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Operation CATALYST: Image Gallery

24 April 2009
Kruger Route Irish

After seven months in Iraq, the crew of V23C is pretty familiar with Route Irish.
The once notorious road to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) is a lifeline for the soldiers of SECDET XIV, who have made ‘sustainment runs’ from their base in the International Zone 134 times.
After dinner the ASLAV convoy rolls from the front gate of ‘The Cove’, the heart of Op Kruger and home to most of its infantry, cavalry, MPs and combat service support personnel.
In the back of V23C, CPL Troy Harvey, 29, sketches gothic cityscapes as the ASLAV rocks, weaves and bucks along the road to BIAP.
His eyes, showing through goggles, flash hood and Kevlar, dart across the page. A medic’s shears are jammed into the loops of his body armour.
The fine arts graduate from the Barossa Valley is wedged between the legs of two operators/gunners, who constantly shift in their hatches, vigilant for threats. It has been a good tour for SECDET XIV, but not one is taking chances this late in the game.
The sustainment runs pick up mail and supplies delivered by regular Australian cargo flights.
“The sus runs aren’t too stressful,” crew commander, CPL Jarrod Philbey, 24, says.
CPL Philbey, of King Island, is on the back end of his second SECDET deployment, his third in Iraq.
“By the end of this tour I would have spent 16 months in Baghdad,” CPL Philbey says over the intercom.
He keeps an eye on the passing armoured SUVs and cement trucks that pass in the evening haze.
“In these past months we have done more jobs than the other two SECDETs combined.
“We have come close to a SECDET record … this week has been crazy.”
The convoy rolls past Saddam Hussein’s private zoo, hidden in the gloom behind drab concrete blast walls.
“During the day you can still see the cages,” CPL Philbey says.

It is rumoured that Saddam released the animals shortly before the coalition overran Baghdad in 2003.

“It would have been funny to see the lions and tigers running down the street,” CPL Philbey chuckles.

He last drove these streets with SECDET X.

“The threat has dropped away a lot since then,” he says.

“The Iraqis seem to be taking control of their country. It is a lot cleaner; they are fixing some of the infrastructure as well.”

It has been an uneventful run into BIAP, but the streets remain dangerous and the diggers of SECDET XIV vigilant until they return home.