Meet Australia’s deadliest soldier
SERGEANT Paul Cale is one of Australia's toughest soldiers.
His Special Forces Commando regiment has seen more violence and casualties than any other Australian military outfit, with the sergeant now developing combat strategies for special forces units around the world.
In 2013, Sgt Cale made headlines when he stormed an enemy compound and strangled a Taliban leader.
Now the former SAS soldier has been appointed by the Australian Army to train soldiers in martial arts.
Speaking to VICE as part of a confronting new documentary series called Violent Times, Sgt Cale said his definition of violence had changed over the years.
"People talk about sport being violent. I can't even associate that with violence," he said.
"I think when your head's removed from your body, when people stab you, people shoot you … your body comes apart and you get blown up … you kill children when they go to school … that's violence."
Host Mahmood Fazal said his documentary series aimed to address the point at which violence was excused.
"I wanted to know why we still think there's a point to violence. Growing up, I always felt that violence wasn't that shocking for watching so much of it on TV. I romanticised it," he told news.com.au.
Having grown up on Melbourne's rough outskirts, he said: "Naturally, another question I wanted to answer is: at what point is violence excused? What is our role in state sanctioned violence? Why do we find violence entertaining? What about those who find violence arousing, or therapeutic?"
Sgt Cale attributes his own fascination with violence to his childhood, which he describes as "terrible".
"My family was not well-to-do," he said. "That wasn't a problem for me, but it led to a lot of being picked on without understanding why, dealing with a lot of bullies targeting me each day at school. I looked forward to not being there, which was the reason I joined the army. I knew it would extract me straight out of Cranbourne and I'd end up somewhere else."
It was through school bullies that he became interested in fighting - as a way of combating them.
"At school I was never good at running," he explained. "So I took up fighting because (the bullies) would always catch me. I took up martial arts with the goal of becoming a black belt … and thought when I was older, I'd join the army.
"You only have to be beaten up every day of your life to be sick of it. All these solutions to bullying - I'm sick of hearing them. The only solution to bullies is to stop bullies.
"You talk to them in the same language they speak. The first time I was violent towards a bully, I was never bullied again."
Of course, life in the army is a whole new ball game.
In a particularly harrowing scene, Sgt Cale described a sharp judgment call he had to make while in a Taliban-controlled village laced with remote-controlled improvised explosive devices (IED).
"We ended up in a Taliban village. When we entered the village, we were blown up several times by remote-controlled IEDs," he said.
"There was this guy watching us like a spectator," he said. "He had a phone. All that was running through my head was … I thought to myself he's here for one reason. I decided I was going to kill him. I aimed at him, he looked at me - we didn't speak the same language, but I could tell he was like, 'Are you going to shoot me?' and I was like, 'Yeah, I'm gonna shoot you', and I shot him, took my suppressor off and basically that was that.
"It turned out he was in fact part of the Taliban and there was in fact an IED present. It's an odd thing - to me, it's not hate. It's in a way that you want to end bad people, but it's not in a way that you wish to torture them.
"You want to end evil people, but you don't want to become evil in doing so."
Sgt Cale doesn't sleep much - but he insists he doesn't have nightmares. "Sometimes you do need medication to help knock you out," he admits. "But I'm busy, so I don't like being too knocked out. Sometimes I just get three or four hours' sleep, and off I go.
"We all lose a piece of ourselves over there, but you mend that.
"And the end product can probably be better than what you started with."