making an official apology so that these veterans can have closure over a significantly traumatic part of their service to our country.

I’m happy that many veterans have already indicated support for our campaign. I want to call on politicians and the public to now do the same, because for the sake of our country’s Army, we need to change this course.



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One comment

  • Pete Lindwall April 10, 2023  

    This course should be not changed but cancelled.
    I remember many years ago there was a “code of conduct “ course
    and it came to the same conclusion, it was breaking highly trained
    Officers mentally. Incidentally there have been no Australian soldiers
    captured by any of our enemies since maybe the Korean War.
    There was a story of an officer who was told when he had enough to push
    the button on the cell wall and he would be released. They couldn’t break him
    until one morning he woke to find the button on the wall was gone, He then broke
    down. I can’t verify this story but I’ve always remembered it and it showed how
    even the strongest can be broken.
    Pete Lindwall

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