One day, Nicholas Latham, an ADF member, went for a cheeky stomp in Brisbane. It was a stomp no different to any other stomp, until someone called Queensland police. Latham was dressed in cams, was wearing a pack and was carrying what could be, if you had little knowledge of firearms, a firearm made from a series of welded steel pipes.
QLDPOL actually sent the aviation unit out to look for him, all because someone didn't know what battle PT was. Latham was charged with public nuisance. It's unknown if Latham also copped a prejudicial conduct charge and is currently mopping rain at whatever unit's guard room his from because the ADF had to apologise. Kate McKenna of the Courier Mail wrote during a court session that Magistrate Sheryl Cornack, who presided over the case, “expressed surprise that Latham was slapped with a charge of public nuisance — and not going armed so as to cause fear”. Basically, every single person on the entire planet overreacted. The ADF is a very small organisation, at most having around 58,000 active personnel. That is far outnumbered by the amount of Australians meeting military age every year (144,959 males and 137,333 females according to Wikipedia). Very few people actually know anything about the defence force because so few people are actually touched by even a cursory knowledge of it. That's compounded with few people exposed to guns in Australia and you've got a recipe for someone going for a stomp through suburbia looking like a big army man looking for Sarah Connor. The other problem facing the defence force is the only way to get good at running with guns, you need to... run with guns. Battle PT is absolutely vital to training; it's rigours train soldiers for the situations they will deal with later. Pack marches, being part of battle PT, are also very important and is something that is part and parcel of warfare dating back to the start of professional soldiering. An essay by LT. Rob Orr in the Australian Army Journal discusses combat loads throughout history. An example of Greek soldier's loads during war between the Greeks and Persia:
“In preparation for his war against the Greek Hoplites and the Persians, King Philip II of Macedon aimed to increase the mobility and speed of his army. Philip gave orders that all soldiers were to carry their own equipment and that wheeled vehicles were not to be used, replacing them with pack mule and horse—an order later echoed by his son Alexander.”
This action reduced the number of camp followers by as much as two thirds, consequently decreasing the army’s logistical load and increased its march speed. The result was a Macedonian soldier who was a beast of burden, carrying 13.5 kilograms of grain (ten days’ rations), plus their 22.5 kilograms of battle equipment and arms: a total load of 36 kilograms”. Loads are assessed from Assyria right through to the present in the essay, the conclusion being that soldiers only got heavier. For a halfway decent army to function, it's members need to train for the worst scenario: no vehicles and having to carry all your crap to where you need to go. In the interest of fairness, while anyone who knows what an F88 looks like would have a chuckle, it's not like firearms haven't been made out of a bunch of pipes welded together. Consider the Luty SMG. Phillip Luty was a pro-gun campaigner in Britain who wrote Expedient Firearms, a guide on how to make a 9mm SMG using springs, bolts and pipes. Technical drawings for producing said SMG are available on the internet and completed Luty build SMGs have turned up in Australia. To some extent, you can let QLDPOL off for responding to what was called in as a firearm when you've got stuff like that floating around. According to the Queensland Weapons Act 1990 section 57, part 1, a replica weapon counts as a weapon. According section 57, part 2, “A person must not, without reasonable excuse, carry a weapon exposed to view in a public place”. Scenario: You're a policeman. You get a call of a gunman in suburbia. You find a big, sweaty dude in cams, pulling weird faces because he's tired, carrying an F88 welded pipe capable of 0 rounds per minute with no ejection port, cocking device, sights, mag, whatever. So you question him. If anything, Latham getting hit with a public nuisance offence is probably not the worst thing that happened. Whether or not the veteran community shakes their fists over whether he was charged at all is irrelevant. If Latham was found guilty of an offence under the Weapons Act, he could've been looking at six months in the clink. So, all stomps matter, civvies don't get the ADF and basically anything can look like a weapon. How can defence members deal with all these problems? It's not entirely clear cut and I don't know because it's a pickle. One way this can be dealt with is calling the police. No, not calling the police to dob in a mate who's going for a stomp, calling the police and asking them how you can do battle PT without getting arrested. Standard practise in surveillance for private investigators is to actually call the police, explain you are doing surveillance and that you are licensed to do so (if you're a PI anyway) and give a description of your car. This is done so that when some hysterical person calls up, instead of getting hauled out of a car and screwing up your surveillance of whatever, they tell the person not to worry as they aren't actually a paedophile or a robber. Call the police, ask them what you can use to simulate running with a weapon. Some of you may say, well, Mr. Presley, I am a serving defence member and I shouldn't have to ask anyone to train to defend the plebs. To that I say way to be a dickhead. All that engaging with CIVPOL can possibly do is build better ties with them. They will get the impression that the ADF is genuinely worried about whether or not it's members are going to be running afoul of the police or scaring their charges. If they can tell nut jobs that it's just some random preparing for SF or trying to stay fit and that the bunch of pipes or PVC pipe full of rocks isn't a gun, you're saving them a call out. And you're potentially safeguarding your weekend from doing ROPs.
When you find out what won't get you arrested and what the police are not happy with, tell your unit! Don't keep it to yourself, let everyone know so that they can improve themselves unmolested too. The biggest lesson from this whole debacle is that you have to play the game. Everyone is big on saying it between 0730 and 1600, but for some reason don't want to say it outside of those hours. Well, civvies have to play the game as well because the law applies to everyone. While Mr. Latham shouldn't have been in trouble for trying to improve himself and everyone was pretty angry (quite rightly so) that there was any backlash, treat this as a learning experience. When you are dealing with civvies overseas, you're going to have to work around problems like this too. Life is just as much practise for your job as picking up ciggie butts and pulling out weeds. Protect ya neck and keep stomping. REF:
https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/30251435/breaking-news-reports-brisbane-schools-in-lockdown/ original coverage of incident
http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/legisltn/current/w/weaponsa90.pdf QLD weapons act 1990
http://www.news.com.au/national/queensland/brisbane-gunman-in-court-over-army-training-run-with-fake-weapon/news-story/b68508954e2a1650928909c22805b0a6 Latham in court
http://www.army.gov.au/~/media/Files/Our%20future/LWSC%20Publications/AAJ/2010Winter/07-TheHistoryOfTheSoldiers.pdf Essay in army journal by LT. Orr.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Defence_Force ADF wiki page
Luty SMG in AU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv33pCUkLRM
featured image: www.brisbanetimes.com.au