In Afghanistan, the oft-spoken Dari phrase “shona b shona” is ringing true for hundreds of Australian soldiers deployed to the war-torn country.
On the eve of Anzac Day, at Camp Qargah to the southwest of Kabul, Captain Robert Best says the words, which in English mean “shoulder to shoulder”, resonate beyond Afghanistan.
The 28-year-old, from Ipswich in Queensland, is one of a handful of Australian Defence Force mentors advising the Afghan National Army.
Capt Best is mentor to three Afghan platoon commanders. In turn, they will eventually train officer cadets.
“Shona b shona,” he says.
“It’s very important. And I think no matter what nationality you are, wherever you come from … when you choose to become a member of the profession of army, you feel a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood with your fellow members of that profession.”
On Anzac Day, the 270 ADF personnel in Afghanistan will mark what is always a special and solemn occasion, but which can take on extra meaning for the troops when far from home.
Capt Best maintains that his experience pales when compared to what the original Anzacs went through at Gallipoli, but nonetheless gives a sense of what it means.
“Although what we’re doing here on operations cannot even compare to what the original Anzacs went through at Gallipoli and on the western front and in the Middle East, that sense of being away from your family and that sense of serving your country … I think it is really as close as you can get in the modern army … in appreciating what those soldiers went through.”
It will be with “incredible pride” that he and others at Camp Qargah will on Monday mark Anzac Day with a traditional dawn service.
At Camp Qargah, the Australians will be joined by Turks and British soldiers as well as the members of the same Gurkha unit that landed at Gallipoli 101 years ago.
“I think that when we’re on Charandaz Mountain on Anzac Day and we’re having that minute’s silence, I think we’ll continue to reflect on how we can use this deployment to make the place better,” Capt Best said.
Sitting in front of a picture of fallen soldier Jacob Moerland, who was killed in a bomb blast on his first tour of Afghanistan in June 2010, Capt Best added: “I think no matter where you are on Anzac Day, you always reflect on those who didn’t come home.”