AFGHANISTAN - If one gains credibility through experience, Australian Maj. Mick Hahn, who serves as the intelligence deputy for Train Advise and Assist Command-South, Afghanistan, has credibility to spare.
On Dec. 4, 2014, Hahn will have served 30 years in the intelligence corps for both the British and Australian armies. His experience throughout the years has done much for the fight in Afghanistan and, more specifically, Regional Command- and TAAC-South.
“Mick is a vastly experienced intelligence professional whose experiences and role as deputy has brought about varying options to accomplish the intelligence mission, which is inherently complicated in Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Matt Gill, who serves as the senior intelligence officer for TAAC-South and 1st Cavalry Division. “He’s an invaluable asset to an Australian and American coalition force.”
Hahn’s peacekeeping efforts over the years while working side by side with his coalition partners has molded a multinational ideal to strive for and maintain.
“I’ve worked extensively with the U.S. Army throughout my career as a British army soldier and an Australian army soldier, and I’d like to highlight how important those relationships are between the British, Australian, and U.S. armies. It’s critical to us,” Hahn said.
“I’m a bit of an idealist, and I honestly feel and believe that we’re a force for good. Those premiere western armies like the Australian, the British, and American armies have all got to do the right thing on the planet,” Hahn said, “because if we don’t, who’s going to step up?”
Hahn began his career in the British army in 1982 as a young man of 18. He joined the Parachute Regiment and shortly after his initial training got out for a short time and attempted a reserve commission with the Territory Army (an equivalent to the U.S. Army Reserves).
When deciding his career path, he took a shot in the dark with intelligence, as it was the only branch in the British Army he knew nothing about.
“I thought that intelligence will either be fantastic and I’ll stay, or it won’t be and I’ll leave, and 30 years later here I am finishing up my career still in the intelligence corps, but for the Australian army.”
After his initial training in intelligence in 1984, Hahn got his feet wet on a very volatile stage at the time: Northern Ireland. There he worked under cover for two years, gathering intelligence from attacks carried out by the Irish Republican Army.
“As soon as I got to Northern Ireland the violence went through the roof due to the signing of the Northern Ireland peace deal… It was a tough tour. Two years of wearing plain clothes and under cover on the streets of Northern Ireland, straight out of basic training.”
Amidst the chaos of his first assignment, Hahn was able to find love while in Northern Ireland and was married at the end of his tour in 1987 to his wife Julie. She has fought the good fight with him through 28 years of military service, six and-a-half of which have been in combat zones.
“I have an amazing wife. That’s the key to it,” Hahn said. “My wife is a very strong individual, she just gets on with the job. She realizes that I can’t go away and do my job unless there’s a stable environment at home. So really, I’ve got to thank her for the opportunity to go away on all of those deployments.” Hahn explained that during his tours he missed the gestation of both of his daughters, who are now finishing up degrees in nursing and graphic design, but did make it to both of their births .
From 1986 to 1988, Hahn was immersed in an intense Russian course at the Defense School of Languages at Beaconsfield, England. These two years would serve him for most all of his future assignments.
“We weren’t allowed to speak English at all in the school, everything you did all day was in Russian,” he said. “It was so intensive that I temporarily lost the ability to write English cohesively because it totally dominates the way you think. I even dreamed in Russian.”
After qualifying as a Russian linguist in 1988, Hahn was assigned to West Germany where he would go through the Berlin Wall at Check Point Charlie daily to conduct intelligence operations. Initially, it was supposed to be a verification mission to essentially ensure, “both sides were behaving, but it turned into an intelligence gathering mission,” he said.
“I would patrol around the Soviet barracks, speaking to Soviet soldiers in Russian, and just trying to gather as much intelligence as I could. We often worked with the American and French teams behind the Iron Curtain as well,” Hahn said. “We’d often meet on the other side of Check Point Charlie to compare notes.”
Hahn’s time in Berlin kept him there long enough to see the Berlin Wall come down, which he said “was really an incredible experience.”
Reflecting back on his time behind the Iron Curtain, he explained some of his close calls and hardships brought on by the Cold War.
“Just before I arrived in Berlin a U.S. officer was shot dead whilst working behind the Iron Curtain. He was shot and left to bleed inside a Russian compound he was trying to exploit. We were shot at several times by armed guards on troop trains carrying nuclear weapons…,” Hahn said. “Another time, we had a platoon of East German infantry bayonet-charge our vehicle as we approached their nuclear, biological and chemical training. So, to avoid having my patrol receive a severe beating, (which was the norm at the time) and have them limp back across Check Point Charlie, we acted aggressively and got out of there. Three or four of them jumped on the vehicle, and many more were bouncing off the vehicle as we drove through them.”
Hahn also worked another assignment while in Germany on an under cover, anti-terrorist surveillance team, where he and his team would replicate IRA tactics throughout Europe to improve the security of British soldiers being targeted.
In 1992, Hahn would again use his Russian language skills when the former Yugoslavia descended into civil war. His mission was part of the European Union’s first military mission in Croatia to conduct cease-fire monitoring on the frontlines.
“The only way I had of communicating in Serbian areas was in Russian,” Hahn said, “which was a great advantage because it broke down barriers.”
Hahn explained that at times the situation was very complex, and what it boiled down to was that the people in the varying areas of conflict were fighting to secure their own ethnic areas.
“So what we’d do is if we heard there was a ceasefire violation, we would try to find those areas and military units involved in the violation and talk about what had happened,” Hahn said. “We’d then gather evidence and go to the other side and try to get the ceasefires back in operation. Of course it never happened, it was full on civil war, but we tried to do the best we could.”
“Every time we went out on patrol, we fell under artillery and sniper fire. It was a pretty dangerous mission, and on top of that it was in the middle of the winter so it made it quite hellish,” Hahn said.
Once he finished his assignment in Croatia, he moved to second in command of the British Airborne Forces Intelligence section in Aldershot from 1993 to 1996. During that time, in 1994, he was deployed to Kigali in Rwanda during the 100 days of slaughter, during which more than 800,000 Rwandan people lost their lives. It was during this deployment that he first worked with U.S. and Australian forces.
“The U.N. mission was faltering, so we had to get it back up and running. As you can imagine, it was pretty horrific. After the president’s plane was shot down the slaughter began. At the height of the killing there were 17,000 people being killed an hour inside Kigali,” Hahn said. “The Hutu militias were given a beer for every Tutsi or Hutu-Tutsi mixed person they killed, and a beer was about 40 cents, so that was about the price of life in Rwanda during that time. There were things that I saw and experienced there that I try not to think about, to be honest.”
“It wasn’t the best of experiences that’s for sure, but again it was important that we were there trying to do something. If it’s not for countries working unilaterally like the U.S.A., like Britain, like Australia that will go in and sort stuff out, then tens of thousands of more people die,” Hahn said.
After what he described as an exhausting tour to Rwanda, Hahn turned and went back to the Balkans to work with the U.S. Army in 1995.
“I’ve spent most of my deployed career as an embed,” Hahn said. “In Sarajevo in 1995, my boss was an American, and we were in a completely integrated NATO unit and I was the operations officer doing counter-intelligence for pretty much the whole of Bosnia. It was a great time working with the U.S., and we got some real results.”
Hahn again deployed in 1999 with U.S. forces to Albania to NATO’s first humanitarian aid mission following the Kosovo crisis.
“I worked hand in glove there with the U.S. V Corps. My boss was a U.S. colonel, and it was another really good experience working in a U.S.-NATO environment,” Hahn said. “There the Serbs had basically kicked out all of the Kosovo Albanians, and we were there to stabilize what was turning into another European humanitarian disaster.”
In 2001, Hahn was commissioned as captain and was assigned to provide military intelligence support for the whole of Scotland until 2003. While living in Edinburgh he was the security officer for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo three years in a row, which is the United Kingdom’s premier public military event.
Once his assignment was completed in Scotland, Hahn was deployed to Saudi Arabia at Prince Sultan Air Base, where he was the ground forces command joint intelligence officer in charge of 14 U.S. military personnel.
“That was one of the best jobs that I had as a British officer,” Hahn said. “I was a major at the time and we did all of the suppression of Iraqi air defense assets that came south into the no-fly zone,” Hahn said. “It was full on air combat missions every day.”
Hahn explained that after a couple more assignments with the British Army to include an intense tour to Kosovo where he was the lead UK intelligence officer for the emerging state, he began to get an itch for a new challenge. He had done many great things with the British Army, and came to the conclusion that his next challenge would take him to Australia.
“I had done 24 years in the British army and had gone from private to major, and I just really needed the challenge of doing something different in a different place in the world. I also wanted a better standard of living for my family,” Hahn said. “I also had a friend transition into the Australian Army ten years before and I thought, if he could do it, I could do it.”
“I’d worked with Australians in Rwanda and Bosnia, and I had them working for me up in Edinburgh, and I had never come across a bad Australian, so I said why not? That was in 2008 and the family is now really happy about the move,” he added.
In 2010, Hahn got the new challenge he was looking for, being called to Afghanistan as a battalion intelligence officer and an intelligence mentor for the 4th Brigade, 205th Corps, Afghan National Army in Uruzgan province.
“My opportunity to be an S2 at the battalion level with the British Army at that point was zero,” Hahn said, “and to have been able to do that with the Australian army for me was just an absolute blast. It was a solemn experience as well, as we took more casualties on that tour than any Australian unit had done since the Vietnam War.”
Hahn’s experience in Uruzgan gave him unique insight into Afghanistan’s 205th Corps, who also operates in Kandahar.
“One of the best qualities Mick brings to the table is his ability to see the multiple facets of intelligence potential,” Gill said, “He's a former ‘cold war warrior.’ His experience operating on multiple continents, including his most recent in Uruzgan, has made him invaluable.”
When Hahn finishes his tour in Kandahar, he plans to retire from deployments and is hopeful he can get into an instructor role to pass along thirty years of intelligence experience to the next generation.
“I think this will be my last tour, and for me to finish my deployed military service with the 1st Cavalry Division is just an absolute privilege. If I could have predicted in 1984 that I would have spent the whole year with the 1st Cavalry Division, ridden with a mounted troop and gotten my own Stetson hat, I would have said you were mad,” Hahn said. “But now, I’m an Australian major who’s done that, and for me that is the pinnacle of my deployments. It also reinforces, yet again, that alliance between Australia and America is so important.”
|Date Posted:||10.28.2014 01:52|
|Hometown:||BRISBANE, QLD, AU|
|Hometown:||MELBOURNE, VIC, AU|
|Hometown:||SYDNEY, NSW, AU|
|Hometown:||ALDERSHOT, HAM, GB|
|Hometown:||BEACONSFIELD, BKM, GB|
|Hometown:||EDINBURGH, LTN, GB|
|Hometown:||LONDON, GTL, GB|
|Hometown:||FORT HOOD, TX, US|
This work, Finding credibility through experience: Australian intel officer brings 30 years of intelligence experience to TAAC-South, by SFC Whitney Houston, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.