By Terence Kidd, an ex-serviceman who reached the rank of Major and once served in the s
ame unit as Private Kovco’s

I have no doubt that Kovco’s death will turn out to be just a tragic
accident but the Australian Defence Force has serious questions to answer about the
circumstances that led to his death.

If what I have read, and heard, is
correct then Kovco and his two soldier mates were in a secure area (where they
lived and slept). If this is correct then what the hell were they doing with
weapons loaded and in a state to fire?

For one thing, apart from going “phew” whenever you step
inside a secure area, it’s also important for the patrol commander to conduct a weapons
clearance and physically check each weapon to ensure that none may accidentally
discharge. This is a very basic safety procedure and should NEVER not be
conducted. It seems to me that the patrol commander has some serious questions
to answer and so do his commanders.

What’s more, any soldier can tell you that
regardless of the type of rifle or pistol there are four “states of weapon

  • Unload – no magazine on the weapon
    and no round “up the spout” – impossible to harm anyone;
  • Load – a magazine on the weapon but
    no round “up the spout” – still a very safe state;
  • Action – magazine on, round up the
    spout but safety catch applied – is theoretically possible for the weapon to
    fire if dropped; and
  • Instant – magazine on, round up the
    spout, safety catch off – ready for instant use and can be accidentally

Kovco’s weapon must have been in the “instant” condition for it to discharge in the circumstances described by
Brendan Nelson. In a secure area I can understand weapons being in a loaded
condition dependent on the circumstances but no higher state of weapon readiness
is justified. What the hell were Kovco’s officers and NCOs doing to allow such a
disgraceful lack of basic checks and supervision?

I knew General Peter Leahy much
earlier in his career and he is not a man to allow incompetency. He will be
deeply embarrassed that such an incident has occurred and deeply angry at those
who allowed it to occur. Heads will roll.