Memories – The Vung Tau Ferry

A trip down memory lane for those who sailed on the HMAS SYDNEY. In this case 8 RAR forward and 9 RAR return.


Any death by suicide is tragic. Defence is committed to increasing our understanding of this issue so that we can continue to improve the support services available to our people.

Most importantly, we need to help those who are suffering to understand that support is available to them – they do not need to suffer alone.

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in Australia, and ADF personnel are not immune from this. The rate of suicide of those serving in the ADF is lower than the national average when matched for age and gender. Of course we must do more.

For this reason Defence is investing significantly in suicide prevention and mental health more broadly, with more than $180 million in funding allocated to a range of education and support programs for all Defence members since 2009.

As a result of this investment, and by working with DVA, significant enhancements have been made to the provision of mental health care for current and ex-serving personnel over the last few years. The extension of non-liability health care arrangements which cover current and ex-serving members for a range of mental health conditions without the need to establish a link to their service is one example of this progress.

Current programs which address various mental health issues and provide support to ADF members throughout their military careers, including when they have returned to civilian life, include:

ADF mental health and psychology services

establishment of regional mental health teams
implementation of the mental health integration project to ensure consistency and best practice
creation of the ADF Centre for Mental Health to provide clinical advice and specialist training
establishment of the Second Opinion Clinic to help treat members with complex mental health issues

Prevention initiatives

publication of the ADF Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy
establishment of the ADF Suicide Prevention Program to ensure a comprehensive approach across the organisation
establishment of the Keep Your Mates Safe peer support program
introduction of BattleSMART (a self management and resilience training program)
introduction of ADF operational-specific mental health screening
implementation of the Mental Health Screening Continuum Project to expand current screening framework

Awareness and education programs

dissemination of ADF mental health fact sheets
creation of the annual ADF Mental Health Day
establishment of ADF mental health awareness presentations and mandatory training for all members
creation of mental health first aid courses for members
establishment of the Army Industry Partnership Initiative
introduction of workshops to assist commanders to provide support to members
creation of the ADF alcohol, tobacco and other drugs awareness program
creation of web-based ADF Health and Wellbeing Portal which is available publicly
establishment of the Chief of Army Wounded Injured and Ill Digger Forum
development of mental health mobile applications
publication of the ADF Rehabilitation Member and Family Guide
publication of the ADF Health and Recovery Commanders’ Guide

Crisis support and recovery programs

establishment and promotion of mental health and crisis support help lines
establishment of the intervention Critical Incident Mental Health Support (CIMHS) process
establishment of RESET (a coach facilitated, skills based early intervention program)
creation of the Support to Wounded Injured or Ill Program
establishment of the Soldier Recovery Centres
creation of the Army Rehabilitation through Employment Initiative
establishment of the ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills Program
establishment of the ADF Rehabilitation Program.

We need to recognise that mental health problems affect our entire society, and yet for each individual the circumstances of their situation are unique and deeply personal. What might help one person may not be successful for another; that is why there are a range of support services available.

The factors that lead a person to die by suicide are complex, which is why we need a mature discussion encompassing the entire community. Together we can continue to break down the stigma that, even today, our society attaches to mental health issues so that everybody feels they are able to access the support that is available.

More information on the services available, including how to access support, is available here

The Defence All-hours Support Line (ASL) is a confidential telephone service for ADF members and their families that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1800 628 036.

Crisis support and confidential counselling is also available by calling the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) on 1800 011 046.

Media Contact
Defence Media (02 6127 1999

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Most ADF soldiers ‘believe Islam promotes violence and terrorism’

The vast majority of Australian Defence Force personnel believes the Muslim religion promotes ­violence and terrorism, despite “cultural sensitivity training” by the ADF to have its soldiers take the view that Islam is a religion of peace.

The bombshell new study sponsored by the army finds that such “anti-Muslim sentiments” are “probably quite widespread” among Australian frontline troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the military’s efforts to reverse this trend are counter-productive.

The study by academic Charles Miller, published yesterday in the Australian Army Journal, was clearly perceived by top military brass as likely to be highly controversial, prompting Chief of Army General Angus Campbell to write a preamble saying his staff “have a number of opposing views on this article’s content”.

The study was financially supported by the ADF’s Army Research Scheme.

Dr Miller, who is a lecturer in Strategic and Defence Studies at the Australian National Univer­sity, writes that “in this study, I use a technique designed to ­elicit frank responses to sensitive questions — the ‘list experiment’ — to examine ADF views on Islam.”

“I find little evidence that the official ‘Islam as a religion of peace’ narrative is widely ­accepted, nor is there evidence that cultural sensitivity training has any effect,” he says.

“The best estimate … for the proportion of soldiers who have received cultural sensitivity training and who believe that the Muslim religion promotes violence and terrorism is 91 per cent.

“The corresponding figure for those who have not had cultural sensitivity training is 17 per cent.”

Dr Miller, who surveyed a sample of 182 soldiers, writes that “there are a number of issues which could arise if anti-Muslim sentiment is widespread within the defence force.

“If Australia’s Muslim community perceives the security services as inherently hostile, this may reduce the flow of intel­ligence on the activities of ­Islamic extremist organisations in Australia,” he says.

“Probably most important at present, hostility to Muslims in general could hamper the effectiveness of the ADF on deployment in the greater Middle East in a number of ways.”

To counter Islamophobic tendencies, the ADF employs cultural sensitivity training that “attempts to familiarise ADF personnel with the main ­attributes of the culture of the ­nations to which they are to be ­deployed”, Dr Miller writes.

He said the “list experiment” aims to “persuade individuals to freely express views which may be deemed socially undesirable or for which they could otherwise be punished.”

Dr Miller said more work should be done by the ADF to get a better understanding of the issue, but the problem was that “the open expression of anti-Muslim sentiment in the ADF can and has led to disciplinary charges and dismissal.”

Most ADF soldiers ‘believe Islam promotes violence and terrorism’

Australian Army Journal Autumn Edition 2016

Army vet Angus Sim exposes shocking truths about the DVA

  • By Ian McPhedran National defence writer
  • : News Corp Australia Network
  • August 25, 2015 10:00PM

click here for full article

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Australian Iraq war veteran Angus Sim on duty in Iraq. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

AN unofficial survey by an East Timor and Iraq War veteran flatly contradicts an official $174,500 taxpayer-funded survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs that sings its praises and claims a 90 per cent satisfaction rate.

Angus Sim claims he lost his lucrative offshore drilling job after the DVA contacted his employer to verify that he was off work and eligible for his veteran’s payment.

He had signed a statutory declaration swearing that he was off work so that he would be eligible for incapacity payments, but Canberra-based bureaucrats insisted on contacting his employer.

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Australian East Timor and Iraq war veteran Angus Sim (left) with a truck bomb that exploded near the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Mr Sim suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was so outraged by his experience that he formulated his own survey of DVA clients to find out what veterans really thought about the department that allocates about $13 billion of taxpayer dollars each year.

The results from 730 respondents bear no resemblance to the official DVA 2014 client service survey of 3000 people that showed satisfaction rates of above 90 per cent and included comments such as: “Excellent service and good communications.

“They really look after people. Overwhelming — they listen so well. It’s like a family.”

Mr Sim’s survey included 41 questions and found that between 58 per cent and 73 per cent of clients under the three Veterans Acts had spent more than six months fighting for their claims.

Between 28 per cent and 54 per cent said they were “extremely unsatisfied” with DVA’s service and just three to 10 per cent said they were “extremely satisfied”.

In one of the most disturbing findings it found that between 63 per cent and 84 per cent of clients had been given conflicting information by DVA staff.

One of the worst areas was incapacity payments where between 77 per cent and 80 per cent said DVA had caused them hardship by delaying the payments.

Between 81 per cent and 94 per cent of those surveyed supported a fresh inquiry into the DVA’s treatment of veterans.


By contrast the official survey reported that 89 per cent of clients were satisfied or very satisfied with the service DVA provided and 90 per cent agreed that DVA was committed to providing a high quality service.

When News Corp questioned the credibility of publishing only positive comments from the survey DVA insisted that the, “comments published were demonstrative of resoundingly positive feedback received in the client survey.”

The Department refused to provide a detailed breakdown for “commercial” reasons of the age of respondents or a list of the questions asked by the survey company ORIMA Research.

In stark contrast with the taxpayer-funded official survey comments from Mr Sim’s respondents were far more damning.

Here is a sample; “They treat you like you are trying to get something for nothing and that you should be grateful for their ‘assistance’.

“Woeful at best, criminally negligent if they’re honest.

“It was demeaning and enhanced my PTSD symptoms causing my family and I huge distress.”

Quite simply, the MRCA Act (that was introduced in 2004) is not working as well as it should be for our younger veterans.

Army chief lets fly at Diggers’ assassin

AUSTRALIA’S top soldier has voiced the anger of his troops at the assassination of three Diggers by a rogue Afghan soldier, branding it “murder” at a time when the men were defenceless.

Chief of the Army Lieutenant General David Morrison spoke out as bereaved family members joined military top brass, representatives and members of the fallen Diggers’ units and a guard of honour to mark their sad arrival home at the Amberley Air Base, west of Brisbane.

“Let’s not gloss over this in any way, shape or form,” General Morrison told reporters, as relatives of the men spent some private time with their flag-draped caskets.

“What happened to the three soldiers who have just returned to Australia here at Amberley this afternoon was murder.

“Murder when they were defenceless at the end of a long day of training the Afghan National Army, which is an absolute requirement if Afghanistan is to be given the type of security that we all want it to have.”

It is the second time that the army chief has presided over a repatriation ceremony for Australian victims of so-called “green-on-blue” killings by Afghan soldiers.

And General Morrison said he recognised that the deaths of Lance Corporal Stjepan “Rick” Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate had provoked legitimate debate about the ongoing presence of Australian troops in Afghanistan.

“But I would like to just say this: a debate is absolutely appropriate in a great democracy such as ours, and in fact if there wasn’t a debate we wouldn’t be exercising that democracy.”

However, it was not appropriate that the army joined the public discussion about its role in Afghanistan, he added.

“The mission is the one that has been given to us by the democratically elected government of this country and I support the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in their stance here 100 per cent,” General Morrison said.

“I am deeply sorry for what has occurred to these soldiers and, of course, to their families.

“But I am also very proud of the way the soldiers of the Australian Army are performing in Afghanistan now in the service of their nation.”

Mentoring mission changes hands in Afghanistan

TOWNSVILLE based soldiers are now training and mentoring the Afghan National Army’s 4th Brigade, 205 Hero Corps after a recent Transfer of Authority ceremony in Tarin Kot.

A mentoring task force based on the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, have replaced approximately 730 Brisbane-based personnel from 8th/9th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8/9 RAR), who have returned home after a five month deployment as Mentoring Task Force – Four (MTF-4).

The new task force took on the responsibility at the official Transfer of Authority ceremony held at Multi National Base – Tarin Kot on 24 June 2012.

The ADF has moved to change the task force name from the Mentoring Task Force to 3RAR Task Group (TG) to accord with ISAF naming conventions for transition.

Lieutenant Colonel Kahlil Fegan, Commanding Officer of MTF-4, said his team had helped the ANA make significant progress in the past five months.

“Security across Uruzgan province has improved as a result of the increased confidence and competence of the ANA 4th Brigade and its Spring Offensive was particularly successful,” LTCOL Fegan said.

LTCOL Fegan said the relationship between MTF-4 personnel and their 4th Brigade colleagues had been integral to the success of the mission.

“Our mentoring relationship was based on mutual respect, trust and friendship,” he said

“This trust and respect was forged in combat and in the face of adversity – the manner in which Australian and Afghan soldiers went to great lengths to protect each other from unnecessary risk has been most impressive.”

“Working with the ANA and seeing its steady progress has proved to be a highlight for many of our soldiers.”

LTCOL Fegan said the steady progress has put the 4th Brigade in a good position to take responsibility for security in the province.

“I am confident that the ANA 4th Brigade will be ready for transition to security lead in accordance with the established timelines,” he said.

“I am immensely proud of the work my men and women have achieved in building the confidence and competence of the 4th Brigade.

“Several successful recent clearance operations led by the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) are testament to the growing capability of the Afghan National Army, not to mention the dedication and hard work of its mentors.”

LTCOL Fegan said the planning, building and manning of a new Patrol Base at Chaka Juy in eastern Uruzgan province was of particular importance.

“The ANA 4th Brigade determined a need to secure a key supply route from Tarin Kot to Khas Uruzgan, and as a result they established a Patrol Base along the route,” he said.

“They have since manned the Patrol Base and it is clear that their presence is having a positive effect on security in the area with an increase in local traffic security along the route.

“MTF-4 personnel assisted in upgrading the route, transporting stores and equipment, provided specialist trade skills at the build site and mentored security patrols in the area.”

The Brisbane-based 8/9 RAR leave the mission in good hands, with 3RAR soldiers, led by LTCOL Trent Scott, already on the job.

“I have no doubt that the new Task Force will continue to build on the good relationship established by all those before them,” LTCOL Fegan said.

“It has been a rewarding deployment and our men and women are looking forward to returning to their loved ones.”

Media Notes:
Imagery is available from the following link: 

Media contact:
Defence Media Operations – (02) 6127 1999

Sammy Davis, Medal of Honor, Vietnam War

On November 18, 1967, Private First Class Sammy Davis, wounded and under intense enemy fire, crossed a river to rescue three wounded soldiers near Cai Lay, Vietnam. On November 19, 1968, Davis received the Medal of Honor. The footage from that day as well as Davis’s citation were used as source materials for the film Forrest Gump.

Good story

Check out the video on YouTube:


Stephen Smith locks himself in cone of silence

  • by: Ian McPhedran  From:Herald Sun June 21, 201212:00AM

It is essential for the community to know the true “cost” of going to war, argues Ian McPhedran. Source: The Daily Telegraph
THE Gillard Government and our military top brass want Australians to believe that our casualties in Afghanistan all die quiet, dignified deaths surrounded by their mates.
The truth is somewhat different.
Frantic efforts are made to save them and then deliver them to a field hospital where dedicated surgeons fight valiantly to mend bodies torn apart by high-powered rounds or high explosive.
So, to have every casualty reported in the same predictable, sanitised terms defies credibility and demeans their sacrifice.
The public now seldom hears the real story. That’s because the Government has abandoned its commitment to tell us the full human costs of going to war.
In February 2010 then Defence Minister John Faulkner delivered an extraordinary speech at a CEW Bean Foundation dinner in Canberra.
“If history teaches us anything it is that the only way to secure the public support so critical to a democracy’s military power is to be as transparent and accountable as military exigencies permit,” he said.
“For the first time, the Parliament and the Australian people will be given regular reports about ADF casualties.
“When the Australian Government commits Australian forces, we put Australian lives at risk, and exercise potentially often actually lethal force in the name of the Australian community. It is essential therefore that the community knows not only the reasons, but also the costs of such action.”
As citizens of a robust and free democracy Australians have a right to know at least some of the grim reality
The speech was music to the ears of correspondents who had spent years fighting against a secretive Australian military for greater access to information.
Fast forward 30 months and we have a new defence minister who has a very different approach to transparency.
Stephen Smith spends a lot of time talking, but says very little of substance.
A regular on ABC Radio and Sky News, the mountains of transcripts he generates reveal a master of the endless stream of gibberish.
As public opinion against the war in Afghanistan moves above 60 per cent, Smith has seen fit to implement a policy of censorship contrary to most of what his predecessor said 30 months ago.
He claims that the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan should not be subjected to the extra grief that a public airing of official reports into the deaths of their loved ones would generate.
Since Smith took over even the heavily censored official reports into the fatalities are kept secret.
No one wants grieving families subjected to any unnecessary heartache, but Faulkner was right when he said it was essential for the community to know the true “cost” of going to war.
When a soldier dies in battle they die a violent and horrible death. With luck it is quick, but it is seldom clean.
This is the reality of combat, but as this war becomes increasingly unpopular politicians and their generals don’t want the public to be exposed to the human cost.
Journalists and media outlets risk being labelled “un-Australian” by defence chiefs if they dare to write anything that causes grieving families to be exposed to the terrible facts of their loved ones’ death or the processes involved in repatriating their remains.
Politicians meanwhile seek out new ways to sugar coat the PR message that war is about toiling alongside old friends to train new friends or open new schools and medical clinics. It is not.
War is about killing more of the other side than you lose yourself.
Even details about the actions of our best and bravest are sanitised to the point of insult.
When a soldier saves his mates and wins a medal by his “selfless and gallant actions” he has usually slaughtered a large number of enemy fighters during brutal close quarters battles to the death.
It is not glamorous or indicative of some higher Anzac tradition, it is savage and violent and painful and ugly.
Equally when a Digger is killed by an enemy gun or bomb it is bloody and dreadful and traumatic for his mates who are often left scarred by the experience.
Sheltered from these realities by a campaign of censorship, society is then shocked when veterans return home messed up by the experience and at the mercy of Veterans Affairs.
As citizens of a robust and free democracy Australians have a right to know at least some of the detail of that grim reality.
As it stands the community will know little about future casualties short of the hackneyed press release about brave Diggers and their mates who fought hard in the Anzac tradition.
The wider community, who share only a tiny portion of a family’s mountain of grief, but who fund an expensive military force fighting in a war half a world away, deserves better, much better.
Ian McPhedran is Herald Sun defence reporter

Special forces bear the brunt

  • by: Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor
  • From:The Australian
  • July 04, 201212:00AM

THE death of the 33rd Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan – and the 16th member of the special forces – shows the inadequacy, poor structure and imbalance of the Defence Force.

The special forces are not just the tip of the spear of the Australian Defence Force – they are the whole spear.

They do too much of the work, and bear too much of the sacrifice.

Australia now does wars on the cheap, on the blood and suffering of a few hundred men, the same men, sent time and again into the hell of battle – the dead SAS trooper was on his seventh tour in Afghanistan.

Most of the ADF is not kept in anything remotely resembling combat-ready capability.

We can barely get a sub into the water – and if we could, the one thing it couldn’t do is fight.

We can barely get an amphibious ship to help in a storm clean-up.

Nobody knows how few active pilots we have in the air force.

Our army of 30,000 regular soldiers is one of the smallest in Asia, indeed in the world.

But there is one part of the military that is kept at world standard and always ready to go.

That is the SAS and their special forces partners, the commandos. Our special forces are among the best in the world, and widely acknowledged as such especially by the Americans, but they are a tiny force.

The Gillard government has the smallest defence spending, as a proportion of the economy, of any government since 1938.

Its fraudulent prestige as a committed military ally of the US, and of the nation as a defence power, rests on the magnificent performance and out-sized sacrifice of our special forces.

These men fight and die, not just for our strategic interests but to give us a reputation we don’t deserve as a nation that takes defence seriously.

Our army is far too small, yet the government keeps hinting that when the troops come home from Afghanistan it will be cut.

Yet we are reluctant even to use the army we have properly.

In Afghanistan, the special forces have carried out continuous offensive operations against the Taliban and their allies. There is no reason why regular army units could not carry out such operations.

Our infantry and cavalry are restricted to mentoring and training the Afghans, and see action as they help them.

But the hidden grammar of our strategic policy is clear. The SAS and the commandos are our only offensive military instrument. They perform heroically and never shirk duty. But we ask too much of them.

Their valour is used to cloak the neglect and indolence of a government that has no interest in providing an adequate defence force. It’s time the special forces came home.

New U.S. Army Rifle – The XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System

The XM25 has a range of roughly 2,300 feet – and is to be deployed in Afghanistan soon. I would call it the “Equalizer.” Some call it the “Punisher”.

The rifle’s gun sight uses a laser rangefinder to determine the exact distance to the obstruction, after which the soldier can add or subtract up to 3 meters from that distance to enable the bullets to clear the barrier and explode above or beside the target.

Soldiers will be able to use them to target snipers hidden in trenches rather than calling in air strikes.

The 25-millimeter round contains a chip that receives a radio signal from the gun sight as to the precise distance to the target.

Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, project manager for the system, described the weapon as a ‘game-changer’ that other nations will try to copy.

He expects the Army to buy 12,500 of the XM25 rifles this year, enough for every member of the infantry and special forces.

Lehner told Fox News: “With this weapon system, we take away cover from [enemy targets] forever. Tactics are going to have to be rewritten. The only thing we can see [enemies] being able to do is run away.”

Experts say the rifle means that enemy troops will no longer be safe if they take cover. The XM25 appears to be the perfect weapon for street-to-street fighting that troops in Afghanistan have to engage in, with enemy fighters hiding behind walls and only breaking cover to fire occasionally.

The weapon’s laser finder would work out how far away the enemy was and then the U.S. soldier would add one meter using a button near the trigger.

When fired, the explosive round would carry exactly one meter past the wall and explode with the force of a hand grenade above the Taliban fighter.

The army’s project manager for new weapons, Douglas Tamilio, said: ‘‘This is the first leap-ahead technology for troops that we’ve been able to develop and deploy.”

A patent granted to the bullet’s maker, Alliant Techsystems, reveals that the chip can determine how far it has travelled. Mr. Tamilio said: “You could shoot a Javelin missile, and it would cost about $69,000. These rounds will end up costing $25.00 apiece.”

They’re relatively cheap. Lehner added: “This is a game-changer. The enemy has learned to get cover, for hundreds if not thousands of years. Well, they can’t do that anymore. We’re taking that cover from them and there’s only two outcomes: We’re going to get you behind that cover or force you to flee.” The rifle will initially use high-explosive rounds, but its makers say that it might later use versions with smaller explosive charges that aim to stun rather than kill.

What one of the revolutionary bullets looks like that can be pre-programmed to explode to hit troops that are hiding.