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A Tour of Aussie Trooper Service and Stories

May 11, 2022 4 min read

A Tour of Aussie Trooper Service and Stories

No matter how great or small, tell the stories of your service to the nation; that's the purpose of the Trooper Tour.


TWENTYFIVEFOUR launched its veteran-focused campaign at the Kirribilli Club's Diggers Dinner to coincide with Anzac Day in a nod to the brand's meaning. Through the veteran-owned company's mission to do good, the Trooper Tour tells the stories of everyday veterans who volunteered to serve their nation, not knowing where it would take them.


On Anzac Day, veterans often gather to spin stories of comradery over a gunfire breakfast, the tradition of mixing rum or whiskey with coffee. The Trooper Tour has its take on celebrating the kinship between troopers by swapping out the beverage with a non-alcoholic version in the way of its Gunfire cold-pressed whiskey and rum-infused coffee in a can - having a yarn over a brew.


Bronte Pollard, JP Wellbeing Support Officer Kirribilli RSL Sub-Branch, said the Trooper Tour was the same spirit as what the sub-branch was trying to foster.


"Storytelling is inherent to our society and culture, and if we don't keep telling them, then traditions and reasons why things happened, or why we do things get lost," "The Trooper Tour was part of that fabric of story storytelling, keeping that veteran's story alive, engaging people. 


"It doesn't matter what cohort or conflict or even if you're like me and you served in peacetime, it's that dedication to service.


"The gunfire coffee is a story, but for this, it's just that tactile thing that you have while you're spinning a yarn. It's a good product about connection, and you know, when people are engaged - they listen, they ask questions."


Hosted by the Kirribilli Sub-Branch at its Diggers Dinner on April 22, TWENTYFIVEFOUR joined club members, veterans, and families to do just this. The event headlined popular Australian diplomat and folk musician Fred Smith, who Mr Pollard says was an obvious choice.


"Being the first ANZAC day after the complete withdrawal from Afghanistan was a good reason to have Fred," says Mr Pollard. 


Using his trademark wit, tenacity for storytelling, and musical talent, Fred Smith built a show to explain to Australians what the mission in Afghanistan was all about. In his own words, the songs reflect the world he has seen in what, so far, has been a messy and interesting life.


In Afghanistan, Smith's duty was to liaise and maintain relationships with locals to maintain a grip on Australia's mission and where it was heading. Back home, his sense of duty came from retelling those missions in a way Australians could understand. But, as in any war, the dominating question is why?

It was 2009 when Smith first deployed to the remote province of Uruzgan; at the same time, Private Ben Ranaudo was killed, and Private Paul Warren was seriously wounded in an explosion in July of that year. Private Warren told Smith what happened while he lay in a hospital bed in Germany. Thousands of kilometres from where he last saw his mates on the battlefield and even further from home.


So moved by the soldier's ordeal, Smith wrote 'The Dust of Uruzgan'.


He's toured the show since 2011, but the story remained somewhat the same as troops deployed like a revolving door for many years. But on this night at Kirribilli Club, in front of the RSL Sub-Branch's Diggers Dinner audience, Smith begins to play to the chilling sound of his harmonica and guitar. 

"And pretty soon, we're out patrolling in the Afghan summer sun. Walking through the green zone with a Styer in my hand. Body armour chaffing through the dust of Uruzgan," Smith sings.


"Well, it's a long, long way from Townsville, not like any place you'll see. Suddenly you're walking through the 14th century. Women under burqas, tribal warlords, rule the land, full of goats and muck and jingle trucks in the dust of Uruzgan."

Besides veterans who fought and were lost as casualties of this long war, there are few people in Australia whose professional role in the name of their country led them back to Afghanistan time and time again. 


But now Smith's show has a new ending. A part of the Afghanistan story even he could never plan.

This Anzac Day marked the first since Australia's withdrawal from the war-torn country, prompting poignant reflection. Smith's latest chapter telling Australia's story in Afghanistan included his witness account of standing at HKIA during Australia's evacuation mission. 


His latest lyrics tell of the complete and utter chaos as desperate faces as Afghans pleaded to leave the prospect of a Taliban governed nation. Smith sang of the stress and emotion of the ordeal, and the inspiration is drawn from our troops and Australian public servants who worked around the clock to evacuate some four thousand people. 


Mr Pollard said veterans found parts of themselves in Smith's lyrics and spoken word as experiences for some seemed to repeat themselves. "It was relevant to our younger members, but in saying that, it was in the second half of Fred's show where he's talking about the withdrawal, and some of our Vietnam veterans said, 'oh my god, I can't believe we did that again," says Mr Pollard.


"It was another one of those moments of connection between generations. It was very good and very important because regardless of your age, the sub-branch must be relevant.


"We have to be able to engage with different veterans, young or old, female and male veterans and having a culture that accepts all of those things to have a culture of inclusion - that's what we've sought to do at Kirribilli Sub Branch."


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