16 October 2023
Sudden tragedy is arresting. It is literally unbelievable. There is an almost tangible feeling that the person who walked through the door yesterday will walk through the door again tomorrow. And this is all the more so when that tragedy is playing out in public. When unexpected and unfamiliar cameras and news reports, which are normally telling the story of the world, are suddenly telling a story about you and your pain.
For the families of these four men, this has been a massive tear in the fabric of their lives. It's been a chasm. A moment which will define a before and an after. And it has been completely surreal. And yet there are four very real people involved. There is a real tragedy and there is real loss.
Danniel Lyon was a born leader. He lit up a room that he entered. He had a rare ability to connect and he touched so many people in his life. Be it on the football field or in uniform, people looked to Danniel and they followed him.
Max Nugent, a wicked sense of humour, tall and gangly, not really the physique to fly a helicopter, was determined in a way which characterised his life to pursue his dream of aviation. Such that when he did actually sit in the seat, those around him discovered that he was a natural aviator.
Phil Laycock was the oldest of the group. Mature, a father of three, serious and dutiful are words which have been used to describe him. In 2014 he was the Army's aviation course soldier of the year. A man to be admired.
And Alex Naggs, a private person but a person who was generous, hard-working, caring. The kind of person that you would want on your team.
What’s really clear in speaking with the families, in reading their words is the presence that each of these four men had in their lives and correspondingly, the hole which has now left.
On the night of this accident these four men were participating in Exercise Talisman Sabre. It is the biggest exercise of the Australian Defence Force, which occurs every two years. Obviously in its exercises the Defence Force seeks to replicate, as much as possible, what would happen in combat. Otherwise there is no point to the exercise. And so this is dangerous, it carries necessary risk. On this occasion, flying a helicopter in the dark of night, overwater, at very low altitude with stealth.
We don't yet know what went wrong on that tragic night. We will find out. What we do know is that this exercise was demonstrating Australia's capability and demonstrating it with our partners. As such it had a strong deterrent effect and accordingly was playing its part in maintaining the peace and security of the region which we live.
On the night of this accident those four men, in getting to that helicopter, were making a difference. And their sacrifice is as meaningful as that of any who has lost their life wearing our nation's uniform.
So today, our nation honours them. We honour them in the history of the Army’s aviation corps, we honour them in history of the Australian Defence Force and we honour them for their service to our nation. Lest we forget.
Other related releases
Condolence Motion - Deaths of Danniel Lyon, Maxwell Nugent, Joseph Phillip Laycock & Alexander Naggs
Remarks at the 'United with Israel' Community Gathering, Caulfield Shule, VIC