Army tragedy on Mt Ruapehu - new details revealed

Apparently there are new details on Ruapehu's largest tragedy: 'Some time after the pair left - the newly released, ­partly name-redacted Court of Inquiry documents reveal - "Corporal J [Jaggard] absolved himself of the leadership responsibility at a time when it was most required".' Haven't seen the released report yet, I'll do some digging.
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Military trips have some particularly interesting leadership issues. In the 80s i was on a 4 day airforce training trip in the Richmond Ranges. It was winter, and the party comprised a dozen airman, one officer, one sergeant. Various of us were given leadership roles for a day at a time. This particular day, we were ascending Mt Richmond in windy whiteout conditions, from the west, headed to Mt Fell Hut. When we hit the summit, we were all cold, but the airman who was the days assigned leader and his navigator sat down and calculated a bearing off the summit, it being critical to locate the broad interconnecting ridge to Mt Fell. The heading they got tallied with mine, but it made no sense because it felt like it was back the way we had came. Unbeknown to us we had fallen into the classic trap of following the sun as we ascended in the mist. The navigator and i got into a discussion on the matter where doubts about our compasses surfaced, them not having being used for a good while. Meanwhile the officer, a flight lieutenant, who was actually in charge, abruptly took back command and said look we cant stay here forever, come on, follow me. Whereupon he took off, in what most of us intuitively felt was the right direction, but which disagreed from the calculated heading by 90 degrees or so. I and the navigator protested, to no effect. While it was good to be moving again, i worried quietly, until we eventually reached a sufficient altitude that it was clear to us that we had missed the spur. The trip was starting to feel unhinged, and the weaker members of the party were starting to get tired and dispirited. Then light drizzle started. At this point we sought shelter in some rocks and brewed some soup. Then returned to the summit, followed the correct heading, located the ridge, and arrived several hours late. There was a post mortem analysis of the trip, where i was interviewed, but, the officer wriggled out of it saying he had done it deliberately to see what we were made of. And to our knowledge that was the last of it. Me, i never distrusted my compass again.
I couldn't count the number of times I've flung down radio, then stapler, hammer, pack - muttering 'something must be swinging this compass'. Instinct can so often get it completely wrong. Especially in the Catlans - meandering rivers, ridges dropping and rising from every direction. On the subject of military ballsups. I was on a fire course with an ex British army fella a while back. The tutor was discussing the balance between the need for a fire crew to follow the crew lead, but at the same time speak up if they thought the suggested action was dangerous. The ex-soldier queried that he really could tell the crew leader to get stuffed if told to do something stupid. In the army, he said, when given a stupid dangerous order that was going to needlessly get everyone killed, your obligation was to follow that order. Should you survive, by luck or skill, you had a right to 'redress' whereby the decision was subjected to a post-mortem and you might get an apology.
yup , they are orders in the military and you're subject to disciplinary action if you disobey them. world war one was all about a lot of people following endless stupid orders.. world war two had its share of stupid orders too. even in world war two, conscientious objectors were frowned apon and given white feathers which were symbols of cowardice. the military operates on the old principals of DUTY and OBEDIENCE.... you're expected to face danger and death for your country with courage... its a mixed bag. its like being on a ship, you cant operate in combat having concensus, it takes too long and can be too paralysing, one person must often make a decision on a course of action and the group respond as a group. It cuts both ways, you can get very positive results when you make the right decision in a timely manner, and it can also go badly when the wrong decision is made. the military need young energetic people in the field which can lead to leaders who are too inexperienced and make bad decision.
The military have two ways to deal with anything. Both revolve around the answer of either "Yes Sir" or "No Sir". Both answers are centred as an affirmative answer to The Commanding Officer. Thus command is never in the wrong, only those below it who are considered to have no comprehension of what it is like to be an Officer in Command. Read Catch 22 it explains the military intelligence well, much like The World The Universe and Everything, where the answer is 42. 42 is a rough approximation to the number of times (if it were physically possible to do so) that you would have to fold a piece of A4 paper before it was thick enough to reach the moon.
I thought it was 7 times 9
1 deleted post from Kreig
From recent readings, I understand that from the Nuremburg Trials it was decided that a grunt was permitted to disobey their officer if the command constituted a war crime. Correct me if I'm wrong. Being a total layperson, I might just be.
1 deleted post from Kreig
@Kreig: Sorry I need to clarify that these international laws came into effect after WWII as a consequence of the Nuremberg Trials which consisted of 13 trials held between 1945 and 1949.
1 deleted post from Kreig
this has gone off topic, start another thread if you want to go into detail about teh military in other scenarios the ruapehu trip was a trainee scenario. i've been involved with the military in those scenario's trainees are usually the least likely to be listened to and the least likely to speak up in a situation where they are expected to follow bad orders. trainees in the military often get the worst treatment. i've been at the receiving end. you have novices on a mountain trusting implicitly in their instructors for their survival as well as feeling that they had to follow orders
I also remember this event quite clearly. On many occasions I marched, ran or swaggered past a memorial to those lost. I've also developed friendships with many people who were involved, and still reliving those tragic days many years later. The military Court of enquiry was effective, the lessons were learnt. I base my alpine risk management on those learnings. I have taught 100's if not 1000's of others those lessons. Can we now let the Dead and those that have to live with this have some peace.
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Forum The campfire
Started by Berend de Boer
On 14 August 2017
Replies 18
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