March 30th 2017
Dear Sergeant Bristoe,
I wish to share my feelings about the training exercise which took place in January 1987 when you were the platoon instructor. The exercise where you had two near fatalities; it is etched in my mind I hope you remember it.
I understand that training needs be harsh and soldiers must be programmed to obey orders. That we need to push ourselves to the limit and beyond, to meet the objectives. It can be hard to see what is reasonable, when you are being tested past your level of tolerance.
I would imagine you remember the training exercise, but just in case let me refresh your memory. It was the last exercise in the January 87 special forces course we were the Bravo group. In the 42-degree heat at the edge of the desert, we were being forced way beyond what was reasonable. We were all experienced soldiers used to obeying orders and to testing ourselves. We did as we were ordered.
Your role was to push us soldiers to foster all the attributes needed for special forces. You had a job to do. It was the last exercise in a gruelling three days and the conditions as you know had been extreme. You should have assessed the situation more and looked at the condition the recruits were in, before that final exercise. I wanted to tell you to fuck off, which wouldn’t have helped. To highlight that some of the men were too exhausted to do that last big push in the forty plus degree heat.
It is my biggest regret that I didn’t, say what I thought. If I had, perhaps Mick and Robbo wouldn’t have nearly died. They might both have been able bodied and in the army if not in special forces.
I blame you for your blind determination to goad us lads, to the end, without taking in all the factors in play. I hope you learned from it , and developed further skills in the training and deployment of men.
The upside for me is that I learnt the lesson well. When I led patrols, I assessed not only the situation but the condition of my men very carefully as part of my planning process. A good lesson but a poor way to have learned it. I still wish I had, the balls to challenge you and it will always be a niggling regret.