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In August 2007 I was driving across the Iraqi desert from Samawah to Nasiriyah, just north of Basra. A distance of 110km as the crow flies, but a drive of well over 150km along our desert tracks. We would be traveling at top speeds of 60km per hour and an average speed of 45km per hour. This would be a regular trip and it would take around 3 hours. The drivers hole of my Australian Light Armoured Vehicle is the size of a bathtub. I would be shut down with a round hatch a few inches above my head; steel walls to my left and to my right was the engine. If you placed your leg against the engine bay for too long it would burn, you would have to keep your knees close together so the right one would not drift over. After 3 hours of driving the engine would get bloody hot, making the drivers hole like an oven. I remember pulling up into a hide in the middle of the desert, after one of these 3 hours drives. As I cracked the the drivers hole hatch open above my head, a gush of cold air rushed through the drivers hole, it was the greatest relief. I would be dripping wet head to toe in sweat and the cool air on my skin would be amazing. August in Iraq is the middle of their summer, the outside air tempreture would be some where between 45 to 50 degrees Celsius. The air rushing into the drivers hole was hotter than any Victorian summer, but it felt to me like walking into the air conditioned Savioa Hotel on a hot summers day in Hepburn Springs. Inside the drivers hole would be something around 60 degrees, the same temperature that I slow cook my pulled pork. As I sat cooking in the heat of my drivers hole, I was also wearing body armour, a kevlar vest a few inches thick with a steel plate at the front and back, the heat would literally be trapped to my body. If the drivers hole was not hot enough, the body armour strapped across my chest made it feel ridiculously hotter, however there was no way that I would ever take it off.

Protective equipment is used as a last line of defence against a threat. The body armour would protect my vital organs in the event of the vehicle being blown up by IED or running over a Anti Tank Mine left behind from the Iraq-Iran war. A face mask is worn as a last line of defence against airborne viruses like the Coronavirus. Like the body armour, the face mask is not 100% protection and it is definitely not the first measure of protection, but when the threat is high enough you take every measure you can to protect yourself.

The threat of our vehicle being hit by an IED or running over an old mine was high enough to wear our body armour every time we where driving outside of a Coalition base, no matter how hot it was in the drivers hole. Once we entered a base the body armour come off because the threat no longer was high enough. Today if you live in Melbourne the threat of corona virus is high, if you live in Darwin it is extremely low to non existant. The threat is changing every day as the virus spreads and changes in every social interaction you find yourself in. Today our town may face a moderate threat but tomorrow it could be high. If you are at a busy supermarket with a bunch of strangers the threat could be high, where if you are walking in a park with your family the threat could be low. The precautions and measured we take are adapting and changing everyday to mitigate the current threat we are in.

like wearing body armour in a 60 degree ASLAV drivers hole, wearing a face musk has its struggles. The face musk makes it a harder to breath, it fogs up your glasses, the band leaves an indent around your ears and it changes the way people interact socially. But when the threat is high enough, you take every precaution you can. It is then weighing up the threat to the effects the protective equipment imposes and making the decision if threat is great enough to warrant the need for the protection. This decision will either be made for you, like it was for me in Iraq by my Crew Commander and like it has been made for Victorians living in Melbourne or it will be a personal choice. While it is a personal choice we weigh up the threat and when it is mandatory we comply or receive a fine, simple. What ever the scenario is that you find yourself in respect the people around you.

Be nice, be kind, be friendly because if you are mean and nasty to people for wearing or not wearing a musk it continues with the person you inflict it on. Then they are mean and nasty to the next person and then hatred spreads like a virus. We are all making decisions everyday that we never would have thought we would have to make, so respect everyone else’s decision even if you don’t agree with it.

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