S2: Episode 1: Dave Simpson & Sarbi - The Story of An ADF Dog’s 14-Month Recall | Axon Property Group Skip to content
S2: Episode 1: Dave Simpson & Sarbi - The Story of An ADF Dog’s 14-Month Recall 1

S2: Episode 1:
Dave Simpson & Sarbi – The Story of An ADF Dog’s 14-Month Recall

Welcome to Season 2 of Axons Unleashed!
This season is an all-guest-extravaganza, beginning with our amazing lead Property Specialist, Dave Simpson. After being separated from each other after an incredibly intense fire-fight in Afghanistan, how did Dave Simpson and his Explosive Detection Dog, Sarbi, find each other again?

Dave is an experienced and highly-professional expert in the process of acquiring, building and operating property portfolios. Dave also has one of the most remarkable stories about his time serving in ADF and the 14-month recall of Sarbi the Explosive Detection Dog.
We are starting this season on with bang, don’t miss this amazing story and introduction to the broader ‘Axon Group’.

Listen to Axons Unleashed:

TRANSCRIPT:

Robbie:
Good day everyone, my name's Robbie. Welcome to Episode One of Season Two, Axon's Unleashed. I'm here with Dan. I've got Tamara. And we've got a special guest in with us today, Dave Simpson. Buddy, welcome.

Tamara:
Yoo.

Dave:
Thank you. It's great to be here.

Tamara:
Good morning.

Robbie:
Yeah, good to see you, mate. So I guess today's going to be a great little introduction to, you've got a fantastic story, and I guess I just want to give everyone an introduction to how we met. How we came into each other's lives. So we'll go through that first, but then I want to wrap back around, because many of you don't know that Dave was the military working dog handler for Sarbi. So there's a bronze statue up at Warner Lakes. Sarbi's now resting in peace down at the War Memorial.

Dave:
Yeah, great little display down there that everyone can visit.

Robbie:
Yeah, fantastic mate. So look, we feel honored and privileged that you not only wear an Axon shirt every day, as one of our highly valued employees, but you got a fantastic story and you're a bloody great war veteran, and I can't wait to share it with everybody.

Dave:
Thanks, mate.

Tamara:
I'm really keen for this one, because even just hearing how it all began with you guys, because it just feels like you've been in our life forever. I don't know? It doesn't really feel like there was a beginning?

Dave:
Yeah, that's right. It has been quite an extended timeframe. And even before that though, Robbie and I worked very closely together in separate units within just a few 100 meters of each other, but we didn't actually meet until later on.

Robbie:
It's funny that when there's 700 blokes on an SOTG rotation goes over in and out anyway. Like, "Oh, do you know John-oh?" I'm like, "No, mate. I've never heard of him before. Sorry."

Tamara:
No, actually you always go, "Oh yeah. Is that brown hair? Short haircut?" And they go, "Yeah. Yeah. Yeah."

Robbie:
And pretty feet?

Dave:
No mate.

Robbie:
Not me.

Tamara:
No.

Robbie:
So tell us then, Dave, tell us the story. Start us off. How did you first come across... because I know, was it one of your work colleagues that come along to a free property investor training event in Sydney or something?

Dave:
No, actually one of my work mates actually discharged from the ADF and started working with a company that you were working with at the time.

Robbie:
Right. Yes.

Dave:
So for me, the reason that I actually went and engaged with that company then and met you was because I'd already deployed a couple of times, bought a couple of properties previously, and then I was lucky that my purchasing and deployments were aligned so that I was able to buy properties when I was back home. But this third time, I was actually deploying at the same time that I was ready to buy another investment property. So I needed some assistance there, I wasn't able to do it all myself. So that's how I engaged with you, and the company there, and basically was able to do it. So a bit what we're doing now for all of our clients, and be able to buy an investment property whilst I was deployed.

Robbie:
So I remember that actually. So we did a Zoom call, this would've been Skype call back then, there was no Zoom. What years we're talking now? 2014, '15?

Dave:
That would've been about 2013.

Robbie:
Yeah, 2013. Well shit, yeah, I didn't really start with that other firm until maybe June, July? So yeah, mate. You were even probably one of my first clients even. Dan, you weren't too far behind, I got to say?

Dan:
Mate, I'm pretty certain that you were really, really, really learning the ropes when we first interacted when you were in the property world.

Robbie:
Oh yeah, for sure.

Tamara:
He was still putting printouts on the tables and tucking in chairs.

Dave:
Oh yeah.

Robbie:
I was the junior burger for sure. So I remember sitting there with the Skype call with yourself and Keira. We unpacked it all and said, "Right-oh, what does your portfolio look like now? And how can we put a plan together, and a timeline?" And I guess one of the things that we've been able to replicate really, really well, Tamara and gents you would agree is that, no matter whether someone's going away on deployment, or on a ship, or on an extended period away, the show doesn't have to stop as far as creating wealth with your life. You can just hand it over to your mentoring coaching team and shit can happen whilst you're away.

Dave:
Yeah, exactly right. It's a unique position that we're in to be able to provide that service.

Robbie:
Yeah, awesome.

Dan:
I'm noting RT just said, "Hey, we sat down and unpacked your portfolio." Can you just give us a bit of a rundown as to where you were at that point in time? Because you weren't sitting there like a 20-year-old dude that's just been on deployment, came back with $70,000 in the bank very first time. You've already started your journey. So can you just give us a rundown of how you'd done that and where you'd been so far?

Dave:
Yeah, that's right. And it's not always a good news story as well. My first property was through another company. Unfortunately, I didn't do enough due diligence on them, and as it turns out, they also owned the land. They also were the broker and everything like that as well.

Tamara:
They had their fingers in many pies.

Dave:
And they took all the fees associated with all the different elements there as well. And unfortunately, that property did not perform for me as well. I paid about $330,000 for it. I only just offloaded it this year actually. I held onto it. A little bit of hope, living on a bit of hope that it would come good, but it did not. So offloaded that with a bit of a loss. Managed to purchase another property after that one in one of my periods between deployments. That one actually performed extremely well. I bought that one in 2011 in Sydney, just before it took off there. So I started doing my own research and everything there and found a good location, a good property there. So that one actually performed extremely well, which is why I was then able to buy that third one with Robbie's assistance. I was in position there.

Tamara:
And isn't it important, those mistakes that you learn, especially early on. And I know Robbie and I, especially, early on we made some terrible investing mistakes. But you learn from those really quickly, rather than if you have such a success story from the get-go, you underappreciate what goes into all of it. Like what goes behind the scenes and what goes into all of this. So we even find it in the marketing team that, when we post things that are mistakes or lessons learnt, people get so much more value out of the mistakes rather than the success stories.

Dave:
Totally agree. Totally agree. And I've been investing for quite some time now. I've made a lot of mistakes. Finance, structure, location, things like that. So I've learnt from those and I'm able to actually now in my role, pass that on along to all of our clients and especially to the new property specialists that I'm training as well.

Robbie:
Yeah, it's so important that we don't stand on an ivory tower and shout from the rooftops, "I've never made a mistake in investing. Follow my way." Yeah, it is important that we do learn from those mistakes.

Dave:
You've got to have that humility. And the biggest part of all is actually, learn from those mistakes.

Tamara:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave:
Don't just put the blinkers on and go, "Oh, yeah. That won't happen again." But actually learn from them and grow.

Dan:
And I actually find with our clients, some of the most, well, I call them dangerous clients, because they've had a crack themselves, maybe accidentally bought in their own backyard and gone, "I'm a property mogul. I know exactly what I'm doing." And it's like, "Mate, you literally got a little bit lucky in choosing the location that you grew up in, in your backyard. You're not borderless in your mindset. You haven't managed your risk. You haven't taken it to the next level."

Dan:
But just because they've had that one ounce of success in the very first instance, they've got this really inflated sense of their ability to be able to do something. So you, Simmo, I suppose, having that first property that arguably, it's knocked you down a peg, because you were like, "Hang on, maybe this isn't so easy that I just go out there and offload all of this work to someone else and I give them my bundle of gold and say, "You go do it for me."" You've found yourself in a position where you're like, "I need to do my own due diligence, as well as being able to rely on that support."

Dave:
Yeah, that's right. And even though I purchased and built three properties before I started working within the industry, actually with Robbie as well, in that company that I first went to for Robbie's assistance. Even though I'd purchased three properties before, it wasn't until... Well, I thought I knew a lot about the building industry, building properties, investing and finance, but it really wasn't until I started working day-in and day-out in the industry that my education took a massive uptick and I actually learned a lot.

Robbie:
Yeah, I still remember that day that you came in, attended a subsequent seminar I guess? We weren't really doing online events back then. Facebook Live didn't exist certainly. So a seminar. And you'd already come along and then you sat at the back. And it's almost like you ran a pink over the session as far as that goes. And then you gave myself and the other owner of that firm some really good feedback about, "Oh, when you say this, it comes across this way. Or would you improve this way here?"

Robbie:
And went boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And I remember sitting with the guy and I'm like, "Hey, this guy writes really well and he's clearly very passionate. He's come along on his own volition to allow us to improve." Because at the end of the day, delivering something and receiving something is quite not often the same? As the saying goes, sometimes the reflection I see is not the same as the shadow I cast.

Tamara:
Ooh.

Dave:
Wow.

Dan:
Fuck like-

Robbie:
Yes.

Dan:
... deep. Deep.

Robbie:
Yes.

Tamara:
Wow.

Robbie:
Think about that one for a second.

Dan:
I'm glad that's been captured now. Because sometimes there's just absolute gems that you come out with and I don't know where you've got them from?

Tamara:
No, don't neither.

Robbie:
I don't plan them.

Tamara:
I don't think I've ever heard that.

Dave:
Welcome to the program.

Robbie:
So most people haven't.

Dave:
I totally agree, mate. And for me, prior to that as well, most of my career was training and assessment. So it is quite easy for me to sit down and watch a presentation or see some training and provide feedback on it, which ties in extremely well with what I'm doing in the company now as well.

Robbie:
So we see that with all the new property specialists that come in to the business now, and granted the last three property specialists we've recruited have all been through the process as clients, just like you two fine gentlemen as well. And they say the exact same thing. They're like, "Wow, even though we've now taken the whole process from start to finish. Now that we're seeing it on the other side of the mirror," or curtain, whichever analogy you want to be able to use there? They just, "I don't really understand what goes into making it all happen." So it was very clear to me that you'd found your new calling after... Because 21 years in the military you did?

Dave:
21 years in the army, yeah. And in the last seven or eight years of that, I deployed to Afghanistan five time.

Tamara:
Epic.

Robbie:
Yeah, mate.

Tamara:
That is huge.

Robbie:
That is fucking epic. So there's the first swear word for Season Two. If you didn't know, this is an MA15+ show-

Dave:
Nice.

Robbie:
... you do now.

Tamara:
If you've met Robbie before, you already knew that was coming.

Dan:
Obviously then, we got to that point RT where you've met Simmo now. You provided some pretty good feedback. One of the key themes that we do like to talk about in this podcast is transitions. So I suppose, Simmo, can you just narrow in on how your transition actually occurred? Maybe the last six to 12 months before you were actually getting out? And then your transition out in becoming a civilian and a couple of those key elements there.

Dave:
Yeah, sure. My last deployment was 2013, then back to Sydney, 2014. I knew that I was going to be going to Brisbane to join the 20 EOD Squadron as the warrant officer in charge of training and certification for dogs and handlers deploying overseas. So I knew where I was going to be for the next three or four years and I was fairly happy with that. Following that, I knew that I was probably going to go back as a chief trainer for the school and continue training handlers, and supervisors, and dogs and everything like that. But, as you know, investing in property for such a long time, that is another one of my passions. And once I had purchased that property with Robbie's assistance, and then sitting in on that training session and providing that feedback. I actually thought I would provide that feedback as a bit of a job interview, a semi, because I jotted-

Robbie:
Noted.

Dave:
... a few-

Robbie:
And it worked.

Dave:
... It did work. So I was extremely happy even knowing that I had another solid six to seven years, knowing where I was going to be in the ADF. But with that passion there in investing in property as well, I was super keen to explore that.

Robbie:
I certainly followed your transition for that seven, eight, nine month period. Just like yours, Dan, when we first started talking about that in, what was that? May/June 2018. And then you got out later on that year, August/September?

Dan:
Yep.

Robbie:
You do start to follow, and track, and whatever else. And I remember Simmo, you got promoted to warrant officer, came up to Brisbane, took long service leave, never really spent more than one or two days in the unit, and then said, "See you later. I'm out."

Dave:
Yeah. Pretty much.

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
The first four weeks to do the induction training, and dropped a discharge on them.

Tamara:
Whoops. Don't ever do that to me.

Robbie:
No. So we enjoyed a good couple of years there working with the other firm. We grew the business. And Tammy, you were certainly very closely involved in our life and you saw it all happen. And I guess-

Tamara:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robbie:
... you started to see myself, yourself and three or four other guys there, ex military people, come into a business and successfully transition into the property space as well. I left a couple years after that, and I do believe that you stage exited right from that business how long after I left do you think?

Dave:
Probably only another three months-or-so.

Tamara:
Yeah, I'd say even less.

Robbie:
Yeah, you and about 10 others. So there was a bit of a mass exodus. No names, no [inaudible 00:13:39]. But there was just a changing of the guard there as far as that goes. Because you and I had a non-compete clause in place, you did your own thing for about a year, didn't you? So you created... What was that other business you created?

Dave:
I started my own business called Trove Properties. A slightly different space to what Axon and what you were doing in there, rather than being client-facing, I was then sourcing properties for other businesses to present to their clients.

Robbie:
And that would've been a good little activity to do, starting up your own ABN, managing your own cashflow, doing your own invoices. All that stuff from a-

Dave:
Massive learning curve.

Robbie:
... Yeah.

Tamara:
Oh, yeah.

Robbie:
We know all about it, don't we Tammy. And if you haven't listened to Season One, go back and listen to that, then you'll learn that it's almost-

Tamara:
It's not easy, and you realize how good you had it just as an employee with no risk, and you just turn up, you do your job, you've got a life outside of work. Now we live and breathe business.

Robbie:
... I was literally talking to a client last night, Alvin over in Perth, and he's going to start doing his MBA. He goes, "Oh, my hex stat's come down to 22, but it's about to bump up by 40 grand." I'm like, "Shit, what are you doing?" He goes, "I'm going to do my MBA." He goes, "You would've done your MBA, have you?" And I'm like, "No, but I feel like I've done my MBA on-the-fly."

Tamara:
In life.

Robbie:
Yeah, literally over the last few years. So then that 12 month period finished and Dan, you'd already started by then. And while I was like, "Hey, we're now starting to gain a real bit of traction as far as Axon's standing in the workforce. We're now going to need some assistance." So we basically had that conversation. We were like, "Hey Dave, even though we're communicating with you through another third party to keep that relationship open, would you consider basically coming in and start wearing an Axon shirt?"

Dave:
Yeah, that was a great opportunity for me. Trove Properties was bubbling away, not to the level that I thought or expected. You guys were doing a lot of great work and I always loved working with you and with Tammy. So yeah, it was just a natural progression for me to accept that.

Robbie:
Yeah, and I guess that happened, and then fast forward, you're still here. You're the senior property specialist now. You're the training developer. People come in and spend even a couple of weeks with myself and Dan, just getting their feet under their desk. And then boom, we hand them over to you and you take them through how to present the research, how to present the process, how to present the risk management guide, how to put the property back together, what goes into the contracts, how to provide that support through the finance, all the way through to land settlement.

Tamara:
And we've kind of noticed, when Robbie trains someone, he forgets what people don't know. So because he's so passionate and driven, results-driven, he focuses on the big picture. Whereas I think you, Dave, really focus on those really intimate details of the process, of everything that we do. And so when you train people, they just come out so much better. No offense, Robbie.

Robbie:
No offense taken. You're absolutely right. And Dan, I know you and I spoke a lot about bringing Dave into the business, and what were your first impression? Because you just didn't know each other before hand, correct?

Dave:
No, that's right.

Robbie:
Geez.

Dan:
Well, as they say, good friends [crosstalk 00:16:47]. I'm like, "You're right beside me." And you'll know why I'm like, "Oh, I should be a bit careful here," after you hear Simmo's story that we will get to in a couple of minutes.

Robbie:
Correct.

Dan:
But from my perspective it was very, very fortunate in timing as well, because Simmo came and joined Axon about one month before I had to take a few weeks off because my eldest child, James, was about to be born. And I'm like, "This is really, really good that we've got someone who's confident. They can come inside the door straight away and really get their feet under the desk." Because I didn't know what the cyclone was that was coming my way with a child coming into my life. And I still remember it's super fortunate for Axon and all of our clients out there that Simmo did come in, because I was just hit for six for the next three to six months after James turned up.

Dan:
So Simmo bought with him I think a high level of due diligence. The checks and the balances that Simmo would do is... I can probably stray a little bit towards what Robbie does as well where I fly by the seat of my pants a little bit more than what Simmo does. But Simmo is very grounded, methodical, process-driven and able to be able to take people through in a slow manner as well. So I think he brought a very strong balance to the organization at that point as well where you had RT, and then Simmo were very... they're almost very divergent in nature when they're sober. And after Simmo's had a few beers, then they become much closer in nature. But from a day-

Robbie:
Agreed.

Dave:
Agreed.

Dan:
... from a day-to-day basis you had this very passionate, driven, very headstrong person in Robbie, and you had Simmo's very strong grounding at that point in time as well. So they really counter balanced each other quite nicely at that point.

Robbie:
Fucking well said.

Dave:
That was an excellent response.

Robbie:
Yeah, Dave. Yeah, it's nothing to be scared of there.

Tamara:
We've kind of gone into this in some of our quarterly planning is visionary and integrated balances throughout the business, and we've definitely got a good mix of those two. And it's not hard and fast, you're not one total like, you're not just a visionary. I know Robbie, you are majority visionary, but you're also a great integrator when you need to be. And the same with Dan, you're quite balanced in terms of visionary, but also the integrative stuff. Whereas Simmo and I are pretty strong integrators, we get shit done.

Dan:
I was speaking to Simmo the other day. I'm like, "What's the most exciting bit about this?" And he's like, "Oh, it's the numbers." It's definitely. It's all about the data, and the process, and the numbers for Dave. And he literally loves that stuff. It's not about the colors, and floor plans, and the photos or anything like that. He's like, "Just ones and zeros, mate. Just give me the data."

Tamara:
I hear you. That's why even some of our investment properties, I've never even seen them. I'm like, "What's the numbers?"

Robbie:
So mate, it's fantastic to have you onboard. I just wanted to provide everyone a quick little 20 minute catch up there about how we came across each other, what your military career entailed, how you transitioned from the military? And here's a question without warning for you. If you could give yourself... How long have you been out for now?

Dave:
Five years.

Robbie:
Four, five years?

Dave:
Yeah.

Robbie:
What would today's Dave say to Dave who was about to be promoted to warrant officer and move up to Brisbane to say, "Hey, you don't know this, but you're about to get out in the next few months." What would today's Dave say back to that guy? Because all the listeners right now, because like it or lump it ladies and gents, it's not if you get out, it's when you get out. Everyone becomes a veteran at some stage, whether you do a day, or 21 years, or 24 years, or however long you've done. So I guess let's start to provide a bit of the real-time off-the-cuff advice. Here's me flying by the seat of my pants again Dan, not sticking to the script.

Tamara:
Standard.

Robbie:
But hopefully, everyone's going to find this valuable. What would today's Dave say to Dave five years ago?

Dave:
Knowing what I do know now, and knowing that a had a very easy additional six or seven years in the ADF, knowing where I was going to be. But knowing the opportunities that are out there now as well, and thankfully getting involved with veteran-owned businesses has been very beneficial as well. For me, it doesn't even feel as though I've really left the ADF and that culture.

Robbie:
Same here.

Tamara:
I've joined.

Dave:
Tammy has joined. So I would say for the people, if you're even thinking about it, pretty much the decision's already been made for you, I guess, in your own mind. So just take the opportunity, grab with both hands, and run with it.

Tamara:
I'd also say the older you get, it's kind of harder, the opportunities that are going to be out there as well. So unless you see a really long career in the military, I'm thinking, and this is so non-politically correct I'm guessing. But the opportunities out there, in the workforce, in the corporate world definitely get lower. And, I don't know? You're not going to just go out there and become a bricky at 45.

Dave:
No way. No.

Robbie:
Definitely not. We drive past build sites all the time, don't we Dan? I'm like, "Fuck, I would hate to be a bricky. Look at those bastards out there, busting their chops." Like, "No thank you."

Dan:
I wasn't even with Robbie-

Tamara:
But bless those people, because they're building our houses. We love them.

Dan:
... Bless their cotton socks. I was actually driving past a site the other day and I had to ring Robbie and I'm like, "Mate, there's brickies in front of me. You'd love to do this."

Robbie:
He said to me, he goes, "What would you prefer? Would you prefer to be a laborer?" Because Tamara and I don't have any children, for the record, together. "Would you like to be a laborer, or have a bloody child?" I said, "Mate, I'd rather have twins, than fucking go out [crosstalk 00:22:36] labor."

Tamara:
And that's saying something. That is saying something.

Robbie:
But you know what? I busted my ass when I was a young bloke. I remember going down to bloody Puckapunyal and doing fire and movement as a 17, 18, 19-year-old. Having to dig a shell scrape every single position we went to. Dig down and fucking fill it in before you had to leave again.

Dan:
And it would've been on shell scrape, it wouldn't have been on nice soft soil.

Robbie:
No, no, no. This is down in Pucka. I've done my fucking fair share of digging holes, and living in pits, and fucking putting up riveting and crap. Not anymore, thank you.

Tamara:
I've only been camping with Robbie once, and-

Robbie:
Yeah, that shall be the last time.

Tamara:
... that was the last.

Robbie:
Hey, so speaking about military stuff. So that's great advice there. I guess what I would also add to that, you would agree, the earlier you can plan, the better. So like you said, once you actually start thinking about getting out, that decision's already made. But I would say also, and you said before, you were happy to do another six or seven years in the military. In my opinion, don't view transitioning from the military as a last resort. Because if it doesn't work out, you're going fucking back into the green, the blue, or the dark blue.

Dave:
I've seen that with a few of my friends numerous times as well.

Robbie:
Yeah, a 100%. And there's nothing wrong with going out and dipping your toe in the water and then getting back in again and like, "That's it." And maybe that's a perspective.

Tamara:
Is Defense pretty, I guess, are they pretty forthcoming with if you wanted to take leave and try something out? Are they pretty open to that, or is that something that they should be more open to?

Dave:
I'm not sure about taking leave to try something else? You can take leave without pay. What you do on that leave, generally still has to be in line with-

Dan:
Yeah, you still need to get a little bit of authority from your chaining command. But I mean, Defense is good out there. There are lots of opportunities that are available as well where they can go out there, and whilst you're still employed by Defense, go and gain experience in the corporate sector as well. It's very specific programs by the way ladies and gentlemen, so you need to go and do your proper application process to be able to do this. Because Defense wants to be able to bring some of those skills back into the Defense Force as well.

Dan:
So from my perspective, when it comes to Defense, I don't even think it's a one-way street. It's like you do Defense, then you go out and become a civilian. Maybe you go become a civilian and then you go and join Defense, because you're going to be able to bring those skills either way as well. So it's not a single direction from that perspective.

Robbie:
The reason why I bring it up, so you're absolutely right, is that one of the questions they asked me during my officer selection board, when I went from sergeant to captain. They're like, "So what if this doesn't work out? It's very clear to us that you do want to transition to be an officer, but what if we say no, what's next?" And I was like, "Well, I'm happy being a senior NCO, I'll probably get promoted to warrant officer in another couple years' time." Etc., etc. "So I'm happy in the service." And I'm positive that answer provided a little one percenter for them to go, "All right, this dude's not just doing it for personal reasons, he's doing it to contribute to the greater organization, because he's going to stay anyway."

Dan:
Yeah, you certainly didn't have an up-or-out mentality basically.

Robbie:
Yeah, fantastic. Mate, so let's go back to, so you said you did five deployments to the Middle East?

Dave:
Yes.

Robbie:
What was that, in the last how many years?

Dave:
Five deployments over seven years.

Robbie:
Yeah mate, that op tempo is crazy busy. But you know what? There's 100s, 100s of SOTG guys, and some girls I guess, in those support roles that would probably two-sheds us out of that.

Tamara:
And shout out to Keira for that, Jesus.

Robbie:
Oh, yeah.

Dave:
Well, I don't know, luckily. But Keira's a very strong woman as well. So I only did one deployment before I met Keira. So she's had to live through four overseas deployments as well.

Tamara:
Power to her. Gosh.

Robbie:
Just so that we set the scene, those five deployments were as a EDD handler?

Dave:
Correct. Explosion Detection Dog handler.

Robbie:
And then there was one particular deployment, and one particular incident on said deployment. I just want to narrow that down a bit more-

Tamara:
The story.

Robbie:
... so it makes... I know we've got about-

Dan:
Give him the chance to build it up.

Robbie:
... We've got about 20 minutes-or-so. So over to you, mate. Tell everyone the story about what was going on there. Who was involved, and then what happened thereafter.

Dave:
Sure. So Dan loves to give me a bit of grief about this story.

Dan:
You've got 18 minutes more than I normally give you for it, so.

Dave:
Yeah, normally it's a quickfire one. But long story, can go for a long time, but I'll give you the slightly abridged version. Not too much there. But I did join the army initially to become a dog handler. Back in '95 when you went to recruiting, you didn't actually know which, or you told them which corps you wanted to go to. But once you got to Kapooka, you had to write down your list of three options there.

Robbie:
I remember it well.

Dave:
I wrote engineer, engineer, engineer on all three. A bit of a dickhead, a young 19-year-old.

Robbie:
It worked.

Dave:
Well, it didn't work.

Robbie:
Oh, that's right, you went to the Royal Regiment first.

Dave:
Correct. They said they wanted a couple of the smarter guys to go to Air Defense. I don't know if they were just trying to bloody sway me or pump me up a bit? But I didn't really get the option, ultimately. Off to training to be a missile number, so within Artillery. So they said, "Once you get there, give it a go for a year or so. And if you still want to be an engineer, try and get a corps transfer."

Robbie:
The School of Arty would've been up at North Head still then, yeah?

Dave:
It was. Yeah, that was really good up there near Manly.

Robbie:
I went up there and did my gun course in 1990, C course in '92, and then OP-CP course I think in '94/'95. So, that might have been even another time that we even crossed paths up there in that 90.

Dave:
Potentially. I would've been there around '95, '96-

Robbie:
Right, there you go.

Dave:
... I did my course there. Actually, I did see a photo of you the other day in Solomon Islands, '03.

Robbie:
Yep.

Dave:
I was there then as well.

Robbie:
Oh, perfect. There you go.

Dave:
But for the most part, the story of Sarbi. After I'd corps transferred into engineers, I did that for about four or five years. Worked my way up to corporal and instructor at the school, and that's come to around about 2005 when I trained Sarbi. Spent that year training her. 19 weeks at the school, and then continuation training for the rest of the year.

Robbie:
Tell us about Sarbi. What was she like and how did she progress through training, and tell us about the bond you guys started to form.

Dave:
Sarbi, she was... Well, even though I've had about five dogs over that 17-odd years as a dog trainer, Sarbi is by far the standout. Just her personality, and her traits, and her loyalty I guess, just astounded me. And I did train her from the beginning. Her and her brother were both recruited at the same time. Sarbi and-

Robbie:
What sort of dogs were they, just for the dog lovers out there?

Dave:
... Yes. Yes. Newfoundland cross Labrador.

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
So decent size dog. Nowhere near as big as my horse, well for the moment, but still a very big dog. Quite an alpha personality in a female dog as well, which is a little bit interesting. But she was so easy to train, so willing to be trained. And part of that is the fanatical retrieving that the dogs have, that's how we train them, based on that. So throughout training she was gold. She was so easy to train. I was a little bit blessed in that aspect.

Robbie:
Did you start to really feel that bond with her? Did you know that something special about her was evolving that you were part of?

Dave:
Yeah, sure. I didn't have a massively strong bond during training. It wasn't until just after training where we were doing an exercise out at I think it was Cultana, of all places, in the middle of Australia. Some people know it well. And we actually got the opportunity to spend 24 hours a day together. So eating, sleeping, training. And there was once incidence there where we were out on training operations of a night time, and picket time came around for myself. And I think it was the officer for the platoon or whatever we were with came over and tried to wake me up for picket. But Sarbi saw him coming, stood up, growled, wouldn't let him come near me. So I got to sleep in that night.

Robbie:
Oh, true story. He must've thought better of it and went-

Dave:
Yeah, he did.

Robbie:
... "Ah, I'll go and do Simmo's extra hour of picket."

Dave:
He did. He did.

Tamara:
Oh, that's cold.

Dave:
And it was after spending that much time with the dog that the bond actually really solidified there as well.

Robbie:
Yeah, nice.

Dan:
Everyone at home is right now, "Where do I get one of these dogs to protect me from picket?"

Robbie:
So then tell us about the actual deployment where the Sarbi's legend was born really. When was it? Who was there? Etc.

Dave:
So following training in 2015, we did actually go down to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne as well as part of Tag East, any counter terrorism operations there as well. I did deploy prior to that incident with Sarbi in 2007. That I was released from SOCOMD to go and work with Land Forces there. So we did that deployment. It was fairly benign. It were supposed to be a reconstruction task force, but I guess through that, after we would build a bunch of schools, and wells, and things and the Taliban just kept coming and smashing them, the operations did start changing to more of a security operations as opposed to a reconstruction.

Dave:
So back home for about six months, and then next deployment. And that's when my deployment on and off cycle really started there. So 2008 was in support of the SAS, so myself, and the EOD tech, and our section there of combat engineers were supporting one of the troops there. It was actually the troop that had Mark Donaldson VC, which is actually with the actual contact that had Sarbi and myself involved as well.

Robbie:
Right, just to be clear. The incident that Mark was awarded his VC?

Dave:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robbie:
You were there.

Dave:
Yes, that's correct. And that's the one where Sarbi, actually her whole story comes about. So we'd done a number of patrols. We're out and about in the vehicles, to start with, I think it was still in the low range patrol vehicles, the RPV's.

Robbie:
Yeah, I remember.

Dave:
Before switching partway through that deployment into the Bushmasters.

Robbie:
The Bushies.

Dave:
Quite a different vehicle. You lose a lot of visibility of the area, your situation awareness, because you are locked in a bit of a tin can.

Robbie:
I literally remember back in 2005, when SOTG one, we were deployed over there. So there was a platoon of commandos with a company of SAS, and then we were given the Bushmasters as a bit of a trial run for the first time. And yeah, they were known as the steel coffin.

Tamara:
Oh.

Robbie:
Yeah, you're absolutely right. You sit in the back of them. You've got no idea where you're going or what you're up to. But, obviously, you do have a little bit of extra protection.

Dave:
Yeah, that's right. So a number of operations throughout the area. A lot of our operations at that time were based on the concept of targeting high value targets. Taliban high value targets. HVTs. So the INT guys would spin up the INT for us, and then at that point in time we were using the helicopters again. So short notice moves. So we'd know that we were on that day. They'd get a ping of where someone was. We'd get called in for a briefing, and then within about 15 or 20 minutes, we were sitting on the helicopters, flying out to try and grab them.

Robbie:
The TST, time sensitive targeting.

Dave:
That's it.

Tamara:
How was Sarbi on helicopters?

Robbie:
I was just about to ask that question, yeah.

Dave:
She was good. She was good. She didn't mind it at all. She jumped on, no problems. We had little doggles for the dogs as well. So just to protect their eyes. She wasn't too keen on them, so we didn't wear them too often. As well as hearing protection for the dogs.

Tamara:
Do they have to rappel down?

Dave:
I have fast roped and rappelled with Sarbi previously.

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
Not on those operations though. So that's some good fun as well.

Tamara:
Wow. Intense.

Robbie:
So you guys were in vehicles for this one particular incident [inaudible 00:34:12] I understand?

Dave:
Yeah, for that one we did actually fly up to Khaz Urozgan in Chinooks. We were chasing, once again, another HVT, high value target up there. By the time we landed though, because it was a fairly decent trip, and unfortunately he had moved out of the area. In saying that though, we then couldn't get a lift back for about five or six days. So we decided to help out the-

Tamara:
Whoa.

Dave:
... Yeah, no we actually landed at one of the U.S. bases.

Tamara:
Right.

Dave:
Up there at Anaconda, which was the U.S. Special Forces-

Robbie:
Very famous base.

Dave:
... Yes. So they were actually going through a bit of a phase where they'd been in quite a few contacts and they'd lost a few people. So they were happy to have the support there, which actually enabled them to get out on the ground again and do a few patrols and do a little bit of hearts and minds stuff with the locals there as well. So little less hearts and minds on our part. So we just started doing some more patrols. Did a few very successful night patrols. And then we had a bit of a patrol, one, very early in the morning. We went out and managed to actually have a very successful patrol there, taking care of quite a few Taliban, if you get the meaning?

Dan:
I was wondering how you were going to phrase that?

Robbie:
As I'd like to say, you were able to quill that behavior.

Dave:
Yes, absolutely.

Robbie:
So you were in the U.S. vehicles at this stage?

Dave:
Yeah, they were rolling around Humvees. They had the style, where it was like a ute style. So they had the four doors on the front, and then a ute section in the back with either a 50 CAL mounted on the roof, or a MARK-19 grenade launcher.

Tamara:
These sound a lot less protective than those other ones you were just talking about.

Robbie:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It'd be like sitting in the back of your blue ute.

Dan:
Mate, my blue ute would probably hold up better than a Humvee in an army explosion.

Dave:
So all the U.S. guys were sitting inside the vehicles, and all the Aussies, the SAS guys and us two engineers were sitting in the back, in the tray.

Robbie:
They're like, "This is our fucking vehicles."

Dave:
"Get in the back."

Robbie:
"We're in the front. You're in the back."

Dave:
Pretty much. Pretty much.

Tamara:
That was such a great impersonation.

Dave:
Right. It's brought me back. I thought I was there. So yeah, we had a very successful mission that day. We decided to replicate it heading out in a different direction. We sent some of the SAS boys out the night before. They took up overwatch positions on some of the mountains. And then the mission basically was to head out into the valley where they were, do a loop around, drop some guys off, let them go for a bit of a wander. See what we could see, and then make our way back. The intent was to make our way back down different routes, but unfortunately there was a rock slide, which closed off the route that we were going to take, and unfortunately we had to come out exactly the same way that we'd gone in.

Robbie:
And as we know for staff in Afghanistan, if there's a choke point, if there's a single point of entry, or ingress and egress as it's known, that's Danger, Will Robinson. And they know that's the case too, right?

Dave:
Yeah, absolutely.

Robbie:
They're like, "Look at these fucking silly white boys." Now I'm going to do an impersonation of an Afghani.

Tamara:
Oh gosh.

Robbie:
"Look at these bloody silly white boys going in that way. They don't know there's only one way back out. Let's fucking set an ambush for them."

Dave:
Yeah, that's exactly what they did. So we rolled in. We stopped at a few places. We took some small arms, fire and took care of that. Rolled through. They tried to come at us from a certain direction, but the overwatch with the SAS boys took care of those guys. And then on our way back, identified that we couldn't go back out the way that we wanted to and had to come back out through that same valley. So that's pretty much when it all kicked off and things started to get a little bit exciting.

Dave:
Funnily enough, we have Icom radios, so that we can hear what they're talking about, and funnily enough, something that happened for the first time that I hadn't heard before was, they generally just talk smack. They talk, "Yeah, we're going to get them." That's my impersonation. "We're going to get them. We're going to get them. Once they get here, we're going to attack them and destroy them." And that was planned throughout the whole day.

Dave:
But on our way back, someone started talking like that and started talking on the radios and they were told to shut up. [Foreign language 00:38:09]. So we had interpreters there and they were telling us, relaying to us that, oh, this is a little bit different. They're actually stopping everyone from talking. They're not allowing them to talk and say, basically talk smack again. So for us, that was a bit of a warning that this was something different. So I actually put my Peltors on, which was my reactive hearing protection. Put my protective baseball cap on.

Tamara:
What?

Dan:
With your under armor T-shirt.

Dave:
That's it. Fully protected.

Tamara:
Oh God.

Dave:
And my ballistic glasses, so my Oakley glasses [crosstalk 00:38:41].

Dan:
He was looking full operator is what he's saying. He had his baseball cap on.

Dave:
Fully [crosstalk 00:38:44].

Dan:
His sunglasses and Peltors.

Dave:
Yeah, Call of Duty, come and get me. And it wasn't too long after that actually that it really all kicked off. We'd come down into a valley. We had five Humvees. The first one and the last one was the Afghan Security Forces, and then the three middle Humvees with the U.S. Forces, probably about maybe 12 of those guys. And about 12 of the SAS and two combat engineers, myself and the EOD tech were in the three middle Humvees.

Dave:
The first Afghan vehicle came around the valley there. We came around and went down a little bit closer towards the road. And then from a compound, maybe a 100, a 150 meters away, they launched the attack from there. I couldn't quite pick it up, but it was either an RPG or a mortar that they fired, because there was the two crack thumps I guess, the launch and then the hit, which was only about 20 meters to the rear left of our vehicle. So we pulled up stumps there. All of us, obviously, jumped out of the back of the Humvee, which was fairly open. Took cover on the right hand side of the vehicle and pretty much just wailed on that area that launched at us with the 50 CALs, the MP-40s.

Robbie:
That's the technical term for return fire, with a lot, wail.

Dave:
60 mil mortars and small arms, all of our small arms as well.

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
We sat there for a little while, maneuvered a little bit from that position. I found myself in between two of the snipers. They were facing forward and I was facing to the rear, covering a bit of a green zone behind us. And as I was out the back there I could see... And it was a little bit different to the fire that we normally see from Afghanis. Instead of long bursts and unaimed shot, there was a lot of single rounds coming in. So it seemed like a bit of a different force that we were up against. Numbers bandied around was that we were up against about 200 Taliban in that battle.

Dan:
And how many of you were there?

Dave:
About 25 coalition and maybe 12 Afghan Force.

Robbie:
I don't think the doctrine for war mentions that ratio's ever going to be in your favor.

Tamara:
No.

Dave:
No. No.

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
But we had no cover except for the vehicles as well. So while we were in that first bit of the contact there, I was actually seeing some rounds being walked in on the snipers, like 15 meters out, 12, 10, nine, seven. And I said to an old mate, "You better move, they're coming in on you." So we jump back up and move back behind the vehicle.

Robbie:
Old mate's also the technical term for I can't say that guy's name.

Dave:
Yeah, the other cap. Yeah, the other SAS guy. So it's about that time we also had our J-TACs, our joint tactical air-

Robbie:
Controllers.

Dave:
... controllers calling in some fast air as well, jets to drop bombs and do some gun runs. So just before that happened, one of the U.S. guys who was manning one of the 50 CALs in the middle Humvee was actually shot in the hand, and that's when we realized that it wasn't just a force in front of us, but we're being engaged from the rear as well.

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
So a couple of rear vehicles changed guns there and fired on that location. At about that time, we started moving again and pretty much everyone had forgotten that there was an aircraft coming in to drop a 500 pound bomb on the compound, and that was only a couple of 100 meters away. So fairly close there for that.

Robbie:
Just let me jump in for a second. I'm loving this, but noting we're speaking about Sarbi today, give everyone a bit of an insight, how do the dogs react when there is this stuff going on, this chaotic events. Even though you've got your hearing protection on, it's fucking loud when it's happening still, and there's dust and just crap going everywhere, and people are trying to talk and communicate, but you can't really hear each other, hence the rules and training-

Tamara:
And obviously, dogs pick up on your heart rate and the vibes that you're putting out, the emotional energy that you're doing.

Dave:
Yeah, absolutely.

Tamara:
So that's huge.

Dave:
We do do training with the dogs for combat, and the dogs learn to stay glued to our side, basically, and I can walk backwards, forwards, left, right, spin and she'll stick right on my hip. But when there's firing, and gunfire, and noise and things going like that, some dogs may not be as okay with it.

Robbie:
... Obedient, yeah.

Dave:
Yeah. Sarbi was absolutely gold. All of that past there that I was talking about Sarbi was perfect. She was moving with me, anticipating my moves and I was able to fight without having to actually take a hand off my weapon or actually think about what she was doing. So very thankful for the training that we had done previously, as with any Defense member and especially SOCOM training is everything with drills over, and over, and over again until it's just muscle memory is extremely important.

Robbie:
So these 500 pounders come down and they make your heart shake don't they?

Dave:
Yeah, it did. And we didn't get any more fire from that sector. So that was good.

Robbie:
That behavior was stopped.

Dave:
Yeah, that behavior stopped. So we picked up and started moving again. We decided not to get into the back of the Humvees and basically be a stationary target there. So as the cars were rolling, we were running beside the vehicles-

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
... staying on the right hand side for that part. But as we started going through, it became what basically is a rolling ambush. The Taliban would take up positions on the left and right as we were approaching. They would engage us from whatever side they're on and then the people, or the Taliban that had just engaged us, would then run forward, overtake them, and then take up positions again in front of those guys.

Robbie:
So they'd be bounding back around.

Dave:
Yeah, exactly. So unfortunately, it wasn't just the one engagement that we could get out of quickly. It actually went on for about three or four hours.

Robbie:
I was going to say, how long's this been going for so far?

Dave:
That's probably about 20 or 30 minutes up until that point in time. All up, it was probably about a four hour engagement. And we were-

Tamara:
Jesus.

Dave:
... basically running and gunning the whole time.

Robbie:
Sure.

Tamara:
And I can only imagine that would feel like a bloody lifetime. When you're in the middle of that, every five minutes would seem like an hour.

Dave:
Yeah, so rolling through from the 500 pounder coming down on the few gun runs from the fast air. We were just basically taking cover on the side of the vehicle which was getting the least amount of fire coming in. So on the right hand side if we're getting shot at from the left, switch sides when it starts coming in on the other side, and just maintaining that tempo until we're actually getting equal amounts of fire left and right. So I found myself at the back of one of the Humvees in a group of about four or five guys, taking a bit of a shelter in a small triangle back there. And the Humvee sped up a little bit to go through a bit of a gully, and at that point in time I was looking to the left and I saw an RPG. Even though they're quite fast, you can see them traveling through the air. One came and actually went in between the Humvee and our small group of guys there.

Tamara:
Shit.

Dave:
And I do know that at least one other person saw it, because we both said, "Holy shit," at the same time. That hit the ground about 20 or 30 meters to our right and exploded there. We'd only made it another 10 or 15 meters and then another one came in, exploded just to our rear left, probably only about five meters away. That knocked over a couple of guys. A couple of the other guys fell over them as well. I took some shrapnel behind my knee and just in my back at that point in time.

Dave:
I do know that Sarbi took a bit of a hit as well, or may have just been a concussion, because she actually whimpered and made a bit of a noise and was crawling on the ground at that point in time. So helped a couple of guys up and then we just kept moving. But it was at that point in time where actually Sarbi became disconnected from me. A bit of shrapnel had severed her lead attaching to my body armor, so she was actually free from that point in time.

Tamara:
Can you feel this shrapnel? Is it burning your skin or what is that feeling?

Dave:
I was pretty much running on adrenaline for four hours, so even though I'd taken the hits and I could feel a numbness, it wasn't enough to stop me. So I was still operational-

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
... throughout that. Same for the other guys who got hit as well. They took a fair bit of shrapnel. The two guys that were on my slight rear left, shielded me a bit. So I took probably the least amount of shrapnel in that small group at that point in time. But yeah, Sarbi, I did see she was loose. We were taking a lot of fire and I just couldn't get down to where she was. She was about 20 or 30 meters away from the Humvee. I did see though that she was running parallel to our direction of travel, so I thought it actually better to actually leave her where she was, because I could see she wasn't being fired at, there was no rounds kicking up around her or anything like that. So let her run free for a while.

Dave:
I focused on fighting and maintaining eyes on when I could. We just rolled through like that for some time. We had to stop every now and then as some of the SAS guys took serious gunshot wounds or shrapnel wounds. We'd stop every 15 or 20 minutes, I guess, for someone to be patched up. There's some very serious injuries.

Tamara:
Geez.

Dave:
One of the guys were shot through both legs, so we had a bit of a stop there while he was patched up and put back on one of the Humvees. I actually was, shortly after that or before, I can't quite recall, but on the left hand side of our Humvee and I was looking back, just checking on the vehicle behind as well. And I could see one of the guys there. And if anyone has ever been at the range or fired a weapon and they get a bit of hot brass down their shirt?

Robbie:
Oh, yeah. Everyone should be nodding their head right going... If you're in the military, this has happened to you, guaranteed.

Dave:
I could see him reaching under his shirt and body armor as though that had happened, but what had actually happened was he'd been shot in the side and the round had actually traveled up and through his body.

Tamara:
Geez.

Dave:
So we had to stop for a while and get him patched up. So another very serious injury with him as well. At this point in time, becoming extremely aware that a lot of people were being shot and injured. It started to weigh on our minds and we're trying to get out of it as best we can. But we just had to keep fighting. And it was only probably another... Everything seems like it's only 20 minutes on, and then 20 minutes on, and 20 minutes on. It pretty much was. It was just constant like that, in between things that were happening.

Dave:
Traveled on a bit further, I was on the right hand side of the Humvee this time. One of the guys was in front of me. I had someone behind me and we were jogging beside the vehicle. We copped quite a large burst of gunfire, machine gun fire this time from the right hand side. He was shot in the calf, in the butt. And I didn't realize at the time, but he actually took a shot on his ejection port on his rifle as well, which knocked it out of his hands. I thought I dropped to the ground to return fire, but later on the guys actually, when they had to cut my pants off and I went to the hospital, they found a round in my pocket.

Tamara:
Oh.

Dave:
So the bullet had actually hit the ground, so it was a ricochet. The bullet hit the ground, and then hit me in the hip, dropped me to the ground, and the round actually fell into my pocket as well.

Tamara:
Whoa.

Dave:
So I return fire into the little cave there, and I didn't get any return fire. And then I crawled backwards, which is when I found the other guy's rifle laying on the ground. So I kept crawling backwards. Handed off to him, not realizing that I'd had actually been shot and was inoperable at that point in time. And from there...

Robbie:
Bloody hell mate, this is epic.

Tamara:
I'm sitting here like, "Whoa."

Robbie:
I hope everyone's enjoying this by the way? It's top stuff.

Tamara:
I don't think you can't.

Dave:
The funny thing, well, I don't know if it's a funny thing, but this was only one of many battles that I was actually involved in over the five deployments as well. This is just probably one of the more notable ones, to be honest. From there, he was able to get back up and he actually, because of his injuries, pretty serious injuries, he jumped in between the bull bar and the grill of the Humvee. So he rolled the rest of the way, laying in the grill there.

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
I was still up and about. We'd go on for a bit more. Then I was starting to get a bit tired at this point in time. Probably had been going for two-and-a-half hours.

Robbie:
Fair enough too.

Dan:
How many hours?

Tamara:
Yeah, just a slight jog.

Dave:
Probably only been going about two-and-a-half, three hours-

Tamara:
Freaking hell.

Dave:
... at this point in time. So I decided I was going to jump back up into the back of the Humvee and man the M240, which is like a 762 machine gun.

Dan:
Sorry, at the moment, at this point in time, you still had eyes on Sarbi as well?

Dave:
Yeah, still keeping visual on Sarbi. You can still see she was paralleling us and not drawing any fire down there. So I was pretty happy at that point in time. But climbing in the back of this Humvee, probably 20 minutes later again. Unfortunately, we had a couple of RPGs come in on the vehicle. One airburst. I actually thought it was a IED actually that hit as, because as I was climbing up, there was a massive blast in front of me which threw me off the vehicle. The guys behind us thought we'd hit an IED as well. But turns out it was more likely a couple of RGPs. One airbursting, and one hitting the ground just at the back of the vehicle.

Dave:
So that picked me up and threw me off the Humvee. And that was actually one of the instances, or at that point in time as well, I did see that the Afghan interpreter rolled off the vehicle as well. He took a fair bit of shrapnel to the face, as did I. I could actually feel the blood this time rolling down my face. And actually, funny things you do in combat, I checked my teeth with my tongue, because I could feel I had taken a blast to the face.

Tamara:
Not the teeth.

Dave:
Not the teeth.

Tamara:
Geez.

Dave:
So I ran my tongue over my teeth and thought, "Oh yeah, they're not too bad." And then it's at that point in time that actually Mark Donaldson, which is one of the notable activities for his being awarded the Victoria Cross, he came up at that point in time and helped the interpreter up. That's one of the points in time where he covered 50 or 60 meters to run out and help us. The help he gave me though was, "Come on Simmo, get up."

Robbie:
"Get in the fucking vehicle."

Dave:
"Get back in the fight."

Tamara:
"You'll be right."

Dave:
Yeah. So I jumped back up and-

Robbie:
That's called encouragement.

Dave:
... Yeah.

Robbie:
The only thing that was written on his citation.

Dave:
No. So I tried to catch the vehicle in front, but I was moving pretty slow at that point in time. The vehicle behind was too far back to go back that way as well. So everything that we're ever taught in battle is, when you're in an ambush or you have no other option, turn and face. So I turned towards the enemy and went straight at them, but not to go and bloody engage in hand-to-hand or anything like that. I did see a ditch beside the road. So I ran down there and jumped in that hole just to catch my breath and take cover for a short period.

Dave:
One of the vehicles probably about 50 or 60 meters behind me, as they went past, they were providing covering fire, just shooting over the top to try and suppress. They said that they didn't call out to me because they could see just rounds just peppering the ground all around the hole that I was taking cover in. Unfortunately, that was actually the last time that I saw Sarbi as well. So, back to talking about the dog. Sarbi actually got to within about five meters of me at that point in time.

Tamara:
Oh, so close.

Dave:
Yeah, but one of the boys opened up with the 50 CAL over the top and for anyone non-military listening, it's a massive machine gun firing half-inch rounds. So they fired over the top. Sarbi wasn't impressed, and unfortunately ran back out of reach again. And I couldn't cover the ground towards her as she was heading back along the road and towards enemy. So at that point in time it was last vehicles coming across, so I had to make that extremely hard decision to-

Tamara:
Leave her.

Dave:
... leave her at that point in time and rejoin the convoy. So I had my breath there, so I leapt at the 50 or 60 meters back up to the vehicles, rejoined, jumped back on the Humvee. And this was on one of the Humvees that the guy that had been shot through both legs had his stretcher on. They couldn't traverse the turret because he was stretched out in that position. So we were just taking up fire position from within the back there. My job from then on was basically to keep him awake. He wouldn't look at me though, and he'd later told me on that even though he was so banged up and I was trying to keep him awake so he just didn't go to sleep he said, "Simmo, I just couldn't look at you, mate, your face was a mess."

Robbie:
You're like, "Uh, you should see yourself."

Tamara:
Well he's thinking, "If that's what he looks like? Holy shit."

Dave:
I didn't actually realize, even though I know that I'd taken shrapnel to the face, I didn't realize that my face was that bad. But shortly after, a couple of other guys jumped in the back as well and there was nowhere for them to sit. So he sat on my lap or on my knee basically. I no longer had ability to fire and he was out of rounds, so I gave him my weapon to cover round the right of the vehicle. The other guys were shooting out the left hand side. One of the guys, at that point in time said that they saw Sarbi as well, back in the distance. That was another bloody gut wrenching time, knowing that we could try and stop the vehicle, but I knew there was... Of the 11 or 12 Aussie guys, nine out of the 11 or 12 were shot, fragged or shot and fragged. And a few of them quite seriously. So we couldn't. I didn't actually ask to stop the vehicle.

Tamara:
Sorry for my ignorance, but did anyone die in it?

Dave:
One American died. The American dog handler, actually.

Tamara:
Right.

Dave:
He was shot in the head. Even though he was wearing-

Tamara:
Geez.

Dave:
... a helmet. It was one of the crew helmets that had the headphones and things. So through one of the unprotected portions of the helmet unfortunately.

Robbie:
So you got out of that alive.

Dave:
Yes.

Robbie:
Thankfully.

Dave:
Yes.

Robbie:
Fuck, what a story, mate. I haven't had to tell that in that much detail for a long time. It's normally like the five minute version after 20 beers on Anzac Day. How were you feeling, as you were egressing the area and going back to base, knowing full well that you'd now left the dog behind, to use that term, or you'd been separated from her. Just give us a bit of a sense about how you were feeling in the next couple of days?

Dave:
We got back to the FOB Anaconda, and then we got the choppers in and all of the severely injured guys were choppered back out to either TK, or one of the other hospitals there. I was actually in hospital for about 10 days with my injuries. A couple of operations to get rid of all the shrapnel. Bloody used a steel wire brush I guess to bribe all the bits and piece.

Dan:
You'd just get the toothbrush out, mate. [crosstalk 00:56:57] better than a toothbrush.

Robbie:
They did a good job, mate, because you're a fine looking individual now.

Dave:
Thank you, Robbie. You're too kind. But even while I was in hospital, I was still getting... I'd made good friends with a couple of the PSYOP guys from the U.S. Forces there, so they were maintaining comms. And as it turns out, Sarbi was picked up by the Taliban in the area. And rather than killing her or whatever, they treated her as a war trophy. So, for example, if the Taliban capture a stinger missile launcher or a high valued weapon of some sort rather than use it, they keep it as a trophy and as a bit of a war trophy and a bit of a status symbol.

Dave:
So they pretty much saw Sarbi as a status symbol and they kept here. Moved her around to the different wives, plural compounds. So I was hearing about that while I was in hospital. So as soon as I got out of hospital, about 10 days later, I actually jumped on another Chinook and made my way back out there to see if I can help with recovery. But funny enough, the U.S. Special Forces guys actually had the Taliban commander in the area's dad in jail. And they actually made an offer to swap the dog for the father.

Tamara:
Oh.

Robbie:
Oh, wow.

Dave:
And they rejected it. They kept the dog.

Tamara:
There you go. He was worth nothing.

Robbie:
Too bad old man.

Dan:
He's like, "I don't want you back, Dad. This dog is way better."

Dave:
Yeah.

Tamara:
"I like the trophy."

Dave:
Yeah, it was hard knowing that she was still out there and that the mission... We couldn't raise a mission to actually go out and try and recover her as that was not our remit over there.

Robbie:
So then it would've got to the end of your deployment and you're on the way back home and she still wasn't with you.

Dave:
Correct. Yeah, so I stayed on. I didn't go home after that. I stayed on and did a lot of the biometric enrolling and all that sort of stuff. There was actually where I met Damo, which is another one of our brilliant champion employees.

Robbie:
But certainly eventually you would've returned to Australia.

Dave:
Yep.

Robbie:
How was that feeling, sitting on the plane just going...?

Dave:
It was tough. Another one of those moments where you have those realizations that you've left something behind, which had been a part of you for quite some time.

Tamara:
Wow.

Dave:
A very intimate part of you as well. So that was extremely hard.

Tamara:
That emotional connection.

Dave:
Yeah. Knowing that she was still out there though did help a bit. And it wasn't until about 14 months later.

Robbie:
I was going to say, take us to that bit. We're just wrapping up now in the interest of time.

Dave:
So a long time of being in comms with those guys there. Hearing that she was dead. Hearing that she was alive. Hearing intel that she was at this location. And then eventually, 14 months later, the U.S. guys up there, the U.S. Special Forces, because their rotations are so much longer, they actually retain the information that she was there. They were just doing another patrol and hit on a compound. Finished the hit, and then saw this big black dog sitting in the corner and thought, "This might actually be Sarbi." Gave her a few words of command in English. She responded, and they, "Yeah, grab this dog. Let's take her home."

Tamara:
What a recall.

Robbie:
Just for background, because dogs don't exist in the Afghan community. There's very few of them anyway, right?

Dave:
They do to a certain degree.

Tamara:
Slum dogs.

Dave:
Yeah, they're pack dogs, or not pack dogs. I guess they're the dogs they keep out on the farms and in their [crosstalk 01:00:02].

Robbie:
Yeah, but they're not kept as pets. They're not kept in the same way we would do it.

Dave:
No. No, they're just a commodity and a bit of a protection for the flocks and things like that. I have seen some small, fluffy dogs over there, funny enough though. That was quite a [crosstalk 01:00:13].

Tamara:
I don't want to [crosstalk 01:00:15].

Robbie:
So how were you notified that she'd been recovered?

Dave:
At that point in time I was over at the School of Military Engineering training another dog to deploy again. So I was getting ready to actually deploy again when I got that news. It was a phone call. The guy that actually trained Sarbi's brother beside me at the same time when we're doing that training, he was the guy that was tasked to actually identify whether it was Sarbi or not. She had to go and get her microchip scanned with the U.S. Vets there as well. So they let us know that, yes, indeed it is Sarbi, which then beginning the saga of getting her home. Because she'd been away from our control for so long, we had to go and basically jack up a new quarantine plan to bring her home.

Tamara:
That would have a higher risk than, especially being in those kind of areas. Like rabies, or...

Dave:
Yeah, risk of rabies.

Tamara:
Yeah.

Robbie:
So she eventually made it back in your arms, mate. Tell us how that felt?

Dave:
Yeah, that was amazing. I actually deployed again. Saw her overseas again.

Dan:
That's what I was going to ask, because you were about to go over again, was she there, waiting basically when you got there?

Dave:
She was, yeah. I got to see her again when I deployed again and took her out for a few training runs and I thought she was actually working better than the time that I had her at that point in time.

Dan:
No reflection on the trainer, right?

Dave:
No, of course not. So I actually wanted to bloody keep her and keep training her, but they wouldn't have a bar of it. So she went off to Abu Dhabi for about six months to spend some time there before she could go home. I went home, and a few months later she actually made her way home. Once again, she came back into work first, and I did some training with her and sent up a request to the CDF to say, "Yep, here she is. She's working fine. No adverse effects. Can I keep working her?" They said, "No way. There's no way you're going to work this dog and have something go wrong again." He'd be out if something happened like that. So she got to come home with me. That was about 2014/2015.

Robbie:
So when you say, "Home with me," home with you at home?

Dave:
Yes.

Robbie:
Not at the barracks. When you finish work, she goes home with you.

Dave:
So she got to come home and spend the rest of her time there with me and my wife Keira as a pet dog.

Robbie:
So good.

Tamara:
Retirement village of the King of Dogs, I'd say.

Robbie:
We got to meet her there, yeah?

Tamara:
Yes.

Robbie:
When we saw Dave and Keira, when you were living in that place at East Brisbane.

Dave:
Yeah.

Robbie:
I didn't realize the significance of said puppy at the time. So mate, it's bloody amazing. All right.

Tamara:
And so now, obviously, Sarbi lived her retirement years. And then she's been... There's a park in Brisbane. Tell us about the park.

Dave:
Out at Warner, or Warner Lakes there's a park there that has a brass statue of her just as a bit of a memorial. So there's a nice park there that everyone... There is a dog park there as well if you do want to take your dog.

Tamara:
And she got to go there, right?

Dave:
She did. She actually was still with us when they did the opening of the park. So she got to be there for the opening, which was fantastic. And then it wasn't actually too long after that, so I was very lucky to have her there, she did pass away. And the Australian War Memorial, I approached them at that point in time as well to see if they actually wanted to, might sound a little bit crass, but if they wanted to stuff her and have her on display there, because her story is amazing and the feedback that I have received since the display opened for Sarbi there is phenomenal.

Tamara:
We've had so many of our clients even comment when they go down there. They're like, "Oh my God. I've just seen Sarbi. I've seen her little booties down there, her little desert booties. Photos and everything." And they get so excited. They're like, "I know that guy."

Dave:
Yeah. Yeah, that's it.

Tamara:
So if anyone does go down to the War Memorial, definitely check it out.

Dave:
Yeah, absolutely. It's a great display.

Dan:
Absolutely. Mate, I remember in the preparations for this yesterday and we were writing some notes. I just wrote a one liner. I'm like, "Everyone is blown away by Sarbi's story." And everyone chuckled in the background. They're like, "Ha-ha-ha, that's cute." I'm like, "No."

Tamara:
No.

Dan:
"You'll be blown away by this story." I mean, wrapping back around Simmo, because you've got an amazing story. Sarbi's got an amazing story and you guys collectively bring that together. What are some of those things that you've now really taken from those experiences, from your time in the SF community. Being a world-famous dog trainer, etc. What's some of that stuff that you've now brought out into the real world, and I suppose into Axon, I suppose?

Dave:
I think actually Robbie touched on some of that a little bit earlier when he was talking about the processes and the systems, and myself being extremely detail-oriented, process-driven. That is what is drilled into me in the ADF and SOCOM especially, in the drills, in the processes that you take to actually enact anything, which just enables us to react-

Tamara:
Can I say that's how you train dogs as well, right? These repetitive drills-

Dave:
... Exactly.

Tamara:
... knowing the details, repeating the processes, getting your processes right.

Dave:
I actually liken it to training a property specialist as well. [crosstalk 01:05:20].

Robbie:
I knew you were going to say that. [inaudible 01:05:21].

Tamara:
Shout out to our property specialists, also known as Dave's dogs.

Robbie:
I'd like to take it one level higher, but the reason you do the processes, and the checklists, and the devil in the detail is to achieve the mission and have that will to win.

Dave:
That's right.

Robbie:
Right? That's another thing that certainly the military gave us is that we don't take no for an answer. We achieve the mission at all cost. We work at high levels of teamwork to make sure that everyone gets there and gets home as best as we possibly can. And no matter what adversity comes our way, we always find a way to win. And that's exactly what we do for our clients, quite frankly.

Dave:
Yeah, exactly.

Tamara:
Ooh, you're coming out with some pearlers today.

Robbie:
All right. There you go. So what a way to start Season Two. Dave, thank you so much for coming to join us.

Dave:
My pleasure.

Robbie:
I know everyone's going to love that. It was a little bit over one hour session, which is a bit longer than normal. But hey, I don't know about you, but that last half-an-hour flew by. Almost like 20 minute chunks.

Dave:
Also true.

Tamara:
I was just in awe. I was sitting there going, "Holy shit. This is epic."

Robbie:
Ladies and gents, if you loved what you've just heard there from Dave Simpson, telling his story about Sarbi. Go ahead and give us a five star review. Share this with all your mates. There is a story to be told there and a couple little gems there about what Dave Simpson was going to tell himself about how to transition from the military, and certainly what he learnt from the ADF about how to now be a successful veteran working in another business.

Tamara:
And who knows, if you've got some questions, we can always get you back, Dave. I'm sure you'd come join us again.

Dan:
Oh, he needs to come back to tell some of those other stories that he alluded to then.

Tamara:
Oh.

Dan:
That he's like, "Oh, this is the famous one, but there's way better ones." I'm like, "You're coming back for those."

Robbie:
All right. Have a great day. Thanks for joining us. See you later.

Dan:
See you.

Dave:
Cheers.

Tamara:
Bye.

Robbie:
Hey, thanks for tuning into today's podcast. If you enjoyed listening, make sure you give us a five star rating. Hit subscribe so you'll be first in line to get it in your inbox every week on a Tuesday. Whilst you're at it, open up your favorite social media app, be that Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube and connect with Axon Property Group. This is where you see us every day sharing the secrets of creating multi-million dollar property portfolios and performing to the highest levels of your life. You'll get exclusive behind the scenes access to what it really takes to build a life that you love. You'll also discover how to secure your financial future as an ADF member or veteran, and I assure you your future self will love you for it. Thanks again for listening, and that's a wrap.

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