FORT MYER, Va. —
Being a “mate” in Australia has a whole different connotation than in the United States.
Australians trust a mate implicitly. A mate is a person who shares the last drink of water or the last bit of food or the last beer in the six-pack.
A mate is always ready to help.
A mate shares values, and that is why the United States and Australia celebrated 100 Years of “Mateship” yesterday morning with services at the National Cathedral, followed by a special Twilight Tattoo here last night.
For the U.S. and Australian militaries, the idea of mateship reaches to a higher level. On July 4, 1918, U.S. and Australian soldiers went into combat together assaulting the German line on the Western Front. The Australian soldiers were battle-hardened. The Americans were green. In one of the few instances in World War I, American troops fought under the direct command of another country. Australian and American soldiers literally fought shoulder to shoulder at the Battle of Hamel. Platoons of Americans were attached to Australian companies.
At the end of the textbook combined arms effort, there were 1,062 Australian casualties and 176 American.
Strong Bonds Through Various Conflicts
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that while mateship began at Le Hamel, it grew with each conflict. “That mateship – that partnership – continued through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Somalia, and – most recently – in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said at a reception before the Twilight Tattoo. “I know that all of us assembled … are proud of what our nations represent and the strategic significance of our relationship.”
Dunford cited incidents from World War II, Vietnam and Afghanistan in which Australian soldiers worked with U.S. forces to uphold their mutual values. “That is what mateship means to me — it is my pride in being associated with the Australian armed forces,” he said. “I can speak on behalf of all Americans here in saying we are deeply proud of our bond and look forward to the next 100 years of mateship.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan spoke of the bond between the two nations at the memorial service earlier in the day. He said the United States and Australia built an edifice as impressive as the National Cathedral in their fight against tyranny in World War I and beyond. That edifice, he said, was in Northern France.
“Its walls were not made of stone or wood, but of flesh And blood,” he said. “Its mortar was the mud of the trenches. Its foundation [was the] courage in young kids from Queens and Queensland, from Adelaide to Appalachia.”
The bonds forged on the Western Front endured, and Australia and the United States stand together in an interesting and complex world, Shanahan said, adding that the relationship needs leaders who can deal with ambiguity, uncertainty and change.
“Today we are stewards of the bond,” he said. “We live in an interesting world [with] so much potential and so much risk. We will always encounter challenges we cannot predict. But relationships like this help us get through them.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)