Posted by: leospurr | June 29, 2009

G’Day Mate

A bit of a late post, but an experience that I wanted to share and remember. As part of the War College curriculum, our class had programmed overseas trips to either China, Thailand/Vietnam, or Australia. Because I had never been there, and frankly because they speak English, Australia was my first choice!

I first had to get my head around the fact that the southern hemisphere has opposite seasons from the northern hemisphere. So, as we boarded the plane during the muggy heat of Tokyo’s June, I looked forward to wearing sweaters, jackets, and long-sleeved shirts for the beginning of Australia’s winter season. Our first stop was Canberra, the capital of Australia, and hub of their government. Our first day was thankfully spent in tourist mode as we adjusted to our very long red-eye flight.  From the top of Mt. Ainslie, we had spectacular morning views of Anzac Parade (a ceremonial avenue with memorial sites honoring fallen Australian and New Zealand soldiers) and the Federal Parliament House.  We spent a few hours at the Australian War Museum learning about the rise of Australia’s military from a British Crown colony to one of the world’s premier fighting forces, and certainly one of America’s most loyal allies. 

The next day and a half was jam packed with briefings and visits to the Ministry of Defence, Australian Strategic Policy Institute,  Australian Centre for Strategic Studies (our delegation’s equivalent institute), the Asia-Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence, and Joint Operations Command (near Queanbeyan and Bungendore – gotta love these names).  There’s not much I can really say about Canberra.  I appreciated the vast openness of the land.  It was a little slow, however, for me to give any real effusively enthusiastic recommendation.  I did get to try some kangaroo meat and Victoria Bitter beer, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I can say, however, that being a relatively small (in population) country definitely has its advantages in government.  I was so impressed with the message of a whole of government approach that permeated most every organization we visited.  Whether military or civilian sector, there is a genuine attempt to have a balanced and integrated approach to governing, defending, and projecting democracy.  They freely admit that it doesn’t always work, but at least it is in the consciousness of every government agency.  Kudos to Prime Minister Rudd’s leadership on that one!  I only wish that elements throughout the U.S. government would have such a consciousness.

We spent the remaining three days in Sydney.  Now THAT is a city that I could fall in love with.  Just enough city splash to make it exciting, but not crazy busy like Tokyo or Seoul.  The Victorian architecture gives a certain old European charm, that is balanced by such views as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.  We didn’t have nearly enough freetime, so Sydney is now on my list of places to visit again soon.  Although Canberra is the government hub of action, there are quite a few military defence headquarters located near Sydney.  We hit aspects of them all – Royal Autralian Air Force, Royal Austrailian Army, and a special visit to the Royal Australian Naval Heritage Centre.  The Naval Heritage Centre was particularly moving because our delegation held a quiet ceremony to honor the Australian victims who died during a battle in Sydney Harbor during WWII.  A few Japanese Imperial Navy midget submarines infiltrated the harbor and attempted to sink allied warships.  Three of the submarines were destroyed by the crewmembers rather than be captured by the Allies, and remains of the submarines are displayed in various museums around Australia.

I was able to get in a few runs, but no run has been more rewarding than a sunrise run across the Sydney Harbor Bridge, pausing every once in awhile to try and capture the perfect Opera House shot.  So thankful for the fabulous experience of it all!

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Responses

  1. I was there a couple summers ago…! great place, great city.

    nice pics, thinkn of you..


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