Courage when it really counts: observations from the modern ADF

Biedermann, Narelle (2007) Courage when it really counts: observations from the modern ADF. Australian Defence Force Journal, 172. pp. 73-82.

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Stories of the brave have fascinated and enthralled people throughout the ages, and memories of many of these stories tend to stay within our minds and hearts. Courage, by definition, is the quality of being brave. It refers to the ability of an individual to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty or pain without being overwhelmed by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action. Bravery can be understood as extreme courage in the face of danger or difficulty while gallantry refers to bravery, particularly in war or a situation of great danger. It seems that throughout history, stories of bravery and courage abound in the lore that follows in the wake of battles. Indeed hardly any war or skirmish is without a tale of a heroic deed or action to accompany its telling. We have all read about the hundreds of stories of men, and the occasional woman, who single-handedly take on large numbers of enemy soldiers or run the gauntlet of enemy troops to kill their leader or rush into 'no man's land' to rescue a wounded comrade without any outward fear for his own life. The purpose of this article is to present the perception of heroism amongst those who have been singled out for their heroism and courage in the contemporary ADF. One of the foremost challenges confronting the author at the commencement of this project was the self-effacing attitudes of those personnel who had been awarded medals for gallantry, courage and bravery. Getting these individuals to agree to share their experiences proved to be surprisingly difficult, and in the end 13 agreed to participate (Army [11], RAAF [1], RAN [1]). Most were profoundly reluctant to talk about their actions, and only with coaxing from others who had already shared their experiences, did they grudgingly agree. Some even went so far as to indicate that they were only agreeing to participate so as to leave a public record for their children. This reticence seemed to be quite powerful in the narratives, thus providing direction for this article. Thematic analysis of the narratives stemming from the in-depth interviews identified six broad themes in relation to the concept of bravery: 'just doing my job', 'training', 'instinct', 'bravery is all around', 'I'm not really brave', and 'living with the Anzac legend'. These themes are discussed in detail further in the article.

Item ID: 47392
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1444-7150
Keywords: military, Australian military history
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2017 23:21
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 81 DEFENCE > 810109 Personnel @ 100%
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