A SOLDIER soon to be deployed to "the badlands in Afghanistan", says he has paid almost $5000 for equipment to replace army-issued items "guaranteed to fail in the field".
The 5RAR soldier is one of 100 now being deployed to relieve Diggers from 6RAR in the region west of Tarin Kowt where Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney was killed last month.
He says the battalion is undermanned and ill-equipped for the job, intensifying controversy over the latest deployment of troops to Afghanistan.
His comments, made exclusively to The Advertiser, back claims by other worried and angry soldiers this week.
Other claims from earlier this week include:
PLANS to send 5RAR troops to Afghanistan without mortar support put more soldiers' lives in danger.
LANCE Corporal MacKinney stood a better chance of escaping the battle had mortar support been available.
TROOPS heading to Afghanistan have no option but to buy Altama and Bates desert boots because the supply store ran out of army-issue combat footwear.
Preparing to leave for his tour of duty in the Afghanistan hot spot, the 5RAR soldier, a young father, said he was the most nervous he had ever been.
He said his Darwin-based battalion had already started to relieve the 6RAR troops - to which Lance Corporal MacKinney, who died on August 24, was attached.
The soldier believes the ratio of Australian soldiers to insurgents in the region is 24:100.
"That's considered probably the badlands in the whole Afghanistan operation," he said.
"I've had mates die in Afghanistan this past year. I've never been this nervous in all my life. It's not that we're not up to the task but we are going in undermanned and poorly equipped.
"I've shelled out nearly $5000 of my own money to get the kit that will last me the whole trip."
Among items the soldier has purchased for his tour of duty are extra boots and a Sord rig - an ammunition and equipment vest "almost all Australians in Afghanistan purchase because the army-issue vests fall apart".
Even spare army dog tags - which help identify soldiers killed in action - must be bought by soldiers at a cost of $30 a set.
The soldier said army officials would argue that buying a Garmin 401 wrist GPS for $320 was a "luxury".
"We use GPS to call in mortar attacks and support," he said. "It could prove to be life-saving equipment."
He said Australian soldiers could fight "well above their belt weight" but they were up against it in Afghanistan.
"You can't play a game of footy with 10 people on your side and expect to win when the other guys have a full team," he said. "We need the Government to listen to us, stop fobbing us off and give us what we need."
The soldier said US forces in Afghanistan gave Australian soldiers good support "most of the time".
"But if you have an American patrol and an Australian patrol, their guns and firepower are going to be pointed to protect American troops first," he said.
The Advertiser revealed this week that a senior soldier from 6RAR, based in Townsville, sent an email to Defence chiefs blasting them for the plan to send troops into Afghanistan without mortar support.
The soldier's email argued that Lance Corporal MacKinney might have been saved had mortars been available. "That contact would have been over before Jared died if they gave us f . . . .. . g mortars," the soldier's email states.
The soldier also contradicted comments by Joint Operations Chief Lieutenant General Mark Evans, who told the media on Tuesday that troops fighting in the three-hour battle did not run low on ammunition.
"A mate of mine who was there said they had to withdraw because ammo was low," the soldier said.
Defence head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston this week issued a plea for Australia to stay the course in Afghanistan or risk further terrorist attacks.
In a bid to pre-empt a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan brought on by the Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who are pushing for a complete withdrawal, Air Chief Marshal Houston warned any premature pull-out would be a disaster and could damage the US alliance.
Defence last night had not responded to questions asked by The Advertiser.
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