Anzac Day: Operation Slipper

Published 11:42am 11 May 2020

Anzac Day: Operation Slipper
Words by Melissa McMahon

Every year April 25th continues to hold significant importance to so many people. Anzac Day is the national day of remembrance for both Australia and New Zealand for all the soldiers who courageously served on behalf of our countries. While different people and families may commemorate this day in their own special ways, every year Redcliffe RSL hosts an event to honour our soldiers. In 2019 the particular theme for the event was focused on Operation Slipper.

Anzac Day: Operation Slipper

Operation Slipper

Operation Slipper began in late 2001, it was Australia’s responding contribution to the conflict happening in Afghanistan after the infamous, devastating and deadly terrorist attacks that happened on September 11th in the United States. It was a moment that stopped the world in the worst way and began Australia’s longest war. More than 34,500 Australian Defence Force Personnel, Australian Government civilians, Australian Federal Police and support staff were deployed to the Middle East.

Operation Slipper is infamously notable for something that is quite grim. Because while the soldiers were so fearless and their selflessness is something we will forever be thankful for, it was the first war since the Vietnam War, where Australia had lost soldiers due to combat deaths. 41 soldiers were killed in action while 261 others were wounded. It was February the 16th in 2002 when Sergeant Andrew Russell was sadly the first Australian to be killed in Afghanistan when his patrol vehicle came into contact with a land mine.

Anzac Day: Operation Slipper

Wartime

While the losses were a sombre and significant part of Operation Slipper, there were many significant milestones that continually gave new hope that this war would end on the right side of history. In March of 2002, there was a major offence that cleared the Paktika region. In 2006, Australian special force troops worked together with the Netherlands and endured the heaviest fighting since the Vietnam War and unfortunately, six Australians were wounded in Action.

On the 16th of January in 2009, Trooper Mark Donaldson was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia for gallantry under heavy enemy fire on 2 September 2008. In the following months of 2009, there were more major operations, one where an Australian bomb disposal expert was sadly killed along with four others who were wounded. This year continued to see a lot of heavy fighting and in a bittersweet way, there were successes with the losses.

The year of 2010 was yet another of heavy war, but soldiers managed to fight to clear towns for safety. June, in particular, was a big month this year. Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith of the Special Air Service Regiment was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia for his actions during the offensive. Although it was only days later when three Australian soldiers of the 2nd Commando Regiment was killed when the helicopter carrying them crashed. Another was killed in August following another massive phase of fighting. However, it was the 30th of October in 2011 when an event marked the bloodiest incident for Australian forces in the Afghanistan War due to three Australians being killed after an ANA soldier turned his gun against the Australians.

Anzac Day: Operation Slipper

An End

Although Operation Slipper saw some very dark moments, it represents something so hopeful in a very contrasting way. This war was not fought to be won, this war was fought for the safety and for a secure future of Afghanistan and the innocent people who lived there. Our nation is forever proud of the soldiers and Anzac Day is a time to celebrate them and their outstanding bravery.

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