The sense of pride and the words of thanks and appreciation from parents, family members and, sometimes, the guardians of freshly graduated recruits of the Recruit Training Battalion, Kapooka, following their passing-out parade, never ceased to leave a positive impression on me even after many years attending those parades.
My admiration for the officers and men of Blamey Barracks has never diminished in my 40-odd years' association, particularly because of the stories surrounding the grateful thanks of those parents who had seen the transformation in purpose, bearing, even decorum as well as the determination to succeed in life produced by their offspring's time there.
Some of that appreciation came from the recruits themselves, who in their own words to me, on previous occasions, had been right royal scallywags.
The column today raises this topic to salute one of the men who ultimately, through their leadership at Blamey Barracks, had the responsibility of turning these recruits into Australia's finest.
Colonel David William Kibbey, who died on Christmas Eve, was Commandant at Kapooka from January 1993 to December 1994.
He was a former Vietnam veteran and president of the 7th Royal Australian Regiment Association.
More than that though, Kibbey, as his then-deputy commandant at Kapooka, Ian Mawson, alluded to in the DA story by journalist Rex Martinich last Saturday was "very good with his soldiers and his people".
He cared for this nation above all and this was no better exemplified than in a front-page DA story by then-group editor, Michael McCormack, soon after Kibbey was transferred from Kapooka, in which he called for the re-introduction of national service.
The story was memorable and brought many positive responses from the public.
McCormack reported these words from Kibbey: "All school leavers should be sent around the world on a taxpayer-funded trip and (participate) in a form of national service for all 18-year-olds, with no exceptions".
Kibbey said he believed the federal government should pay for school leavers to travel across the globe; put them on military aircraft and take them abroad for three weeks.
It would be exhausting but worth it and they would then realise how well off they were.
"They would then have a frame of reference for the rest of their lives and would want to protect what they have".
Kibbey's support for national service was in the form of a three-pronged youth development scheme - "arduous physical activity; reasonably rigid discipline and learning the values of this country", and the column would add, the potential regional and rural Australia presents for all Australians.
Kibbey said such an NS scheme would be compulsory.
"There would be no exceptions - university and other things would have to wait. The course would be up to six months and provide much-needed character reforming and allegiance building qualities".
Protecting what we have, according to Kibbey, was an important theme in life.
In Martinich's DA story there was a quote from Kibbey's wife, Helen, that referred to another aspect of his life and was a spin-off of his comment about "protecting what we have" and that is a reference to his decision in 1998 to stand as the Liberal candidate for Riverina.
Mrs Kibbey said, "He used to say there's no point thinking about it unless you have a go."
The interesting thing about his venture into politics is that the 1998 election brought to the Federal Parliament the Nationals' Kay Hull, who the column suggests it is fair to say, has been a fine example of some of the senses of value and the opportunities they offer that Kibbey aspired to.
Further, McCormack, who wrote the Kibbey story about NS, was Hull's campaign manager in the 1998 election and succeeded her as MP for Riverina, the seat he now holds, and during which he became the Deputy Prime Minister (Feb 2018-June 2021).
Adding his tribute to the column, McCormack wrote: "David Kibbey was an ideas man who wanted young people to realise their potential to build a better culture and a better country. The ADF Gap Year program, which began in 2007, is loosely based around Kibbey's 1994 national service concept. David was a traditionalist but someone also ahead of his time.
"Not long after taking up duties at Kapooka, Kibbey was asked to shoulder the added responsibility for all Army recruit training - both regular and reserve - and he handled it with aplomb. Every soldier who marches out of Kapooka and joins that long line of khaki stretching back to Gallipolli and beyond benefits in their training and ultimately their careers from the measures David put in place during his time at the Home of the Soldier".
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