Parents of soldier killed in training don't want him blamed
The parents of a soldier killed in training in the Northern Territory last year say they are "now waiting to see what will happen" to those involved, as an inquest into their son's death wraps up.
Helen and Mirko Brandich spoke exclusively with 9News, remembering their son, Private Jason Challis, as a "cheeky" young man.
"He was a fun-loving partying kid and his life was cut too short," Private Challis' mother Mrs Brandich said.
"He didn't get to finish having fun."
"It should never have happened to Jason," his stepfather Mirko said.
"It should never happen to anybody."
Sitting down with 9News after the court proceedings, Mr and Mrs Brandich described the 18 months since Private Challis' death as "too long" to wait for answers.
They wanted the inquest to show it wasn't their son's fault he was in the wrong position at the time he was shot in the head.
"The way the defence barrister (for Army) summed up her case, that's the way it sounded to me," Mr Brandich told 9News.
"She was blaming him for not being trained. And that's not the case at all."
The inquest heard today Private Challis' group didn't have a mandatory "blank" run of the exercise, before live firing began.
The group was limited on time and not given the blank ammunition needed for a practice run, despite this being part of the training safety guidelines.
Harrowing bodycam vision played to the court showed the young soldier and his team moved into the wrong positions during live fire.
They were quickly called back.
But Private Challis wasn't accounted for, before the group were told to "carry on."
"It's their job to train him, he'd only been out of initial training for 10 months. They should have been watching his back and making sure he was where he should have been," Mrs Brandich said.
"And they had procedures in place and they should have followed them," Mr Brandich added.
"But they didn't follow them."
The family said they just hoped in the future no one takes any "shortcuts" and training is done by the book.
Following the death of Mason Edwards in South Australia in 2009, a number of changes were made to the safety guidelines for urban exercises.
But Counsel Assisting the Coroner, Kelvin Currie told the court today "it wasn't the lack of appropriate doctrine that was the issue, it was the failure to follow the doctrine."
"I can't say it's not going to happen again, because it's happened on a number of occasions prior to this," Mr Brandich said.
"And Army keep saying 'yep it won't happen again' and somehow, it seems to keep happening."
"Four things they should have done, but they didn't and it's now wrecked about 20 people's lives," Mrs Brandich said.
Coroner Greg Cavanah is expected to hand down his findings in the new year.
"I do not expect to be making specific criticisms of particular individuals," he told the court today.
"That may be something for the Army after this process and consequences may follow."