Brendan Little
Brendan Little Northern Star

Our children in the firing line

BRENDAN LITTLE first told his parents he wanted to be a soldier when he was four.

Now 22, Casino-born Brendan never changed his mind and is currently doing his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. His parents Mick and Sue-Ellen say they are 'worried, but proud'.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described the situation there as 'grim' after Australian Special Forces commando Jason Marks was killed and four others were wounded after an exchange with Taliban militants in the southern province of Uruzgan earlier this week.

"2008 will be difficult, dangerous and bloody and the Australian nation needs to prepare itself for further losses in the year ahead," Mr Rudd said.

But Mick Little said the PM wasn't telling them anything they didn't already know.

"We knew the situation was going to escalate.

"When Brendan was there the first time it was autumn and winter and that's a quieter time. Still dangerous, but a quieter time. We knew when he got this posting it was going into the Taliban's spring and summer offensive, so we knew it was more dangerous."

Brendan is serving as a combat engineer and will be in Afghanistan until the end of the year.

His first tour was from September, 2006, to April, 2007. It was his first combat posting after joining up in 2003 and being based in Darwin for some time, where he was assigned to the navy boarding Indonesian fishing boats.

Mick and Sue-Ellen said they were nervous when he was first sent to Afghanistan.

"Obviously at the time we were very worried, but that's his job. We're very proud of his achievements and his dedication and have been told he's a very good soldier," Mick said.

Brendan's duties at the moment include searching for mines and weapons and protecting construction crews.

"There are all these tradies who are rebuilding the villages that the Taliban are trashing," Mick said.

"If people in the villages don't cooperate with the Taliban, then murder and mayhem and trashing occurs.

"The combat guys with the reconstruction task force are there to protect the construction guys, and that includes clearing the way of mines before they go in, making sure the village is clear of Taliban and then running the perimeter so the construction guys can work safely."

When Brendan is not out on patrol, he calls his parents every second night and usually sends them an email in between.

Mick said that morale among the soldiers was very high.

"Like all Diggers before them, they survive on mateship and trust."

Sue-Ellen said Brendan absolutely loved his job. "As a boy he would always be out in the bush, camping with army gear and compasses, and when he was 15 he started doing fitness things, trying to build himself up for basic training he was that determined to go.

"He was so excited (when he first got there).

"This is what he joined to do and he's finally getting the opportunity to do it. After he'd spent so many years training, he was getting frustrated. When he finally got to Afghanistan, the training kicked in."

Mick said Australia's soldiers were 'the best trained soldiers in the world, bar none'.

"As a parent, that takes a lot of the worry out," Sue-Ellen said.

She said the army provided good support for the families of soldiers, including having a welfare officer assigned to them and receiving monthly updates.

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