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Category Archives: Defence

New CDF

I must admit to an Infantryman’s bias here. I have always thought that RAAF officers were more into commanding aeroplanes than men and thus had less understanding of the Army and Navy with their troops-before-equipment emphasis.

That of course, is a generalization and doesn’t take into account a lot of other factors. The RAAF are a very professional force and have provided support to Infantrymen in trouble over many campaigns and wars. I owe them and can only respect any man that rose to the highest levels of command within the RAAF.

The thing that matters most to us lower ranks is a 3, 4 or 5 Star rank’s ability to stick up for the troops of their service. We would want them to tell the Politicians the truth even when they don’t wan’t to hear it and never, never contemplate a career in politics whilst serving – it contaminates decisions. I was once told by a Colonel that after promotion above regimental command too many officers became political. That is to say their decisions were couched in political outcomes and paid less and less attention to the needs of the troops and the requirement to be able to meet the respective forces prime aim of closing with and destroying the enemy

Cosgrove always maintained his integrity as an Army officer and pushed for outcomes that would look after the troops while enhancing their ability to wage war. I served with Cosgrove when he commanded the 1st Battalion and can vouch from personal experience that whereas we worked hard under his command it was very apparent that loyalty had a downward perspective. If we did right by him, he would do right by us.

We were even on first name terms as in he would call me Kevin and I would call him Sir.

I see no evidence to suggest that Houston isn’t of the same mould. Albeit with a RAAF background and therefore unknown to me, he has already shown an ability to defend the troops and tell politicians what they might not have wanted to hear.

It’s a good start and I wish him well.

The future promises to be even more demanding for the ADF and it will take a strong hand to keep moving forward.

The media release of the Prime Minsiters announcement is here and go here for a biography of Air Marshal Allan (Angus) Grant Houston, AO, AFC as Chief of the Air Force (CAF)

UPDATE: I have just read AM Houston’s biography in detail and note;

In 1989 he enjoyed one year as a Squadron Commander with the 5th Aviation Regiment.

The 5th Aviation Regiment is an Army unit.

He’ll do.

The Nias Nine II

I received this email from Ted Harris, Webmaster of Digger History, as did every MP and Senator in Federal Parliament.

Senators, MPs, Gentlemen, Ladies, Members of the Media,

The recent unseemly squabble over medals for 9 of Australia’s finest left me cold. I fully agree that the RSL are correct in opposing BRAVERY medals for people accidentally killed. I support the PMs ‘band-aid” solution of making military personnel eligible for the “Humanitarian Award” but that is NOT ENOUGH. It does not recognise the sacrifice.

It is my contention that the NZers, Kiwis, call them what you will have a much BETTER solution and have had it since just after WW2 and applied to WW2 KIAs. (Gees I hate giving the Kiwis a wrap). They still have it, I believe.

They have the “New Zealand Memorial Cross”. It was originally designed for only war deaths (accidental or in action) but was later expanded to include Service personnel killed on Peace-keeping Operations.

The Memorial Cross was issued in the name of the deceased but awarded to his mother, AND if he was married, another identical Memorial Cross was awarded to his wife. (Photo below)

Instituted: 12 September 1947 by King George VI. Awarded to the next-of-kin of NZ service personnel killed on active service (since 1995, this includes deaths during peace-keeping operations). Award is made to the nearest female relative – if there is both a mother and a wife 2 Crosses are awarded.

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The NZ Memorial Cross

I hereby suggest that Australia adopt a Memorial Cross as soon as reasonable procedures allow. It should be part of the Australian Awards system.

It should be awarded in the name of ANY Australian service person on active duty, accidentally killed at work, on humanitarian missions and on Peacekeeping missions. It should not apply to Service personnel killed in accidents away from work. It should not apply to former Service personnel who died after service.

The fact that death is required to qualify would keep the possibility of “eligibility creep” at bay.

I would like to see back-dated to 1 Jan 2001 and no further.

I would appreciate feedback.

Ted Harris is Webmaster of the Digger History Group If you have any interest in military history then you should visit. The site is so comprehensive it rivals the Australian War Memorial as a source of information.

Ted always ends his emails with this quote.


If you can read this, thank a Teacher.
If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier.

I like it!

Even though Australia has never issued a medal, at least to my knowledge, we did acknowledge the supreme sacrifice in World War 1 by issueing the poorly named Death Plaque to next of kin (NOK) of service people killed during the war.

deathplaque.jpg
WW1 Death Plaque

Maybe there is a case for Ted’s idea, although, like Ted, I am loath to afford the Kiwis merit.

Sea King Down II

Luke McIlveen, intrepid anti-defence campaigner attacks under the headline – No medals for victims, RSL says.

“There is no automatic entitlement – and nor should there be – that just because people die they should receive a medal. The fact they died in an accident like that does not suggest anyone was brave.”

Under official awards guidelines, the Sea King victims are likely to qualify only for the Australian Service Medal, an honour bestowed on every soldier who serves overseas.

For a person who is never likely to be awarded any medal I take umbrage at Luke’s downgrading of the Australian Service Medal with the rider…likely to qualify only for the Australian Service Medal.

If we put the emotion of the event aside then RSL national president Bill Crews is correct.

Luke McIlveen doesn’t suffer any defence-positive thoughts as witnessed by a quick “Luke McIlveen” Google and he has proven very adapt at finding negatives in any defence-related issue.

I have posted on this guy before when he chose Armistice Day 2004 as a day to put down on defence and he’s still at it.

In a strange twist, Mr Crews said the Indonesian villagers who pulled two survivors from the Sea King’s wreckage could be more eligible for awards.

How is that strange? The Indonesians who ventured into a crashed fuselage, minutes before it exploded into a fireball to save lives are simply that, brave, no twist needed.

Those who where simply passengers or crew and were forced by tragic circumstances to follow the unfriendly forces of gravity were not demonstrably brave. They were simply victims.

Debate raged yesterday over whether Governor-General Michael Jeffery should have bestowed more than a sprig of wattle on the nine flag-draped caskets when they arrived at Sydney airport earlier this week.

Debate raged where? I saw it as very symbolic and very Australian.

Ray Brown, the President of the Incapacitated Service Persons Association (ISPA) has a lot to say but he does have a barrow to push as well. I have no problems with people like Ray Brown but know they can be relied upon to state they are not happy with benefits from defence related injury. That is the basic tenet for their existance as an association.

As in “He would say that, wouldn’t he?

The ISPA is mainly about service people injured in training in Australia. The Nias Nine were killed overseas and benefits to dependants will be different.

Ray Brown goes on to say;

“It was disgusting and embarrassing that the Indonesian President presented our dead with medals and all we could manage was a sprig of wattle.”

A letter to the Editor of the Australian puts that into perspective.

Soldier’s lonely return
07 April 2005

WE have just witnessed an inspiring and deserving return of the nine service personnel killed in the helicopter crash in Indonesia.

Unlike my experience in 1971 when returning from Vietnam, as a draft conducting officer, with the undraped coffin of a soldier killed in action in the cargo hold of the chartered Qantas aircraft.

And how I sat beside it alone at 1.00am in a deserted Sydney air freight terminal for over an hour before a contracted undertaker arrived to receive it for on-freighting, without ceremony, to his home state.

Lest we forget.
Graeme Manning
North Hobart, Tas

Overall, Luke has done well. He has found a malconent spokeperson and asked questions of the National President of the RSL to use as a base for a beat-up.

I’m only surprised that Luke didn’t raise the issue of the age of the Sea Kings to demonstrate how a hated Howard led government has condemned service people to death by forcing them to fly in an old chopper.

Speaking of which Paul Couvret, a former Sea King Air engineer officer, has a piece in this morning’s Australian. Readers confused with the issue of new versus old equipment may like to read Paul’s words. His is a voice of reason clearly, to me anyway, promoted by a desire for the facts to be aired rather than for someone, preferably the government, to be be blamed for murder and or kicked out of office.

The Victorian RSL, via Major General David McLachlan, suggest a Humanitarian Medal might be the go. General McLachlan is the President of the Victorial RSL and by virtue of holding this position, is on the executive of the national body chaired by General Crew.

There wll may be a case for medals for service people, or others, killed while serving overseas but the fact remains that under current regulations there is no means of awarding people medals for simply dying.

The honour bestowed on these young men and women resides in the memories of those left behind and will be immortalized on marble somewhere at some time in the future. A piece of metal, in the form of a medal, will no way enhance this fact.

UPDATE: Having posted all of the above I now note that Chief Bastard, in a post on the matter, notes there already is a Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal.

hosm_medal.jpg

Makes me wonder what Gen McLachan was on about. Surely the General’s staff would have done some research.

Sea King Down

The tragedy in Indonesia gives pause to an otherwise successful humanitarian mission in Aceh and now Nias. Bastards Inc has good coverage as does The Currency Lad

Loosing these service people, a group that would unarguably fit into the category of ‘the cream of our youth’, is devastating and underlines the fact that the services operate on the edge and will, from time to time, come to grief.

Already, pundits are attacking the Howard Government for maintaining the aging Sea Kings in service.

PRIME Minister John Howard today defended Australia’s use of the ageing Sea King helicopter, as the nation prepared to bury nine Australians killed when one of the craft went down in Indonesia.

“Defended Australia’s use…” comes from an ABC interview trying to get mileage from the tragedy before the bodies are even recovered.

Neil James has an article in todays Australian that comes down fairly heavily on the Government for not replacing the Sea Kings. Neil James has an extensive military background but demands a perfect solution in a non-perfect world.

Someone has to make the decisions as to what equipment is replaced and when and obviously priorities are placed on certain aspects. The tank drivers want the latest tank, The Fleet Air Arm – the latest helicopters, the fighter pilots – the latest jet, even truck drivers want the latest truck but everyone can’t have everything. Compromises are made and a balance is sought.

I’m not suggesting that the debate shouldn’t happen, just that it should happen in a different venue and at a different time.

By all accounts the Sea King is a good aircraft albeit the initial air frames, power plants and avionics are 70s based. Of course, this ancestory has little to do with the aircraft currently deployed on Kanimbla. I think you will find they will be like Grandads axe my father gave me. It’s had numerous handles and heads over the years but it’s still Grandads axe.

All types of people with differing agendas will come to the fore over the near future and the likes of the ABC will pursue any story for it’s anti-Howard potential but what we should remember is this.

Australia has lost nine highly qualified and dedicated people serving in very trying circumstances to help others in need.

The flow-on of the feelings of dread and emptiness goes well beyond the immediate families. It includes the crew of the Kanimbla, their families, the service society generally and all those who hold dear the efforts of the Defence Forces.

If you have ever basked in the recent praise of Australia’s humanitarian efforts in Indonesia then remember, it is due to the untiring efforts of these people.

Digger-Jordanian Stand-off

Four years ago an Australian Corporal, Andrew Wratten, heard allegations of Jordanian UN troops soliciting for sex with boys. A subsequent secret investigation led to the expulsion of two Jordanian peacekeepers after an investigation ordered by then UNTAET chief, the late Sergio Vieira de Mello, in July 2001.

“Wratten informed PKF (peacekeeping force) that he had been receiving complaints from local children about Jorbatt (Jordan Battalion) abuse,” said a senior UN official who was based in Oecussi at the time.

A Jordanian officer, supporting the pedophilia, dobs in Cpl Wratten to the Jordanian troops.

“A Jordanian officer in HQ informed Jorbatt that he had ratted on them. Wratten and his guys manning the helo (helicopter) refuelling pad in Oecussi town started getting threatened.

Aussie Steyr assault rifles and Jordanian M16s were brandished but nothing come of it.

“As far as I understand, De Mello, was very sensitive to the harm such reports would have on the reputation of UNTAET, PKF – and by default himself,” said one Western security analyst, based in East Timor in 2001.

Aussie Diggers. Maintaining high civilized standards as always.

The UN. Setting low standards and maintaining them, as always.

Could’ve been a good stoush though.

Wedgetail Ready

wedgetail.jpg

The RAAF has taken delivery of it’s first 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) pictured above and described here. The project, nicknamed Wedgetail, after the Australian eagle, has become a model designation as Boeing sell the package to other nations as well. We will no doubt hear the term Wedgetail for some years to come. The ‘Wedgie’ will be famous

He should be famous too, the old Wedgetail. He looks fairly tame on the roost with leather straps but in the wild with his 2 metre plus wing span and attention-grabbing call he’s a main player

IMG_0080.JPG

How’s this for a ‘don’t mess with me’ look?

There is just no way these guys ever look disinterested. They always look like they are contemplating tearing your arms off and eating them.

I took the photo in Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory last year.

Crew Error

According to this report from News.com the sad case of HMAS Ballarat running aground at Christmas Island points to human error

I had posted earlier on this incident and said then it was a bad career move. I could be right if todays news release at News.com is anything to go by.

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HMAS Ballarat

Ian McPhedran, defence reporter writes,

A series of errors prompted the computer system to over-ride manual commands and the ship’s company had to stand by and watch as HMAS Ballarat backed on to the rocky shoreline.

Well, that’s it then, I thought. The Navy have obviously held their inquiry and found the cause to be Human error.

But wait, the inquiry is not due to start until later in February!

A public board of inquiry will be conducted from February 22 and the ship’s captain could face a court-martial.

It looks to me like the Captain and crew have already been found guilty by the press.

Readers from the legal proffessions may comment here, but this simple layman thinks the inquiry is now prejudiced.

Is this too much information to release prior to an inquiry?

Seems like it to me.

Frigate aground at Christmas Island

This just in from Defence Media.

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HMAS Ballarat

At approximately 4pm Sydney time, the Australian Navy’s ANZAC Class Frigate HMAS Ballarat ran aground at Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

The ship was engaged in Operation Relex II, a border protection activity, at the time.

No one was injured.

The full extent of the damage is still being assessed but there is known to be damage to the ship’s rudder and propeller. The ship’s hull was not holed.

Navy will conduct an investigation into the circumstances of the grounding as soon as possible.

Navy will not be able to decide whether the ship will be able to proceed under her own power for repairs until the full extent of the damage is known.

No further information is available at this time.

It’s never a good career move to navigate one of our navy frigates onto rocks.

Update 24 Jan

From this mornings Australian

Locals reported that several ships had run aground in the cove over the years as the seabed level changes dramatically near the jetty.

and from Defence Media

Since grounding on Christmas Island on Saturday 22 January, HMAS Ballarat has undergone a number of trials to assess the impact of the damage to her propellers and possibly the steering gear.

These trials, conducted in consultation with Navy engineers and the ship’s builder, will determine whether the ship will be able to undertake the passage to Fremantle under her own power or whether she will have to be towed.

The trials should be completed, and a decision made on whether a tow is required, by late evening Monday 24 January (AEST).

The frigate HMAS Canberra sailed from Fleet Base West, near Fremantle, late on Sunday 23 January and is now enroute to Christmas Island. This ship will either escort or tow HMAS Ballarat to Fremantle, depending on the outcome of the trials. She should arrive off Christmas Island late on Wednesday 26 January.

An investigation team of two Navy officers will arrive in Christmas Island today to begin preparations for the Navy Board of Inquiry that will convene as soon as possible once the ship arrives in the mainland.

The ANZAC-class frigate HMAS Arunta will sail from Fleet Base West mid-morning today to take over duties in Operation RELEX II, on which HMAS Ballarat was employed.

The Sheepdogs

Picked up this poem from Kevin Sites Blog.

A different approach to an old theme.


The Sheepdogs

Most humans truly are like sheep
Wanting nothing more than peace to keep
To graze, grow fat and raise their young,
Sweet taste of clover on the tongue.
Their lives serene upon Life?s farm,
They sense no threat nor fear no harm.
On verdant meadows, they forage free
With naught to fear, with naught to flee.
They pay their sheepdogs little heed
For there is no threat; there is no need.

To the flock, sheepdog?s are mysteries,
Roaming watchful round the peripheries.
These fang-toothed creatures bark, they roar
With the fetid reek of the carnivore,
Too like the wolf of legends told,
To be amongst our docile fold.
Who needs sheepdogs? What good are they?
They have no use, not in this day.
Lock them away, out of our sight
We have no need of their fierce might.

But sudden in their midst a beast
Has come to kill, has come to feast
The wolves attack; they give no warning
Upon that calm September morning
They slash and kill with frenzied glee
Their passive helpless enemy
Who had no clue the wolves were there
Far roaming from their Eastern lair.
Then from the carnage, from the rout,
Comes the cry, ?Turn the sheepdogs out!?

Thus is our nature but too our plight
To keep our dogs on leashes tight
And live a life of illusive bliss
Hearing not the beast, his growl, his hiss.
Until he has us by the throat,
We pay no heed; we take no note.
Not until he strikes us at our core
Will we unleash the Dogs of War
Only having felt the wolf pack?s wrath
Do we loose the sheepdogs on its path.
And the wolves will learn what we?ve shown before;
We love our sheep, we Dogs of War.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66

I enjoyed it and I know a lot of my readers will as well.

For me it says it all.

No Armistice for the Courier Mail

On the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month most of the civilized world commemorates the sacrifice of millions of men world-wide and hundreds of thousands of Australians who gave their all, were wounded or served in wars.

Except in Brisbane.

The local newspaper, the Courier Mail, clearly moved by the solemnity of the day, decided to run a negative Army piece provided by Luke McIlveen.

Luke’s tone is bad enough but what was the Editor thinking when he decided to run with the story on 11 November? Did he forget what the day was all about. Did he not have a father or grand father that served and if not is he not aware that most of his readers do?

The front page Armistice Day article Army racism shame by Luke McIlveen plumbs new depths in Army bashing and is clearly intrended to bring the Army, the Corps and the Battalion into public disrepute.

It happened four years ago, was investigated and any action considered necessary would have been taken.

The photo is damning but Luke, by his words, lumps a hundred thousand past and present infantrymen under the racist tag and does it on a day that should honour us.

The emotive language underlines Luke’s bias and detracts from the point

The first inquiry in early 2003 was a whitewash that found members of the 1RAR Delta Company were not racist and only engaged in occasional “jovial banter

and

The inquiry is likely to be run out of Canberra, making it more difficult for middle-ranking officers to protect their mates

Whitewash…middle-ranking officers protecting their mates..heavy stuff Luke. Fairly libellous statements. The great thing is of course you are not required to prove anything. You can say what you like and trust that the less than discernering readership that your bylines attract will read the article and accept it as gospel.

The photographer takes up the story. He says the image was simply a joke.

“It really and truly is nothing but a storm in a tea cup,” Mr Fraley said.

“I have been with the Army taking their photos since Vietnam. I have never, ever, seen any racism.”

Mr Fraley said the soldiers had been competing for who could take the best “fun photo”.

“That’s all it was, there was no ceremonies, and the whole thing took two to three minutes.

Stupid, yes, ill advised yes – but I’m not sure the blatant racism is proven.

Arch (and I know him) may be trying not to rock the boat but I do know he wouldn’t cop blatant racism.

In an old piece titled “How I became a journalist: Luke McIlveen explains why he doesn’t concern himself with hard facts.

I’m biased though. Owing to my inability to count and distrust of anything you can’t prove in less than a minute, a career as an actuary or physicist was never really going to be an option.

Maybe some wise old hack should have told him he needed to look longer ‘than a minute’ before publishing anti-army beat ups’.

Luke goes on about being a copy boy.

It was good fun though – we drank together, wrote anything to get a byline and berated conservative columnists under nom de plumes in the letters pages. At the same time I completed my unfinished Arts degree by correspondence.

Nom de plumes…wrote anything to get a byline – wow, I am impressed. Very undergrad – must have made for some great giggling over drinkies.

Always the truth…always balanced…always signing your own name to letters to the editor. Honourable Luke and oh so liberal – Not like the soldiers at all.

The one unguarded moment of those soldiers lives would have been well and truly balanced by months in East Timor where they risked life and limb to help the East Timorese.

Tell me Luke do you have any positive articles about how these same troops, or their mates, helped the natives of Afghanistan, Iraq and a dozen other foreign countries. Have you ever submitted a positive article about the military?

You have traded more than a hundred years of honour and service for 5 minutes of unguided, unwise activity.

Oh, by the way, correct terminology is Delta Company, 1RAR and it’s not a regiment, it is a battalion of a regiment. I take the care to research correct nomenclature only to find professional journalists don’t. Luke, it’s like saying Mail News Courier Paper – ask someone or can’t you even bring yourself to talk to a soldier.

Update: Similarly moved friend and fellow ex 1RAR officer Kel puts pen to paper to the editor and includes it in comments.

Update II: The Road to Surfdom has an article covering this same point. Of course, Tim’s perspective is different from mine but the comment thread has some good thoughts.

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