For those wondering who I am.
I am a writer, yes. But I am not a journalist in the news-man sense.
I was once a soldier, yes. But I have not served in uniform for a number of years. My military background helped shape how I view the world but it is not central to who I am anymore.
I am an academic now. The word “anthropologist” is written right there as the first word of my Twitter bio.
This means I spend my days as a recording instrument (an imperfect and completely fallible one) – examining social structures and documenting cultural practices. I am an outsider looking in on foreign systems.
One of these systems is Australia’s Special Operations Command – an institution to which I have never belonged nor sought to join.
As with my credit card and social insurance numbers, other unmentioned specifics about my person are reserved for employers and others who need to know.
All my public writing has occurred post-service and through the lens of somebody who has been anthropologically-trained. I don’t write about infantry minor tactics or TOETs for basic weapon systems although I could probably still operate a 66 or an 84 if I had to.
That said, my usual choice of topics tends to reflect former lives and many people I use as sounding boards for ideas (especially on controversial issues) were individuals I met while in uniform. They were my colleagues. They are my friends. My love for them is real and I hope that it’s mutual.
Some of them deployed with Australia’s Special Operations Task Group to Afghanistan. Some discussed the details of unsavoury things with me. Some are still serving. I, however, am a former.
I use the phrase “former soldier” in my public writing because I don’t self-refer as a “veteran”. A personal preference because I never thought I earned the status my Granddad earned when he helped liberate Kokoda.
My great-grand-uncle Major J.F Walsh was the first Queensland officer killed at Gallipoli – nailed by a bullet through the spyglass of a spotting scope while conducting a reconnaissance of an elevated machine gun position.
Still, I have never marched on ANZAC Day. At dawn every 25th, I prefer to reflect on the meaning of sacrifice while alone on a run, or away in the bush, or up on a granite wall – not out at the memorial monuments. Not everyone finds the same meaning through the same rituals and I have reservations about religions of the state.
My main interest is in data and analysis, not in credentials and personalities. Discussions about military topics are not the sole purview of those whose primary pre-occupations are pissing contests and medal counts.
In an academic round-table, I am less interested in whether or not someone has a PhD and more interested in what they have to say.
Key points to note – focus on the facts, not the personality and the qualifications behind the byline.
People don’t like “experts” these days anyway, remember?
So. I won’t ask you about your gongs if you don’t ask me about mine (I don’t wear my militaria anyway). Nor will I ask after the legal first and last names behind your anonymous social media avatars. Partly because a name is just a name but mostly because I don’t care.