Conscription call backed
By MADELINE DOHERTY
DAVE Crockett, a Tweed Vietnam veteran who was blown up and ambushed in battle, is a staunch supporter of national service.
Despite his life-long injuries, including post traumatic stress, Mr Crockett said yesterday he had two words to sum up his feelings on the latest call for national service, "hot shit".
He joined former Defence Force Chief, retired Admiral Chris Barrie, this week calling for Australia to think about returning to universal national service because the supply of young people for the armed forces would eventually dry up.
Admiral Barrie said an ageing population meant that just 40,000 people would join the workforce in the decade from 2020 and the defence force may need 30,000 of them.
The federal government immediately poured cold water on the idea and the Australian Defence Association was far from enthusiastic.
Mr Crockett spent 10 years in the regular Australian army from 1964 to 1974 doing two tours of Vietnam.
"I remember in 1972, it was just before Christmas and the officer in command called our unit together,'' he said. "I'll never forget his words. he said, 'national servicemen stand fast, regulars fall out'.
"When the regulars fell out that left three quarters of the unit standing fast - they were all conscripts.
"Their obligation to God, Queen and country finished that night.
"Next day there I am, a sergeant, servicing vehicles, there were no privates left because they'd been the national servicemen. I must say they were very good soldiers.
"What this Admiral Barrie is saying is dead right. You have to remember that out of the 63,000 national servicemen called up during the Vietnam war only 18,000 of them saw action overseas. If you don't want to go you don't go."
He believed that national service was good for young people, teaching them discipline.
"It cost the government to keep them on the dole so its no different from paying them to be in the army," Mr Crocket said.
His long time friend from Vietnam, Normie Rowe, had a different slant on national service.
Speaking from his home on the Gold Coast yesterday, Mr Rowe said national service not only "took my life, it has taken over my life".
"I feel like I lost all of my life to national service.
"I spent two years in the army and came back and we were two years behind the eight ball, while those who didn't get called up were ahead. we never caught up.
"My attitude is that national service should not be confined to the military. National service should encompass a variety of areas that suit the aptitude of the individual.
"I think we should all give something to this wonderful country of ours in some way, and that may fall into a humanitarian area, civil, artistic or military if that is where one's aptitude is.
"And no, I would not let my children be called up for national service in the army as I was," Mr Rowe said.