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James Ruse Old Boys provide key leadership team for Aussie forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East

posted Apr 10, 2012, 5:15 PM by Eddie Woo
Press Release from the Australian Defence Force - Military Public Affairs area 

On the surface there may not appear too much of a link between the James Ruse Agricultural High School in Carlingford and Australian military operations in Afghanistan, but two James Ruse Old Boys are now working side by side to lead and guide Australian military efforts to rebuild that troubled country. Major General Mark Kelly AO and Commodore Trevor Jones CSC are both graduates of James Ruse Agricultural High School and are now working together, leading the Australian Defence Force’s operations against international terrorism in Afghanistan and the broader Middle East. Major General Kelly is the Commander of all Australian forces in the Middle East, while Commodore Jones is Major General Kelly’s headquarters’ Chief of Staff responsible for implementing the General’s guidance. Australia has around 2300 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel deployed on operations across the Middle East, with the bulk of those deployed in Afghanistan itself while the remainder provide direct support to the fight against terrorism. “It is a demanding task, and one of which I am very privileged to have been given,” Major General Kelly said. “And given its complexities, scope and the level of national responsibility involved, it is always good to have strong and capable people working for you as I do here now.” 

“Trevor as may Chief of Staff leads my headquarters team and while it’s a coincidence we both attended James Ruse in the 1970s, it certainly does add an extra level of understanding to our working relationship,: Major General Kelly said. While the two senior officers were several years part while attending James Ruse, they have become a strong team as they lead and guide Australian forces on their important, and dangerous, mission here in the Middle East. Since leaving James Ruse, both Major General Kelly and Commodore Jones have had distinguished careers in the Australian Defence force spanning in excess of 30 years each. Major General Kelly entered the Army’s Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1975, while Commodore Jones chose the Navy, entering the Royal Australian Naval College, HMAS Creswell, in 1978. 

Among his career highlight’s, Major General Kelly has commanded the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, the Army’s high readiness 3rd Brigade, and the Army’s 1st Division. Prior to his appointment in the Middle East, he held the appointment of Land Commander-Australia – responsible for the operational readiness of the Army’s combat forces. For Commodore Jones, his career highlights have included command of the Guided Missile Frigates HMAS Darwin and HMAS Newcastle. On his return to Australia he will be promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and take up the appointment of Head of Navy Personnel and Reputation. Commodore Jones said he was fond of James Ruse Agricultural High School and that it was chance that led him to the Navy. “It was a great school, offering a variety of studies, including a speciality of agriculture. I wanted to be a wool classer, but when I graduated there were no scholarships available so I ended up pursuing the Navy as my backup.” Commodore Jones said. For Major General Kelly, one of the many positives of his experience there was the broad education the school offered and the many extra curricular activities that were available to the students. 

“James Ruse was a great school to attend and I still have wonderful memories of my time there. Its reputation has continued to grow in recent years with consistently strong results in the High School Certificate which is a great achievement,” Major General Kelly said. While time has passed for Major General Kelly and Commodore Jones and the days of James Ruse are well behind them, their memories of the school, and in the Parramatta district have been rekindled through their current roles in the Middle East. “We are both involved in important work here, providing leadership and direction to the wonderful young men and women of the Australian Defence Force who are making great sacrifices and facing real danger here on behalf of Australia with their hope of giving the people of Afghanistan a better future,” Major General Kelly said. 

Australia’s military contribution to Afghanistan is part of the nation’s broader commitment to Coalition efforts against international terrorism, countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and maritime security. The Australian deployment, comprising around 1550 personnel in Afghanistan and a further 850 across the Middle East, is known as Operations SLIPPER. Under Operation SLIPPER Australian forces contribute to the efforts of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) – led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, aimed at preventing Afghanistan again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, and the United State-led International Coalition Against Terrorism.