Contact Newsletter – 101

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Warrior Poet – To Dare or Not to Dare

History tells us of cheering crowds on the day we became as one
A proud flag signalling that the pulse beat of a new nation had begun Coloured bunting in joyful city streets where blokes tossed hats so high
In the outback, drovers, shearers, farmers and swagmen drank pubs dry 

Then time for all, young and old, to roll up sleeves and seek tomorrow
A secure happy nation for all generations which would follow
As time went by; despite nature’s tantrums and depression and war 
Always the smiles and unity, never faltering to ask why or what for

At footy you could boo at the opposition; it was part of the Aussie way
As was the applause for winners and losers at the end of the day
Speech included “politicians are up that creek in a barbed wire boat”
Or someone who disagreed could yell “shove a sock down ya throat”

A generation dared to build the Harbor Bridge for all to see
The Snowy River scheme made the world gape at what could be
Blood, sweat and tears linked East and West with a railway line
Bridges, dams, new towns, Holden cars, wool, oil, and world class wine 

The Opera House became another new landmark because we did dare
Such vision with grit and purpose swept our nation, no matter where
Today, our once lucky country has empty pockets and heavy national debt Vision and purpose packed their bags, and in growing darkness, have left

Greens so often lay minefields on our route leading into tomorrow
Meekness is common, so compromises abound and no true path to follow Political promises are made, no matter the lies, always with fingers crossed Soon or late there is betrayal, and more dreams for our nation are lost

Canberra bragged of food to ease world famine and misery often seen
Sadly, empty words and poor excuses have replaced what could have been Often we’ve spoken of fire, drought and flooding rains our nation must master
Yet no new dams for three decades plus, and no more it seems forever after
We talk of unity but carry three flags and still speak of them and us
Our country is at the crossroads; we must find our way or miss the bus

George Mansford ©September 2019

Comment – Surviving Recent Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire
What has been very disappointing and demoralizing in recent times are the emails, social media posts and the broader media attacks upon DVA, the ESORT and the ADSO.

Especially are the attacks on individuals and ESO leaders for not being supportive of the broad veteran communities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When these attacks get personal, lesser mortals might choose to walk away from it all but considering how far we have all come for the better we have no option “than to stay the course”.

Nothing is perfect in life and DVA is no different, but the improvements initiated over the last four years, through the Veteran Centric Reform program, are encouraging, but there is still a long way to go.

DVA, with the ESORT and others, are engaged and are working through the Productivity Commission Report and the Cornell Advocacy Report.

There is no doubt that the ESO community is being listened to in so many different areas, including families. There is a more holistic and workable approach in the case management of veterans and their families.

Unique Opportunity
The veteran community has a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset the agenda for veteran care into the future.

Presently there is increasing pressure on the DVA and the Government to consider and then implement much of what the Productivity Commission has recommended. This takes time. Yes, it is frustrating and slow grinding work. The pressure on the individuals who toil within DVA for the betterment of veteran care is relentless. This coupled with the constant pot shots from those outside the tent is having a demoralizing effect on all who work within the organisation. This is unfair! They should be allowed the opportunity to focus on the task of veteran care and not be forced to continually duck ill-considered friendly fire and, some, not so friendly.

Client Satisfaction
Interestingly, a client satisfaction survey conducted by an outside organisation has found that there is an 81% overall client satisfaction rating of DVA. When this is broken down demographically by age, the satisfaction rating of those 65 years and over is 89%; 45 years to 64 years, 72%; and under 45 years only 58%.

The last group is obviously the younger veteran. This poor 58% is precipitated by the complexities, duplicities and confusion across the three Acts.

DVA, with overt pressure from ESO leadership, is presently reviewing these three pieces of legislation to harmonise them as either one or two Acts. This will alleviate the issues, the time and the decision-making controversy that causes such angst for the younger veteran community.

ESORT and ADSO
The ESORT and the ADSO is supportive of DVA during this difficult period of implementing some of the recommendations of the PC and all we ask of the ex-service community is to give us all a fair go.

There are no cars, blazers or cigars for the work the members of the ESORT or ADSO do in these roles. It is all on a pro bono basis to try to make a difference in the best interests of veterans and their families.

Some criticisms of us may be justified at times due to poor communications, most are totally unfair and unacceptable. This when individuals are personal in their attacks and not backed by fact or constructive involvement in the area of veterans’ issues and veteran care.

10 September 2019

Kel Ryan 
National Spokesman 
Alliance of Defence Service Organisation 
Mobile: (0418) 759 120 

Michael von Berg
National President
RAR Corporation
Mobile: (0411) 870 055

Opinion – First and Furtherest

Heroes flew under radar Catalina crews were the unsung heroes of the Pacific War.

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FUNDING FOR ORGANISATIONS TO SUPPORT OUR VETERAN COMMUNITY

VETERANS and their families across Australia will be better supported thanks to more than $875,000 in community grants aimed at improving veteran health and wellbeing.

 Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said 68   projects will receive funding under the Veteran and Community   Grants (V&CG) and Men’s Health Peer Education (MHPE) programs.
 “These grants will support veterans and their families by providing funding for activities and services that promote healthy and good quality lifestyles,” Mr Chester said.
Due to the overwhelming number of applications under the V&CG program, we have provided additional funding through the MHPE program for this round, with successful projects supporting the veteran community by encouraging involvement in community activities and physical activity, which in turn enhances mental wellbeing.”

The V&CG program supports organisations by providing funding for projects that sustain or enhance the health and wellbeing of the veteran community. The MHPE program has a range of similar outcomes and therefore additional funds could be sourced.
“The Federal Government is committed to putting veterans and their families first and through this round of funding we are able to recognise a range of local activities and services that will support the veteran community in living a healthier lifestyle,” Mr Chester said.
“Congratulations to the community and ex-service organisations that will receive funding to deliver activities and services to support the veteran community.”
To find out more information visit the Veteran and Community Grants program page on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website or visit the Community Grants Hub.

5 September 2019

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

Supporting Veterans’ Families This Legacy Week

SUPPORTING VETERANS’ FAMILIES THIS LEGACY WEEK

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TOMORROW marks the start of Legacy Week, the annual national appeal to support the families of veterans who have given their life or health for this country.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester will join Legacy Australia in officially launching this year’s Legacy Week at the Australian War Memorial and lay a wreath to acknowledge all families and reflect on the important role they play.

 “Tomorrow I have the privilege of representing the Australian   Government at the Australian War Memorial to help launch this very   important fundraising week for Legacy Australia,” Mr Chester said.
 “Families play a crucial part in supporting veterans, especially in challenging times, and they face their own unique challenges as a result of this,” Mr Chester said.
“It is important we all do our bit to help organisations like Legacy which is committed to looking after these families.
“Every year since 1942, Legacy volunteers across Australia fundraise for the families of veterans who have sacrificed so much during their service.
“The money raised will go towards helping the families of service personnel whose strength and resilience play a key part in offering support for veterans.
“I encourage everyone to support Legacy Week and buy a badge, and to think about how we can come together in our own community and support veterans and their families.”
Legacy Week will help around 60,000 beneficiaries through funding essential services and help provide educational resources to children. Legacy Week 2019 runs from Sunday, 1 September to Saturday, 7 September, with Badge Day on Friday, 6 September.
31 August 2019

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

Former deputy PM Tim Fischer dies

Much-loved former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died after a long battle with cancer. He died of acute leukaemia on Wednesday night. He was 73.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten said “Vale Tim Fischer. Doting dad and parent-carer, General Monash advocate, veteran, public servant, good Australian,”

Read other tributes here

Mr Fischer is survived by his wife, Judy, and sons Harrison and Dominic.

Opinion Ross Eastgate – Tim Fischer on course for his biggest victory

FORMER national serviceman and deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has been reported as being “gravely ill” in Albury hospital.

Mr Fischer, who as a 1RAR platoon commander fought in the Battle of Coral in Vietnam in May 1968, has made no secret of his decade-long battle with various cancers. His latest, possibly terminal battle is with acute myeloid leukaemia. He has previously battled bladder and prostate cancers and melanoma.

Tim Fischer claimed he was exposed in Vietnam to the defoliant Agent Orange, as were many of his mates.

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RCB Update 4/2019 – Action Changes Things

Facts from the Aust and Malaysian Governments’ records prove that RCB’s operational deployment (1970-1989) to protect the RAAF assets at Air Base Butterworth against the communist terrorists threat during Malaysia’s Counter Insurgency War (1968-1989) was warlike.

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Vietnam Veterans’ Day Address – Kel Ryan

Given at Goodna Brisbane 18 August 2019.

Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen, All

A special thank you and welcome to that dwindling band of warriors and spear carriers who fought in the Vietnam War.

It is a truism that the Gallipoli Campaign of the WW1 was central to defining Australia as a nation which stood ready to stand with allies on the battlefields across the globe. As this is so, the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan on the 18th August 1966 defined those men and women who fought in South Vietnam during the period of 1962 to 1974.

Please forgive me a moment to tell a personal ‘war story’ as a lead into my understanding of the Battle of Long Tan and of the men who fought there.   

I was called up in July 1965, in what was referred to as the First Intake of National Servicemen.  I arrived in South Vietnam in early May 1966 as, Regimental Number 3786861 Private K. D. Ryan Sir! I was a Rifleman in Nine (9) Section, 12 Platoon D Company 5 RAR. On 24th May 1966 D Company along with the rest of the Battalion was inserted by helicopter into the area known as Nui Dat, it was to become our base and a familiar geographic location all too quickly. 

This insertion was code named Operation Hardihood and was to last two weeks as we, and then 6 RAR, cleared the area of enemy in ever increasing circles. It was monsoonal as few of us had ever experienced, humidity, clay soil, rubber plantations, jungle, constant picquets, four hours sleep a night, constant movement, enemy sightings, enemy contacts, mosquitoes, strange noises at night, rotting clothing and swift running creeks and rivers. Very different from the training areas we had experienced just a short time ago. Those first two to three weeks were a test for us and sign of what the future was be.

Fast forward to 18 August. D Coy 5 RAR returned to Nui Dat base from a two-week operation. This involved securing and a cordon and search of Binh Ba, a Catholic village of 5,000 people to the north of Nui Dat.  This village was to be the scene of a major battle three years later.

As we were cleaning up and getting ready to attend a concert where Little Patti, all of 17 years of age, and Col Joy and the Joy Boys were performing, a battery of gun opened. Nothing strange! Then another battery began firing, then another and finally the American 155mm gun battery opened fire. A different sound and with this we knew that something serious was happening.

You would have to read the chronology of times and events to fully understand the chaotic nature of what transpired between 3.15pm when D Coy 6 RAR, comprising 108 men, entered the Long Tan Rubber and 7.10pm when relief in the form of A Coy 6 RAR and APCs arrived. In that time:

  1. D Coy fought an estimated 2,000 enemy. 
  2. Fought in torrential rain against constant human wave assaults from different directions of 100 to 200 NVA troops at a time.
  3. Many of the men ran out of ammunition.
  4. Platoons became separated from each other and from Company headquarters.
  5. Radio communications was lost at times as some radios were hit by gun fire.
  6. Individual soldiers became separated in the melee as leaders tried to keep their men together as they sought to move back toward company headquarters while under constant attack.
  7. Some wounded had to crawl back to where they thought the main body had moved to in the dark and torrential rain. Some had to play dead at times due to the proximity of the enemy.
  8. The RAAF helicopter pilots, and crew flew in ammunition in conditions unlike any they had ever experienced. Flying low they dropped the ammunition after identifying smoke was sighted.
  9. When the helicopters were in the air the guns had to stop firing for fear of knocking them out of the game.
  10.  Men on the Gun Line back at Nui Dat collapsed from exhaustion and from the toxic fumes which could not be dissipated because of the lack of wind.
  11. In all a total of 24 artillery guns were to fire over 3,000 rounds into the Long Tan rubber to save D Company 6 RAR. 

At 7.10pm the enemy began to disperse. D Coy 6 RAR regrouped slowly and along with those arriving from Nui Dat moved to a clearing just outside the rubber. Evacuation of the dead and wounded began with both Australian and American helicopters operating through the night.

But many men could not be accounted for – they were still in the rubber plantation!

At that point the Battle of Long Tan was thought to have been a disaster – a defeat.

105 Australians and three (3) New Zealanders entered the Long Tan Rubber at 3.15pm that day. 17 were KIA and 24 WIA. One member of 3 Troop I APC Squadron died of wounds some days later.

No one knew the extent of the enemy casualties.

While all of this was going on D Coy 5 RAR had been warned to move at first light on 19 August to fly to that same clearing.

To clear the battlefield D Coy 5 RAR and D Coy 6 RAR and elements of A Coy 6 RAR did a sweep through the Long Tan rubber plantation, on foot and in APCs. The primary task was to locate the missing Australians. This sweep began at 8.45am.

It slowly became evident that a major defeat had been inflicted on the enemy. The official enemy dead was put at 245 KIA. It is known that there were many more who died but the enemy carried them away to be buried elsewhere.

At 10.45am, as one writer commented, elements of D Coy 6 RAR “come across the final 11 Platoon position and discovered the remaining 13 missing, all dead, still in the firing positions with their fingers still on the triggers of their weapons, facing outwards towards the enemy. The rain has washed them clean and they all still seemed to be alive”.

D Coy 5 RAR moved through the rubber and slowly followed up the enemy for some days after that.

Having been a bit player in such an event I am often at a loss to describe it, to put into words the actions of the men of D Coy 6 RAR.

Truly, legends are made by brave and decent men.

To find these words I turn to that other defining event in Australian history – the Kokoda Campaign of WW2.

Between 26 – 31 August 1942 the Battle of Isurava took place along the Kokoda Track. It was a decisive battle as we fought to halt the Japanese advance toward Port Moresby. 99 Australians were killed and 111 wounded.

If you stand at the ISURAVA Memorial and look to the north, up the valley, with the ridge lines to the West and the East, with the EORA Creek, down below and to the East you can visualise where the Japanese came from.

The lessons I speak of are there to your front on four pillars that read:

COURAGE

ENDURANCE

MATESHIP

SACRIFICE

They are qualities that I see in the men of D Coy 6 RAR as they fought a decisive battle against an enemy determined to cause a humiliating defeat on the Australians.

Yes, war is terrible, and it invariably solves nothing. Out of it though we as a nation has gained, yet again, an example and qualities to live by:  

COURAGE – to venture beyond the norm

ENDURANCE – to remain focused on the end game.

MATESHIP – to tolerate and to respect those around us.

SACRIFICE – to accept disadvantage and discomfort.

To these qualities I would add – RESILENCE – these men stayed the course.

The Battle of Long Tan remains a defining event in our national story.