And – by whose standards shall we judge them?

By Harvey Fewings.

We know because we read about it in August organs of the print media, such as The Australian; that there is an enquiry into the battlefield behaviour of Australian troops in the field of combat in Afghanistan.

We also know that the troops in the frame are the soldiers of the Australian Special Air Service – the SAS.

We also know that the enquiry is being conducted by an eminent being, draped, possibly even cloaked in law degrees – but apparently not much in the way of battlefield experience. Military service in the Reserve Force, yes, but combat command and experience? This does not disqualify this person from conducting the enquiry – he is the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force and has been chosen for that role by his professional eminence.

We also know that the enquiry had its genesis in the secret report from a Canberra sociologist who was covertly inserted into the ranks of returned soldiers from Afghanistan with the sole purpose of “ discovering the culture “ of these men.

Now, that is a bloody good start. An enquiry based upon the secret testimony of a Canberra sociologist. A sociologist who describes herself on her Twitter account as a “ sociologist, feminist and taxidermist “ and who holds a PhD from ANU for her research into the treatment of women with breast cancer.

Nothing I say here is pejorative about the Doctor. No ridicule is directed towards her qualifications – I am merely stating the fact that this was the person who wrote a secret report into the activities of returned members of the armed forces from Afghanistan and gave it to the ADF, who refused to release the taxpayer-funded report to the public.

Why? Why not release the report? The ADF says that the report will create controversial public comments. So what? A Defence expert has commented – [ diversity training, PC classes, pink fingernails, unbalanced recruitment targets, don’t create controversial public comment?]

So, on the face of it, these soldiers and their actions, their thinking and their mindset have already been judged by an anonymous sociologist from Canberra! And, subsequent to this judgement, a formal enquiry, by the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force was instituted into the battlefield actions of these soldiers.

We don’t know what standards were used by the Canberra sociologist to judge these soldiers – because the report is secret. So we can only guess what a self-declared ‘sociologist, feminist and taxidermist ‘ would use as standards to judge combat soldiers from some of the most vicious and personal combat operations ever conducted by Australian troops.

I stand mute, in public, palms extended and the letters “BS“ floating in a thought bubble above my head.

I have, many years ago now, heard, felt and smelt the sounds of military combat in Vietnam. I was an Artillery Officer, calling artillery, air strikes and naval gunfire onto the communist forces that confronted us …enemy soldiers were killed in action during these moments, they were supposed to be! That is why we were there. Military combat is a brutal killing business, it is not a game and there are no trays of oranges at half time. None!

I can tell you all, that I would not want a ‘ sociologist, feminist and taxidermist ‘ examing my actions during that time and writing a secret report about them. No Sir, I would not. The only regret that I have about those moments on the battlefield in Vietnam is that I was not able to destroy more communist soldiers than I did. Is that grounds for a secret enquiry by a Canberra sociologist, feminist and taxidermist ??

I bloody well think not.

So, we move on. The secret report has now become a formal enquiry by the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force.

Do we judge these men by the standards of the society in which they fought?

Afghanistan in those years was a brutal place; the Taliban were and are religious zealots, they kill as quickly as changing shirts. They deceive, they appear and disappear, they hide amongst villagers, women, children, defenceless old villagers and they know that our soldiers are bound by a code of decency that prevents them from acting in the same fashion as they, the Taliban act.

So, I don’t suppose we can judge them by the standards of the Afghanistan society at that time.

Well, what standards apply?

Do we use the International War Crimes Commission? A body that has its house in the Netherlands and spends much of its time condemning Israel and the United States for action those nations take against international terrorists – although this body has shown some interest in the activities of Russia in Ukraine, but not much in Syria.

The possibility of using the IWCC standards in making a judgement against our combat soldiers indeed exists, although I doubt that this body would deliver a fair and reasonable assessment of what went on in Afghanistan some time ago.

Do we then judge them by the standards of integrity and honesty common to our current political climate?

That would be interesting.

Men and women on both sides of our political spectrum display, on a regularly distressing and frequent basis that our standards of integrity and honesty need a fair bit of bloody work!

So that won’t work.

In my many years in the military, during the 1960 ’s, 1970’s and 1980’s it was impressed upon me, indeed driven into my soul mercilessly, by Instructors of young Officers and, as time passed more Senior Officers, that there is an iron rule in the military, a law that stands unchallenged – “ there are no bad soldiers, just poor Officers! “

And indeed, in my experience, it is so.
We can explore that, in the context of this opinion piece.

The troops under investigation had a different command structure than all the other Australian forces in Afghanistan. This structure may have been imposed upon them by political requirements, by a desire to keep some of the SAS activities ring-fenced from other sections of the Australian Army, who knows?

What I do know, and military experience tells me so – that once you begin to make ‘special command arrangements’ for individual sections of the deployed force, the integrity of the command structure is affected.

So did we make our own problem?

I believe we did.

And I believe that we must be very, very careful how we attend to this matter; for Australian soldiers are decent men and women, they do not torture, they do not commit murder, they do not act as battlefield thugs. They are tough, hard-minded men and women. To paraphrase the words of US Marines – Australian soldiers are ‘ no better friends and no worse an enemy. ‘

By what standards would you judge them? I know how I would judge.

 

DFRDB – AUGUST UPDATE

Welcome to a further update on our Campaign progress that involves two important matters, and in the case of our Lower House Parliamentary Petition news of the date of its review and approval release being expected later in September. It is essential that every one of you participates in this process as active Petitioners and encourage outside support.

The other matter I bring to notice related to our submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, a  copy of which follows:

  • Lower House Petition:

My previous heads-up related to my application for a further Lower House Parliamentary Petition on our DFRDB Commutation Issue.  Additionally, the need for the broadest number of petitioners was reinforced with an appeal to all to distribute advice of the matter to family, friends, associated and colleagues as well as to organisations superannuants held membership to, that support could be requested of. Recent advice from the Petitions Secretariate indicated our Petition will be reviewed for approval by the Petitions Committee about 21 September 2022. Petitions are normally approved within 24 hours and are then open online for endorsement by petitioners for a period of one month. Once approved I will advise details of the link to the site. Your strong support consistent with my previous call to action is encouraged.

  • Submission Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide

Until recently being brought to my attention, I had believed that submissions to this RC investigation were outside of the parameters of our Campaign. However, after review of the Royal Commission’s Letters Patent, I am able to advise that I have now made a submission on behalf of the DFRDB Commutation Campaign consistent with the Letters Patent that apply. A copy of my submission follows below:

DFRDB COMMUTATION CAMPAIGN

SUBMISSION TO THE ROYAL COMMISSION INTO ADF AND VETERAN SUICIDE

As an Independent Advocate, I represent 55,000 veteran Superannuants who accepted a Commutation of their DFRDB entitlements, as compulsory, contributory, members of this superannuation scheme introduced to the ADF C1973.

On transition from the ADF, entitled veterans (after having served in excess of 20 years) were duped by the scheme administrator the DFRDB AUTHORITY (DFRDBA), into accepting a COMMUTATION of their Retirement Pay entitlements, without the benefit of the term ‘Commutation’ being defined within the DFRDB ACT or the enabling Policy produced by the DFRDB AUTHORITY or being made known to them.

Furthermore, that Authority positively promoted superannuant acceptance of the lump sum provision, while through Exclusionary Detailing and duplicity, failed to provide any information about the life-term financial repayment by Retirement Pay reductions, upon which to make an informed and reasoned judgement of whether the acceptance was in the best long-term financial interest of Veteran Superannuants. The DFRDBA had, however, succinctly informed DEFENCE within their DFRDB enabling Policy statement, accurately about the life term reduction.

Despite this, as evidenced by the OMBUDSMAN’s Independent Inquiry Report, Defence we’re found guilty of MALADMINISTRATION (see Ombudsman’s 1993 definition) and of distributing FALSE INFORMATION to thousands of ADF CONTRIBUTORS to the scheme.

The DFRDB authority published information for Serving Members being transferred to the new Superannuation Scheme. This, however, was not distributed to each contributor, but only to DFRDB Counsellors and to (untrained) Defence Personnel staff, involved in Resettlement counselling. Ironically, unlike the succinct accurate advice provided to Defence, this advice never advised the life-term reduction in Retirement Pay and was a long and ambiguous diatribe.

Some thirty years later, the DFRDB Authority finally, in c2003, released the previously undeclared information about the life-term impost to then contributors. The hundreds of thousands of previously duped Superannuants were never individually informed, nor have they been since.

The DFRDB Scheme was closed to new contributors thereafter and thousands of affected long-serving Veteran Superannuants remain oblivious to the fact that their Retirement Pay continues to be reduced, until their demise.

In c2018-19, I initiated a Lower House Parliamentary Electronic Petition that registered 3,500 petitioners. This was followed by an OMBUDSMAN’S INDEPENDENT INQUIRY, which received some 3,400 submissions from Veteran Superannuants, advising they had never been informed of the DFRDB POLICY condition imposing a life-term penalty of reduction of Retirement Pay beyond their Notional Life Expectancy Point.

Whether they had been duly informed, or not, was the Ombudsman’s PRIME focus of Investigation. However, he then discarded their sworn statements and proceeded to determine by (very rubbery) Actuarial Modelling using just 12 CSC supplied data sets of the 55,000 available, that superannuants suffered any financial detriment in having accepted a Commutation. He completely ignored their loss through ongoing Retirement Pay reductions beyond their Notional Life Expectancy Point. Also, the loss of Indexation on the pre-paid Lump Sum, as well as the loss and indexation benefit thereafter, until their demise.

This matter is not only depriving Veteran Superannuants of what they expected to finance their later years, but is a benefit to the Commonwealth of Hundreds of Millions of Superannuant Dollars annually, even though the Commonwealth’s pre-payment of Superannuation entitlements to this Cohort have been recovered by the NLEP DEADLINE – a condition fully understood by these recipients.

My Campaign has been active for over 4-years with the latest rejection, by a Senate Reference Committee inquiry, based solely on the Ombudsman’s fallacious report findings.

There are some 1000 Veterans registered with the DFRDB COMMUTATION CAMPAIGN and over 2000 followers on social media. My electronic file on this matter contains over 700 folios. Despite communicating with Federal Ministers, Members and Senators and every bureaucratic body possibly engaged by this matter or in its remedy, even registered mail correspondence remains unanswered, particularly by immediate past Minister of Veterans Affairs and Prime Ministers, and the incumbent Minister.

The new Ombudsman has now refused to accept correspondence on the matter or to conduct a review of the previous Investigation Report as formally requested.

Whether any affected Veteran has actually committed suicide as a consequence of this 5-Decade-long debacle, I do not know. However, it aptly demonstrates the Systemic Indifference to our Veterans and the Commonwealth’s Laissez Faire attitude to veteran well-being, mental health, and physical attrition.

The many Veterans with whom I interface, expound serious angst and frustration, particularly at the disrespect shown by, and the unbelievable deception of, their direct employer (DEFENCE). They too, hold a powerful conviction that their personal commitment to the Defence of Australia and its citizens, at any personal cost, counts for naught, despite the Commonwealth’s military and Veteran Covenant – “for what they have done – we will do for them! The practical insincerity of this declaration and its affects on Veterans is unsurmountable, and morally indefensible.

Veteran Superannuants were excluded from the rights of all other Australians, embodied within the Letters Patent of the Financial Services Royal Commission under which Commonwealth superannuation schemes were exempt. This was on the basis that the Commonwealth and its auditing system were beyond reproach. Even our Campaign appeal to the Minister for VETERANS AFFAIRS calling for a totally independent Inquiry employing the RC’s Letters Patent, went unheard. Instead, we were investigated by a Long-Serving, decorated, Public Servant, heading the Commonwealth’s own OMBUDSMAN Office.

Although the Ombudsman condemned DEFENCE and the CDF, and recommended an apology for Maladministration and False Information; he completely exempted blame from his former Public Service colleagues at CSC, and the former DFRDB Authority.

The Minister and his Staffers and bureaucrats are equally deficient in wiping their hands of the whole matter and essentially labelling Veterans as Liars and money- grubbers. The detrimental affects of this saga cannot be underestimated, in its fraudulent treatment of Veterans and the deleterious outcomes on their well-being, trust, and their mental and physical health – detriment that completely undermines their personal precepts of self-value and worth. Matters they previously upheld, as ‘worth dying for’!

Ken Stone

Wing Commander Retd.

Independent Advocate

DFRDB COMMUTATION CAMPAIGN

3 Lerra Street

Jerrabomberra NSW 2619

Ph. 02 62559732

 

How powerful is the Australian military?

In this video, a bloke with an annoying voice talks about how powerful is the Australian military. Australia officially the Commonwealth of Australia is a sovereign island country surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans. The country is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas with the Coral Sea lying off the Queensland coast. The Tasman Sea lies between Australia and New Zealand. With an area of 7617930 square kilometres, Australia is the largest country by area in Oceania and the world’s sixth-largest country. With US$1.748 trillion of nominal GDP, Australia has 25000 km of coastline and claims approximately 8150000 square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone. Australian Defence Force consists of the Australian Army Royal Australian Navy Royal Australian Air Force and several tri-service units. The Defence budget is around US$44 billion. Australian Defence Force has 3 special force units. Special Forces Group, Number 4 Squadron and Clearance Diving Branch.

Vale 46823 WO2 Terry (Bluey) Howard – RAEME

It is with deep sadness I advise that Terry (Bluey) Howard passed away peacefully on Wednesday evening 31 August 2022 while in palliative care at the Atherton Hospital surrounded by wife, Rae, and his daughters, Kathy and Kelly.  He was just 66 years of age.  He had been undergoing a long battle with a brain tumour which was initially diagnosed with a low grade temporal lobe glioma on 23 March 2018. This cancer deteriorated into an aggressive grade four tumour earlier this year.

Bluey was a great mate to so many people and he has been taken from us far too soon. This world is a much poorer place for Bluey’s loss. He has left behind his wife Rae and two daughters, Kathy and Kelly as well as extended family.

46823 WO2 Terry Howard served as a RAEME Aircraft Maintenance Engineer for 21 years. He enlisted in the ARA on 23 Feb 73 and discharged on 27 Feb 94.

There will be a private service for family to farewell him. This will be followed by a commemorative gathering at Rae and Blue’s large property at Millaa Millaa (Atherton Tablelands) in late October to align with his birthday. All friends will be welcome to attend this gathering and details will follow.

Bluey was Corps enlisted into RAEME when he joined the Army in February 1973 as a trainee aircraft Airframe Fitter. He then completed further training in engines and avionics systems to become a very skilled All Trades Fitter.

He served in PNG with the Air Transport Squadron in 1986-1987 as a SGT instructing the locally enlisted personnel on aircraft maintenance on DC3, Nomad and Arava aircraft.

He was posted to 162 Reconnaissance Squadron in January 1992 as the ASM.

He retired as a Warrant Officer Class Two in February 1994 to pursue a career in his passion of vehicle maintenance and repair.  He purchased an Ultra Tune business in Townsville on his retirement and built it into a very successful business. Bluey then went on to purchase a second Ultra Tune business in Townsville a number of years later.

Bluey was a dedicated soldier and a great bloke.

May He Rest In Peace – Lest We Forget.

Regards, Terry

Terry Johnson

India launches new aircraft carrier as China concerns grow

By Ashok Sharma, AP

India commissioned its first home-built aircraft carrier Friday as it seeks to counter regional rival China’s much larger and growing fleet, and expand its own indigenous shipbuilding capabilities.

The INS Vikrant, whose name is a Sanskrit word for “powerful” or “courageous,” is India’s second operational aircraft carrier, joining the Soviet-era INS Vikramaditya that it purchased from Russia in 2004 to defend the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal.

The new 262-meter (860-foot) carrier, designed by the Indian Navy and built at the Cochin shipyard in southern India, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of the country’s commemoration of 75 years of independence from British rule.

More than just adding to the country’s naval capabilities, Modi stressed the importance of India now being only one of a handful of nations with an indigenous carrier program.

“It’s a historic day and landmark achievement,” Modi said. “It’s an example of the government’s thrust to make India’s defence sector self-reliant.”

The carrier is the largest warship to be built in the country, and can carry a crew of around 1,600 and operate a fleet of 30 aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters, the Navy said.

More than 75% of India’s new aircraft carrier’s components are indigenously procured, with half a dozen major industrial firms and more than 100 smaller businesses providing equipment and machinery, according to the Defence Ministry.

A delay of six years caused a six-fold price overrun to 200 billion rupees (U.S. $3 billion) at present, according to defence experts.

The 47,400-ton warship will be fully operational by the end of 2023 after first undergoing landing trials with India’s Russian-made MiG-29K fighter aircraft.

India plans to equip the carrier with more than two dozen new fighters, with the Rafale-M from France’s Dassault and the F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet built by American firm Boeing currently under consideration.

Until then it will rely on the Russian aircraft borrowed from India’s only other carrier, said Rahul Bedi, a defence expert.

Vale Robert (Bob) Nelson – RAA

We have received advice of the death on 2 September 2022 of Robert (Bob) Nelson. Bob had retired some 20 years ago and during his service with the RAA was employed as a Gun Sergeant with 8/12, 1 and 4 Regiments. No other information is available.

RIP Robert Nelson

Peter Bruce, OAM

Obituary Resource Officer

F-22 Raptors welcomed to RAAF Base Tindal

The advanced fighter aircraft have arrived in Australia to participate in a joint military exercise.

United States Air Force (USAF) F-22 Raptor aircraft have arrived in the Northern Territory to take part in the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) program.

The aircraft touched down in RAAF Base Tindal in preparation for several weeks of military training activities during the EAC program.

The program, which commenced in 2017, aims to further enhance interoperability between Australia the United States.

This builds on previous joint training activities, which recently included the deployment of B-1 Lancer aircraft from RAAF Base Darwin and B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers from RAAF Base Amberley.

Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie, Air Commander Australia, noted the importance of enhancing bilateral defence ties as part of the United States Force Posture Initiative.

“It is testament to how well our two Air Forces assimilate, that these incredible aircraft are able to visit our bases and utilise our infrastructure and support services, so we can all train closely with one another,” AVM Goldie added.

AVM Goldie went on to welcome USAF counterparts to the Top End.

“Dry season in the Northern Territory is always a busy time for our Air Force, as you just cannot beat the training opportunities our ranges in the Top End present,” he said.

“I welcome the visiting United States personnel and hope they get as much out of working with us as we do with them.

“It is always an exciting opportunity to be able to work with and integrate with such a capable aircraft.”

The EAC program coincides with Exercise Pitch Black, which involves over 100 aircraft and 2,500 personnel from 17 different nations.

The exercise is designed to enhance interoperability and defence relationships between the participating nations.

Participants include Australia, France, Germany, Canada, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, New Caledonia, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

The exercise is scheduled to run from the 19th of August to the 8th of September.

Defence Connect

Vale WO1 Kevin Brian Jones – RAA

We have received advice of the death on Friday 2 September 2022 of WO1 Kevin Brian Jones. Kevin joined the RAA after 22 years’ service in the Royal Artillery with deployments to Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Iraq. His service with the RAA included deployments in Afghanistan on OP Slipper. Kevin served at the School of Artillery, 7th Signals Regiment and 20th Regiment where he was the Master Gunner. Kevin had battled with Motor Neuron disease for some five months. He leaves behind his wife Lynette and sons Kieran and Luke.

RIP Kevin Brian Jones

Peter Bruce, OAM

Obituary Resource Officer

 

Vale – 218136 WO1 Michael Osborne Aloysius Ohara

It is with great sadness that I advise of the passing of Michael Osborne Aloysius OHara.

Michael passed away today (2 Sep) in Sydney after suffering poorly for some time. Michael has requested a private cremation.

Mick was a 23rd Intake Electrical Mechanic and following Graduation in 1970 was posted to the Royal Australian Engineers. Around 1973 Mick transferred to RAEME as an Electrical Fitter and served his 20 + years discharging as a WO1 Artificer Electrical.

Rest In Peace my friend

Kind Regards

Gary Sargent