Our wet paper bag army

Even atheists ought to fall to their knees and give thanks to some kind of deity that Australia currently enjoys a period of robust peace. Because if we had to rely on our Army to protect us we would be in more strife than Flash Gordon.

A chilling assessment of the Australian Army’s combat fitness levels reveals many of our troops couldn’t run to save their lives. More than a third of our entire force is classified as being unfit be sent to war due to inadequate weapons training, lack of fitness and – wait for it – bad teeth!

Now, there’s a burning issue here that you want to get your teeth into, eh? You want to know why, if you are sending troops away to fight and possibly die in a presumably fairly short period of time, how a good set of molars is going to help them? You can’t help wondering what the dental standards of our ANZAC heroes or those in Korea or those in Vietnam were when they were sent overseas to face incredible horrors.

The current statistics are scary. The nation has close to 40,000 troops to defend us. Of them, more than 7000 cannot run 2.4 km (or had not undertaken this basic test in the past half year). More than 2000 have teeth so bad they cannot face the prospect of death in battle. And the number who are formally classified as medically unfit is climbing towards 2000. Almost as troubling is that nearly 6000 troops have failed weapons testing or haven’t done the latest updates.

One is entitled to ask just what these troops – who are being paid reasonably well to be ready to fight a war – are doing with their time? The politician in charge of this fiasco says: not to worry, nobody’s attacking us this week, just trust us, everything’s fine. Hmm . . . lips moving, can’t believe a word he’s saying.

It is part of our great Australian culture that we simply laugh at silliness like this. And it’s highly likely that a few Bondi lifesavers clad only in budgie-smugglers could probably defend us as well as some of the soldiers spending far too much time contemplating their navels. But given the scores of billions of dollars being lavished on national defence, surely we are entitled to a fit force of adequately-trained soldiers able to consume more than a milkshake for our money?

Acknowledgement: Ben Packham, The Courier-Mail