Dear Friends of Justice.

Above you see the unit flag of 2nd Squadron of the Special Air Service Regiment. This is the unit whose members have been accused of war crimes in Afghanistan amidst great publicity when the condemnatory Brereton Report came out. The Prime Minister, by contacting the Afghanistani President to apologise, seemed to accept the recommendations of the report as stated; the Minister of Defence also excoriated the accused; the Chief of the Australian Defence Forces and his Chief of the Army, various members of the Australian parliament, most of the media, and other assorted commentators, all accepted the report as having proved the culpability of the accused. Without any official, legal and competent investigation, thus denying the accused of natural and legal justice.

The chiefs of the ADF and possibly some or all of the above-named politicians, but especially the Chief of Army, decreed or agreed with a decision to strip ALL of the members of 2 SASR of the Unit Citation, so costly won by ALL THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE 2ND, for the alleged crimes whose veracity has yet to be established. This egregious action which at the time had not been sanctioned by any regulations of the Army but whose inclusion in the regulations (reportedly) was inserted after the contents of the report became known.

This week, the removal of the squadron’s flag is to be hauled down, folded and will vanish forever into some archive somewhere, perhaps. The powers that be have been seeking present and past members of the regiment to participate in this disgraceful “ceremony”. Reportedly they are having a difficult time getting any volunteers, perhaps they will invite the above-named to join the destroyers of the good name of the squadron to hold a corner of the much-honoured flag.

I am writing to invite you all to include the image of the flag below in all you electronic communications this week to show support for a maligned superb unit of men whose service deserves infinitely more support and appreciation than it is getting from a gaggle of shiny-bums.

HONOURING OUR VETERANS WHO SERVED IN MALAYA AND BORNEO

Today is Malaya and Borneo Veterans’ Day, when we pause to recognise and remember the 10,500 Australians who served in the Malayan Emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee said he encourages Australians to acknowledge the service and dedication of those who fought in these post-Second World War conflicts in the Malaya and Borneo regions.

“Only a few short years following the end of the Second World War, the Malayan Emergency began in 1948, lasting until 1960,” Minister Gee said.

“The Malayan Emergency was declared following the murder of three European estate managers who were killed as part of the Malayan Communist Party’s insurgency against the British colonial government. Australia’s military involvement commenced in 1950 and continued with anti-insurgency operations in Malaya until 1963.”

One key success of the conflict was a coordinated operation in July 1954 in Perak state. In an operation code named Termite, five RAAF Lincoln bombers and another six Lincolns from 148 RAF Squadron made simultaneous attacks on two communist camps. This was followed by drops of British paratroops, a ground attack, and a further bombing run ten days later. The mission destroyed a large number of guerrilla camps.

During 13 years in Malaya, personnel from the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force played an important role in bringing the long-running communist insurgency in the region to an end.

The Indonesian Confrontation or Konfrontasi started in 1962, ending in 1966.  This conflict was a small undeclared war fought between Indonesia and the newly federated state of Malaysia.

“The Confrontation was a dispute over whether the former British colonies of Sabah and Sarawak which bordered Indonesian provinces on Borneo, would become part of Indonesia or of the newly federated Malaysia,” Minister Gee said.

“In 1964 Australian, New Zealand and British troops first became involved in the conflict.

“On 11 August 1966 Indonesia signed a peace treaty with Malaysia. The treaty recognised that the North Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak would continue to be part of the Malaysian Federation.

“This year marks 55 years since the end of the Confrontation and I urge all Australians to pause and remember the service and sacrifice of those who fought for our nation.

“Tragically, we lost 39 Australians during the Malayan Emergency, and 23 military personnel during the Indonesian Confrontation. Australia will never forget them and all who served in those conflicts. They made a vitally important contribution to restoring peace and security to our region.”

You can learn more about the Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal.

Support available for Australians who served in Afghanistan

This is a distressing time for many of our Defence personnel and veterans who served our nation in Afghanistan with courage, dignity and honour, and made such a significant contribution to the allied military effort.

We must never forget the 41 Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Australia owes a great debt of gratitude to all our veterans who served with distinction and their families who supported them.

Over the past 20 years our nation has been unwavering in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

I understand many of those who served our nation in Afghanistan may feel frustrated, concerned and distressed at what is unfolding there.

My primary concern is the wellbeing of all of our veterans, Defence personnel, here at home and abroad, and their families.

I have asked the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to contact the families of ADF members who lost their lives in Afghanistan, as well as any veterans the Department is aware of who could suffer adversely as a result of what is currently happening in Afghanistan.

I encourage anyone who served in Afghanistan to reach out to support services available to them and their families if they need it.

For those who are not currently registered with DVA, please know that help and support is there for you. Please call DVA if you would like to access services or call Open Arms for counselling support.

ADF personnel, veterans and their families can call Open Arms 24 hours a day on 1800 011 046.

If you need to talk but don’t want to disclose your name, please call Safe Zone Support which offers anonymous counselling service for ADF personnel, veterans and their families. Its free and available 24/7. You can call 1800 142 072.

Please also reach out to any mates and their families who you know may be finding it difficult at this time. Although COVID restrictions are keeping us apart, there has never been a more critical time to ensure we stay connected.

 

Review of Unit Recognition for Somalia Service

26 June 2021

The independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal will re-examine the issue of unit recognition for the service of our Australian Defence Force (ADF) in Somalia.

Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester announced today that he had requested the Tribunal reassess the issue in response to representations from the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment Association.

“In late 1992 a humanitarian disaster, which was compounded by a complete breakdown in civil order, plunged Somalia into chaos and in response Australia deployed forces from all three Services to the Unified Task Force – Somalia (Unitaf) arriving in January 1993,” Mr Chester said.

“In 2009-10 the Tribunal broadly examined the issue of unit recognition for service in Somalia, however, the approach taken at the time focused on Defence’s internal consideration and whether there were any administrative errors in this consideration. It did not focus on whether the service of the battalion group actually met the criteria for a unit citation.

“After representations from the ex-service community, I have decided to refer the matter to the Tribunal for fresh consideration to look specifically at the issue of unit recognition, particularly whether any units that served in Somalia should now be recognised with a meritorious unit citation for their service.”

The Tribunal will consider the service of all ADF units that served in Somalia, having regard to the eligibility criteria for the Meritorious Unit Citation.

“It is important to our Somalia veterans to ensure their service is comprehensively and fairly considered, which the Tribunal will do through this new inquiry,” Mr Chester said.

“Submissions for this inquiry will close on 31 August 2021 and I encourage anyone with an interest in the issue to ensure their views are heard.”

PREPARATIONS FOR ROYAL COMMISSION MOVES TO NEXT PHASE

Preparation for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has moved into the next phase.

Over the past month I have had discussions with hundreds of veterans, serving members and families across the nation.

The feedback has been extremely positive and constructive and while opinions have been incredibly diverse, we all have one common goal – to prevent suicide within the Defence and veteran communities.

More than 1400 pieces of written feedback on the themes that will inform the Terms of Reference have been received by DVA alone.

Some of the common areas of concern identified throughout the consultation process relate to the transition process from Defence to civilian life, dealing with DVA in accessing assistance and the complexity of the legislation and the claims process, as well as mental health support, operational tempo and rotations, negative treatment of personnel, and a number of issues that impact families of those who serve.

Publication of the feedback is optional and where consent has been provided, DVA has been progressively making these available on the website.

The consultation phase has now concluded and all feedback provided to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) will be passed to the Attorney-General’s Department, who will draft the Terms of Reference. This is standard practice for a Royal Commission, and as evidenced by the Aged Care and Disability Royal Commissions, the community can have complete confidence in that process.

To be clear, DVA, the Australian Defence Force and the Department of Defence are not involved in the conduct of the Royal Commission itself or the drafting of the Terms of Reference. The Royal Commission itself will be completely independent of Government.

We have a world-class system of support for veterans and their families and Australians can be proud of the fact that $11.8 billion in taxpayers’ money is provided every year to allow DVA to do its work.

There’s an enormous amount of help available through DVA, ex-service organisations and community groups which is making a difference every day and it is so important that none of this stops during the course of the Royal Commission.

But the system isn’t perfect and the Royal Commission is an opportunity to identify any weaknesses, listen to the ideas of Australians, and implement changes that can help to save lives.

I would like to thank all those in the community who have provided their feedback.

And for any member of the ADF, veteran or their families who may be struggling as a result of this process, please reach out to Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling on 1800 011 046. Help is available.

HANDS OFF OUR BEN ROBERTS-SMITH VC, MG.

Can I start by saying that the accusations of ADF personnel conducting themselves in a war zone with rude or crude acts, “misbehaving at a makeshift bar in Afghanistan,” or drinking beer from a prosthetic leg – none of this should ever have been shared with media, and our media ought to have demonstrated discretion and decency in the dissemination of that imagery, out of respect for the contract we have with the soldiers we have sent to perform the most traumatising of all acts – to kill.

What we have done in Australia, is cognitively and decisively glorified our deceased veterans on ANZAC Day, on Remembrance Day, and in media suicide stories (and only ever through the metaphor of maternal grief), whilst damning our living ADF members and veterans, and forgetting their number one function (kill or be killed), is a function sanctioned by both Australia and Afghanistan, demanded of them by you the voters, to protect our national security, and to stabilise international tensions.

The nation has decided that the full narrative surrounding veterans is one we must not look at. When was the last time you heard the term “terrorist?” Or “shariah law?” Or “Taliban?” All of these things still exist,  little girls are still executed if found to be educated, little boys are still being trained to kill, and little kids are still playing dress-ups with suicide vests and used as weapons. Yet, we as a nation have decided not to look at these things… we have allowed our Prime Minister and Chief of Defence Force to apologise to our enemies in Afghanistan, whilst hanging our heroes out to dry by a noose.

The problem with trauma is that the human mind protects itself from annihilation, by compartmentalising that trauma in a space in the mind’s deepest recesses. In the absence of a compassionate society (by which I mean the absence of compassionate leadership, and compassionate therapy), this suppressed trauma brews like lava until either it is appropriately treated, or that volcano explodes in the form of aberrant behaviour, of mental illness, or suicide.

I can’t help draw the ironic comparison, between Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG burying this trauma deep inside the mind, and allegedly burying USB drives inside a pink plastic children’s lunchbox, hiding them from both police and military investigations.  In fact, this act is not simply an ironic symbolism, this is exactly what is happening inside the minds of our SASR soldiers. The information contained on those USB drives is the exact same trauma that is stored deep inside their minds’ recesses.

That evidence of war trauma, whether it’s suppressed in the mind, in a pink plastic children’s lunchbox, or buried 6ft under – it is trauma that is not only being suppressed and buried, it’s being punished. Suicide attempts among ADF personnel are still – in 2021 – being met with a military charge of “prejudicial conduct,” and ultimately a discharge from the ADF, sending a very strong message to everyone else to hide every crack and every evidence that a member is in the hurt locker.

When trauma is overwhelming, the mind often protects itself by disabling its ability to experience ’empathy.’ And our veteran space is over-burdened with an overwhelming number of both veterans, and their family members, whose fractured sense of empathy has created a fundamentally toxic landscape, culminating in worsened trauma, increased homelessness, mental illness, suicides… and aberrant behaviours.

If Australia wants to make this kind of trauma worse, then by all means – keep prodding and provoking our most traumatised veterans with stigmatising, shaming and punitive national judgements… but keep in mind that every one of our 641,000 veterans in this country is trained to kill, their rage is rapidly building, and like any volcano – it will eventually erupt unless an urgent, national refocus of compassion is directed at the problem.

Ben Roberta- Smith VC MG was awarded those post-nominals for killing the enemy with a heroic degree of bravery …  the only thing that has changed since he was awarded those post-nominals is the increased magnitude of toxic envy of everyone around him.

Dr Dan Mealey

Former Army doctor Afghanistan

105 YEARS SINCE AUSTRALIAN TROOPS FIRST LANDED IN FRANCE

Friday, 19 March 2021

TOMORROW we commemorate 105 years since the arrival of Australian troops, who were part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC Corps), in Marseille, France, during the First World War.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said these troops joined the Allied cause to fight against the powerful Imperial German Army, with every battle testing the limits of each man’s endurance.

“In February 1916, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force were rearranged as both forces had expanded, this led to ANZAC Corps being replaced by I ANZAC Corps and II ANZAC Corps,” Mr Chester said.

“The AIF men were fit and eager to prove themselves worthy of the Anzacs’ reputation of bravery, skill and initiative, a reputation that is remembered in Australian society more than a century on.”

The two newly formed corps included veterans who had been evacuated from Gallipoli to provide a foundation of experience, reinforcements who had been training in Egypt, recent recruits from Australia and the recently formed New Zealand Division.

“By the end of 1916, more than 10,000 men of the AIF had died on the Western Front, and some 30,000 had been wounded – losses which were felt immensely on the home front,” Mr Chester said.

“The impact of this war was felt by those who lost their comrades and in the Australian community where family members and friends grieved over those who would never return home. For their service and sacrifice, we say thank you.

“I encourage all Australians to offer a moment of their day to remember the service of all those who fought in the campaigns in France.”

As a lasting legacy to their service, the Sir John Monash Centre tells Australia’s story of the Western Front through the words of those who served. Set on the grounds of the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in northern France, and adjacent to the Australian National Memorial, the Sir John Monash Centre is the hub of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front.

To learn more, visit the Anzac Portal.

VETERAN FOUNDED ORGANISATION DELIVERS FIRST ASSISTANCE DOG

THE first Psychiatric Assistance Dog trained by veterans, for veterans, has moved home with her veteran handler in Canberra.

The veteran founded not-for-profit specialist service, Integra Service Dogs Australia, helps veterans manage their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has delivered its first dog under the Federal Government’s Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester welcomed Belle to the ranks of these amazing assistance dogs who are helping change the lives of veterans and their families.

“Belle will be an amazing help to her veteran handler, Ben Jones,” Mr Chester said.

“The dogs provided through this program, like Belle, play an important role for veterans and their families living with PTSD as they are trained to the individual needs of their veteran and perform specific tasks to help them with their recovery and general wellbeing.”

As Belle and Mr Jones have completed their intensive training program and passed the Public Access Test, they will now spend each day together. The bond formed during Integra’s training program means that Belle has insight into Mr Jones’ condition and knows his unique triggers allowing him to reclaim his place in the community and rebuild his life.

“I have greatly appreciated the professionalism and support provided by Integra. They have worked closely with me to match me with a highly suitable and intelligent Labrador and developed us as a bonded team,” Mr Jones said.

Mr Chester said this was a life changing program for so many veterans managing PTSD as part of their ongoing mental health plan.

“These dogs have such a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of our veterans and it is so encouraging to hear the stories of success and of veterans overcoming challenges with their dogs by their sides,” Mr Chester said.

“Thank you for your service Ben. I wish you and Belle all the very best on your journey together.”

Integra joined three other organisations as a provider of psychiatric assistance dogs in early August 2020 and they have since supported veterans through the matching, placement and training of these amazing companions. Belle is the first of four Integra dogs to pass their Public Access Test and take up residency with their veteran handlers this month.

Twenty-one psychiatric assistance dogs have now passed their intensive training program across the four providers and are helping veterans every day, and an additional 89 dogs are in training across Australia.

Eligible veterans who have a diagnosis of PTSD can access the Psychiatric Assistance Dog program, by contacting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). Veterans currently accessing treatment for PTSD may wish to speak to their mental health professional to see if a psychiatric assistance dog would be a suitable adjunct to treatment. For more information, visit the Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program page on DVA’s website at www.dva.gov.au/dogs.

ANZAC Day March – Melbourne

This year 2021, there will not be a Gunfire Breakfast, nor an ANZAC Day March in Melbourne as we know it.

Serving ADF Veterans will Parade March from a little way up Birdwood Ave and then into the Shrine Of Remembrance (SOR) grounds.

The RAAF will lead, as this is their Centenary year.

No non-serving Veterans will march, family members nor Foreign Veterans.

Some Banners will be located on a very small piece of the SOR Grounds.

Banners and Bearers will be organised by the  RSL.

The service will be live-streamed, as will the Governor’s address.

Only the Governor and one Veteran will lay wreaths.

This year only 1500 Victorians will be permitted to attend and 1500 will be chosen via Ballot, (SOR will arrange this) and an area will be roped off for the lucky ones.

The after Parade Service will be conducted in the Sanctuary (again live-streamed).

The ANZAC Church service during Evensong, at St Paul’s, will go ahead on Sunday 18 April.

Numbers may be limited to 100, stand by, as this may change without a lot of notice.

Preparing for War is Never an Each- Way Bet

 

An old mate, officially recognized for bravery in war, recently reflected on the erosion of our precious way of life. His concerns, shared by many veterans, included increasing national fragmentation, spurred on by constant political brainwashing with emphasis on them and us; (as opposed to obvious strengths such as one people, one nation.) His concerns also embraced the gradual and sly campaign by Thought Police slowly stealing our freedom of speech, the very base of any democracy. Nor, he added, should we ignore the current official condoning of radicals distorting our proud history into evil deeds.   

He, like other veterans was asking if military service had been worth the effort in protecting values so vital to our precious way of life? The answer is YES, it surely was. However, no one, but no one had predicted the constant greed, megalomania, incompetence and blinkered vision demonstrated by an alarming proportion of our political representatives.  Removing self -imposed blindfolds would reveal to them that our way of life is being destroyed by a noisy and destructive minority. The stark reality is our treasured democracy will not survive without national unity and social disciplines. (Keep your fingers crossed for the USA, for where they go, we go)

Politicians capable of leadership, and with the courage to demonstrate it, should no longer linger in the shadows, but step forward to lead. This includes the need to educate their colleagues of the strong measures necessary in military training to win wars. For their fellow politicians to clearly understand the first step is to remove all the obstacles to military training insisted on by trendy, naïve and rowdy disciples of political correctness. It would also be appropriate to remind all parliamentarians that sound preparation for war also includes weaponry, toughness, resilience and always a strong national spirit of pride, purpose and unity. It’s all of us together, not just those who pull the triggers.

Our beloved military is changing, as it should, to confront the challenges of the space age, but never with the current iron shackles of political correctness, or other impediments which will dilute its fighting spirit, resilience, toughness and capabilities

As for my mate and many others who wore the proud cloth, they wouldn’t have missed serving their beloved country for Quids. Me too!.  

                                 A Letter to old Soldiers

Remember swearing the oath, thinking you were special and still free

Then you arrived at the depot to become idle horrible people for all to see

Day and night Spartan routines, which would please any father’s heart

Before dawn, sleep stolen by a bugle call for another long day to start.

Polishing, beds made, rifles cleaned and a rushed meal of porridge glue

Barrack room inspections revealed specks of dust thus extra chores to do 

 

On graduating to a unit, it became your family forever and a day

More rules, and if you broke them, the only hope was to pray 

“Honour, love of country, duty first and all for one and one for all” 

Your heart and mind so responsive to each and every bugle call

You were ready for war, to fight and win, and always care for each other

To make sure; there was a fierce, angry sergeant as your adopted mother 

 

In war you tasted grief, hunger, thirst and so often, doubts and fear

Courage was fueled by the comfort of comrades, ever so near 

There was faith in your leaders and all of you were as one

When all seemed lost, and as ordered, you all stood fast and won 

Whatever the odds; never did you relent heart and spirit to any foe.

When you came home; sadly, many carried packs of restless woes 

 

Those who have not been part of the military will never understand why

Soldiers risk all with the fall of the dice as they go forward to live or die.

Their lives bound by proud history, honour, duty, and dear comrades all

To dishonor the sacred creed is to be banished and never again to stand tall

Their strength is unity, mate ship, pride, love of country and its way of life  

Always shared are the precious dreams, often conceived during bloody strife

 

Now you grow old and a new generation of soldiers marches by with pride 

Like you once were; in step, heads held high, and always as one, side by side

You can watch and cheer the young column, yet no longer follow

Young hearts, laden with the unknown; spirits high, marching into tomorrow

They pass aged footprints of peace and war where you have already been

Then will be your last and smartest salute, until the column can’t be seen

George Mansford©January 2021