It is early 1990. I’m not sure of the exact date but I’m a member of a platoon of freshly minted recruits at 1RTB, the 1st Recruit Training Battalion.
It is starting to get cold because we are shivering through our ‘greens’. A ‘Secco’ or Section Commander calls out the names in the platoon. We yell out our presence. He marks his role.
We have been running PT for a while by this stage. The blokes who have made it this far don’t fall out on a whim or because they aren’t fit enough. We don’t stumble over each other as much as we try to run in step. Our fitness is steadily improving.
We have our webbing on. Today we will be introduced to the old art of bayonet fighting. SLR’s. Self Loading Rifles with pointy knives at the end. We are quietly excited.
We start marching. After a time we start running in step. As we are running along one of the section commanders points over to a set of trees.
“Gentlemen, over there is a tree. In that tree a recruit decided to hang himself. Let me be very clear. You are not to hang yourself. Hanging yourself will create a shit-storm of paperwork. I’ll have to fill out paperwork, Sergeant K* will have to fill out paperwork, the officers will have to fill out paperwork…”
He has run forward of the platoon and then spun around so as to face the running soldiers.
“I fucking hate paperwork”.
We all look at the tree. We look at the Corporal. He is grinning.
“So don’t fucking hang yourself”… he pauses … “Yes, Corporal” he puts it to us like a question that must be answered. It is not a request.
We scream out “Yes, Corporal”.
It is not loud enough. “I CAN’T FUCKING HEAR YOU LOT” the Corporal yells back at us. His face has turned red.
“YES, CORPORAL”. Our scream echoes across the training grounds.
“BETTER”. He turns around and gets back into step near the front of the platoon.
The tree falls behind us.
It is 1990 and we have just been given our first suicide prevention lesson by the Australian Army.
Twenty-four years later I will tie my own noose. But that is in the future.
I don’t usually sign petitions. I’m not a big fan of Royal Commissions either. That said I fully support a Royal Commission into Veteran Suicides.
You too can sign here at change.org.