Major General Peter Cosgrove addressed a capacity audience at the Hyatt Regency in Adelaide recently, asserting that teamwork, planning and public relations was the winning strategy for the highly successful outcome in East Timor.
The luncheon, sponsored by Asgard Capital Management, was a record for SA & NT Division, selling out in just four days.
Acknowledging that AICD members would zero in on the teamwork and leadership aspects of the campaign, Cosgrove had this to say:
"Leadership is obviously something we stress but the teamwork we had during the planning phase at the Deployable Joint Headquarters in Brisbane was tremendous.
"I had the same team together from March '98 through to the operation and throughout - the same chief of staff, same principal staff officers, the same clerks - everybody knew each other.
"Leadership is obviously very important but teamwork was the sine qua non of our success.
"Having that team together - with a corporate ethic and corporate doctrine and this intimacy - just carved its way through the confusion It was wonderful to see."
Cosgrove said he could not stress enough the importance of communications and public relations in its crucial contribution to a successful coalition mission, noting that in operations of this kind,
"...you can be figuratively just as damaged by a headline as a bullet," he said. "Perceptions were not just factors in success. On balance they were success or otherwise.
"Media attention was remarkable with the media conference in Darwin before the operation began reputedly the largest ever seen in Australia."
Cosgrove assessed at the outset that there would be a powerful campaign by some interests to discredit the operation, which had to be counterbalanced vigorously and effectively.
"I thought it best not just to accept or acquiesce in the media presence in East Timor but to embrace it and encourage it, not just from participant countries' media but from anywhere," he said.
Cosgrove said of the 11,500 men and women from 22 countries who achieved success in East Timor, some thousands were our own soldiers, sailors and airmen and women.
"Simply put they were magnificent," he said. "I cannot tell you how proud I was to command them."
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