Australia has no combat role in Afghanistan, but 300 members of the Australian Defence Force and defence civilians remain in what’s called Operation Highroad.
BRIG Connor said the highlight of his 10-month deployment had been working with a team of committed Australians, driving hard to support the Afghan people and each other on this multinational NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces and institutions.
“We learn from the coalition countries and each other in a fairly complex space. It is a humbling experience,” he said.
“Task Group Afghanistan has taken on more responsibilities this year, with the addition of adviser teams at the Afghan National Army Sergeant Major Academy and Command Staff Academy.
“Our Australian advisers are heavily engaged and making progress in these new academies and across a broad range of Afghan institutions including the Air Force, Special Forces and Kabul Garrison Command.”
Australia has taken on an additional commitment of advisers and force protection to assist the Afghan Air Force develop operation its growing fleet of Black Hawk helicopters.
BRIG Connor is a reserve officer who previously commanded the Australian-led multinational force in the Solomon Islands. In his day job, he works as senior investigator in the Sydney office of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, investigating corporate crime.
BRIG Spalding is a career soldier who joined the Army Reserve in 1981 and transferred to the regular Army in 1983.
She served in East Timor in 2002 and held a wide range of staff positions, most recently Chief of Staff in Army headquarters.
Australia has been involved in Afghanistan since late 2001 with a peak of more than 1,500 troops in the capital Kabul, in Kandahar and in Uruzgan province.
With the conclusion of combat operations at the end of 2013 and the transition to the NATO-led train, advise and assist mission called Resolute Support, the Australian presence fell to around 200.
That’s since risen to around 300 in a variety of roles, including mentoring new staff at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy.
The Task Group, based at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, also includes elements providing medical, logistics and intelligence support plus soldiers who provide protective security.