Appointment RAR’s Regimental Colonel – Brigadier Jason Blain DSC CSC

In 2018, Brigadier Blain had the great honour of assuming regimental appointments as the Head of Corps of the Royal Australian Infantry and Regimental Colonel of the Royal Australian Regiment. He is also a director on the board of the Royal Australian Regiment Foundation and has a strong interest in the wellbeing and resilience of serving members and veterans.

He was born in Mossman, North Queensland, and completed his schooling in Ingham. After attaining a Bachelor of Arts he attended the Royal Military College Duntroon, graduating into the Royal Australian Infantry Corps in 1991.

During his career, Brigadier Blain has served in a wide range of regimental and staff appointments including three years as a career adviser in the Directorate of Officer Career Management–Army, for which he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross .

As an Infantry officer he has commanded at all levels within the Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) and was privileged to be the Commanding Officer of the 6th Battalion from 2008 to 2009.

Brigadier Blain’s operational experience includes company command in East Timor, and service in Afghanistan.  During 2007 he served as an operations officer in the Headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. From January to June 2010 he commanded Mentoring Task Force One (MTF-1) in Uruzgan Province. In recognition of sustained outstanding service by the men and women of MTF-1 during an intensive operational tour the task force was awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation. From July to October 2010 he served as the inaugural Deputy Commander of Combined Team Uruzgan. For his 2010 service in Afghanistan Brigadier Blain was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

 

 

 

 

Following on from his operational experience and on promotion to Colonel in 2011, he was tasked with establishing ‘Diggerworks’ within the Defence Materiel Organisation. The role of Diggerworks was to design, test and deliver improved and integrated combat equipment for our deployed men and women.

In 2013 he was seconded to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as the Senior Adviser for Defence Policy and Operations. He was posted to Army Headquarters in 2014 as the Director of Military Commitments where he was responsible for Army’s support to operations and preparedness requirements.

In 2015 Brigadier Blain attended the Defence and Strategic Studies Course in Canberra and on promotion to Brigadier in 2016, he was appointed as the inaugural Director General of the Force Options and Plans Branch in Defence’s new Force Design Division. In this role he is responsible for identifying capability and joint force structure requirements and designing the future force through the conduct of evidence-based analysis and assessment.

Brigadier Blain holds a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Management and is a graduate of the Australian Command and Staff Course (2003), the Australian Institute of Company Directors (2012), the Indian Army Higher Defence Orientation Course (2014), and the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies (2015).

He is married to Susan and they have a daughter attending university and a son in high school. He enjoys military history, cricket, rugby league, and working on his fishing skills.

The RAR Association welcomes Brigadier Blain to his appointments and wishes him continued success. 
DUTY FIRST

Indigenous Service Honoured During Reconciliation Week

IN recognition of National Reconciliation Week, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester has highlighted new research offering fresh insights into the personal experiences and challenges of Indigenous Australians during the First World War.


Mr Chester said National Reconciliation Week was an opportunity to reflect on the contribution of Indigenous men and women to military service throughout a Century of Service and shine a light on the unique challenges experienced by Indigenous soldiers returning from the First World War.

“Indigenous Australians have served our nation in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations since the Boer War in South Africa from 1899–1902. It’s estimated that at least 1,000 Indigenous Australians served in the First World War, despite regulations that discouraged their enlistment,” Mr Chester said.
“Indigenous men were excluded from military service in Australia until May 1917 and popular thinking is that most enlisted after this date. But new research undertaken by Indigenous historian professor John Maynard and Indigenous academic Mick Dodson suggests that the majority of Aboriginal soldiers enlisted from 1914 to 1916.
“Latest research has found that these soldiers were ‘inventive and proactive’ in finding ways to sign up. They moved to enlist from areas where they felt there was greater support for Indigenous people and they took on other racial identities such as South Sea Islander or Maori.”

The research shows that many Indigenous men encountered ‘official obstruction’ but this did not stop them from serving with courage and pride.
According to findings, the majority of Indigenous men who volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force stated they were employed as stockmen, labourers, shearers and farmhands. But there were other occupations noted, including oyster merchant, journalist, dental mechanic, clerk and plumber.
“Given they were already employed, income was not a likely reason for joining. The research suggests that Indigenous men most likely signed up for similar varied reasons as non-Indigenous men. Service was an opportunity for travel and adventure and to demonstrate their belief in the war effort and their loyalty to the British Empire.”
For those who served in war, returning to Australian society proved difficult. Based on the research, some never returned to their communities and families, preferring isolation, while others became activists for Aboriginal advancement in the 1920s or re-enlisted in the Second World War.

Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to stop, pause and reflect with gratitude on the service and sacrifice of Indigenous service men and women.

27 May 2018

Opinion – Tragic legacy of deaths in training

Battlefield deaths are sadly inevitable, perhaps acceptable, but usually explicable. They come with the turf. They always affect those who were there and have a profound, lingering effect on next of kin, family and friends.

Deaths during military training are an entirely different matter, particularly when described as “accidents”. There is no such thing as an accident. There is either an unsafe condition or an unsafe act or a combination of both.

1RAR family prepares for changing of colours

THERE are few more important occasions in the life of a military unit than the presentation of new colours. For infantry battalions particularly colours are a proud tradition, the richly embroidered silk banners once a rallying point amid battle’s tumult.

Off the battlefield they were a pocket history of the unit’s traditions and achievements.

Victoria Crosses have been awarded to ensigns – the specific rank given to officers carrying unit colours – who died defending those colours or who saved them at great personal risk.

Now their value is purely symbolic but they remain powerful symbols in regimental affairs.

In a customary ceremony next Wednesday <16 May> the First Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment will receive new colours from the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove.

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The Government’s Rebuttal of RCB’s Claim

Our letter to all Parliamentarians dated 2 February 2018 has finally resulted in this formal decision reply from Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO CSC  Vice Chief of the Defence Force  (VCDF), on behalf of the Government.

“…These successive reviews have determined that ADF service at Butterworth during the period 1970 to 1989, including that of the RCB, does not meet the criteria for classification as warlike service. Therefore, consistent with the findings of these independent reviews, and with the position of successive Coalition and Labor Governments, I consider that all ADF service at Butterworth, including RCB service, is appropriately classified as peacetime service. Further, as RCB service has already been examined by several independent reviews, I am satisfied that further consideration of the classification of ADF service in Malaysia is not warranted…”

LETTER – 180417 – VCDF – Response letter to Mr Robert Cross regarding Rifle Company Butterworth – UNCLASSIFIED

The RCB Review Group does not accept the decision and intends to rebut it and its reasons publicly with evidence that will  expose both the truth of the deployment as warlike service and the deception perpetrated by Australian governments on the troops and their families and the Australian public.

 

Vietnam Veterans’ Bravery Recognised on Eve of 50th Anniversary – Coral-Balmoral Battle

It’s taken almost half a century but Australian forces who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War are finally to be recognised for their bravery.

Soldiers who resisted attack at the Battle of Coral-Balmoral,  which claimed 26 Australian lives, learnt on Thursday they were to be honoured with a Unit Citation for Bravery. The recommendation comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the battle on the weekend of May 12-13.

The Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal posted the decision on its website on Thursday morning, stating that members had arrived at the recommendations unanimously.

It said: ‘Throughout the submissions the theme of teamwork and collective gallantry is readily apparent and consistently referenced.

The message to the Tribunal from all of the veterans of the battles was that, regardless of corps and parent unit, they had fought as a coordinated group and that everybody who was there deserve recognition.’

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Read the DHAAT Report and its five recommendations here

Read the Sydney Morning Herald’s article here

ANZAC Gallipoli Archaeology Database

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester today announced the Anzac Gallipoli Archaeological Database, which was created by the University of Melbourne.
“This remarkable database will add new layers of insight into our understanding of the Gallipoli battlefields,” Mr Chester said.
I commend the work of the University of Melbourne in creating this database. In particular I acknowledge the Joint Historical Archaeological Survey team who worked for many years to precisely record the details of the some 2,000 objects and features they located in their study.”
The database will be an important legacy of the work of the tri-nation Joint Historical Archaeological Survey, the Australian component of which was funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
“I have no doubt the Anzac Gallipoli Archaeological Database will be of great value to researchers and the broader community,” Mr Chester said
“The Joint Historical Archaeological Survey was a significant project in the Anzac Centenary, and this database will ensure the findings of the extensive fieldwork are easily accessible to all Australian, New Zealand and Turkish people.
“I encourage all Australians to take the time to browse the database and gain a deeper understanding of the Gallipoli campaign through a unique and fascinating resource.”

The Anzac Gallipoli Archaeological Database can be accessed on the University of Melbourne website.

The Anzac Gallipoli Archaeological Database (AGAD) is a unique digital archive of the results of five seasons of archaeological survey of the World War 1 battlefield at Anzac on the Gallipoli peninsular, Turkey. It includes over 2000 records of precisely documented artefacts and features from both Turkish and Allied (Anzac) areas of the battlefield and provides a unique perspective on both sides of the conflict. AGAD aims to contribute to the study of World War I through its emphasis on landscape and artefacts.

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TPI Victoria Inc. – ‘The Victoria Cross, Australia Remembers’ Queensland Presentations

“The Victoria Cross Australia Remembers” written by Award Winning Author, Michael C. Madden. Queensland Presentations.

The work that has gone into the book “The Victoria Cross Australia Remembers” is mind-boggling.

It took nearly four years to write and go to print. It contains over 150,000 words and 1000 photographs. Sixty families of Victoria Cross recipients were interviewed.

Michael Madden and photographer Gordon Traill were invited to Windsor Castle to view the proto type Victoria Cross medal for approval by Queen Victoria  in 1856. They were also invited to Shropshire Department of Defence facility to view the metal that is used to produce the Victoria Cross medals.

The presentations dates/times and locations are

Friday 27th April, Queensland Book Signing and Presentation will be at the Currumbin RSL – Morning Tea Presentation – 10:00am – 3:00pm.

‘The Victoria Cross Australia Remembers’ – Currumbin RSL Flyer

Saturday 28th April, Book Signing and Presentation will be at the Kedron-Wavell Services Club 11:00am – 3:00pm.
(21 Kittyhawk Drive, Chermside South, Qld, 4032.

‘The Victoria Cross Australia Remembers’ – Kedron-Wavell Services Club F…

 

BATTLE OVER THE ART OF WAR

Soldiering has no place for the faint-hearted. In its tight, robust world, the men and women of our armed forces look death in the eye in jungles and muddy fields; they live with bare rations and without home comforts; they sleep uneasily under the stars; and they get bombed, shot at and killed.

They are a unique bunch, perhaps best described by celebrated World War I official correspondent Charles Bean when asked to define the Anzacs: “Anzac stood and still stands for reckless valour in a good cause — for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never own defeat.”

Surely then, these unique men and women of reckless valour are entitled to define themselves within their myriad sections, units, specialties and skill sets, by the use of esoteric, even ethereal images, designed and created as a means of bonding bodies and minds that depend on each other in the most mortal manner.

It happens in the corporate world. Company logos carry instant branding and messages about who we are and what we stand for. But according to last week’s decree by Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, who will take over as chief of defence when Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin steps down in July, it is no longer acceptable for Australian Army units to involve death and destruction in its symbols.

This is a politically correct move that sits uneasily with those involved in the business of death and destruction. It has been widely condemned by the men and women war fighters who live in and by the cultures of the defence forces and the subcultures of their units.

 

Campbell issued his directive last week shortly after it was announced that he was being promoted from Chief of Army to chief of defence. The directive applies only to army units.

Banned are “symbols of death” such as skulls and crossbones, the Phantom, the Punisher, Spartans or the Grim Reaper, in patches, badges or imagery.

Campbell says the “display or adoption of symbols, emblems and iconography is at odds with the army’s values and the ethical force we seek to build and sustain”.

“Such symbology is never presented as ill-intentioned and plays to much of modern popular culture, but it is always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the inculcation of an arrogant hubris and general disregard for the most serious responsibility of our profession, the legitimate and discriminate taking of life,” he said.

Death Smackdown is on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey.
Death Smackdown is on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey.

“As soldiers our purpose is to serve the state, employing violence with humility always and compassion wherever possible. The symbology to which I refer erodes this ethos of service.”

No doubt Campbell chose his words carefully. It is worth focusing on some of them. He speaks of the army’s values and ethics. Here it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he is playing to the politically correct civilian brigade and is seeking to sanitise war.

It’s one thing for a static peacetime army to live harmoniously within the communities surrounding its bases and quite another to participate in the horrors of war.

War is hell, as we are reminded forcefully this Anzac week. Those who lived through the mud, slush, exploding shells and hellish butchery of the Western Front are unlikely to be moved by the sophisticated modern-day call for the army to have values and ethics.

Men on the battlefield are trained not to question the rights and wrongs of orders or whether they are value-tested or ethically pure. In the words of poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “theirs not to reason why; theirs but to do or die”.

Death and war go hand-in-hand. Yet, according to a Defence Department spokesman, the most important thing is to ensure that all army symbols “align with army values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork”, adding that “death symbology demonstrates a general disregard for the most serious responsibility of the army’s profession — the legitimate and discriminate taking of life”.

“It all goes towards fostering camaraderie and bonding”

When the ultimate outcome is the taking of lives, albeit legally, it is hardly surprising that those asked to perform that duty see themselves as different and out of the ordinary.

That, in turn, creates an entirely understandable esprit de corps among the troops. They rely on each other for their lives; they bond and share a camaraderie that seeks expression through symbols that proclaim instant identity and shared experiences.

Campbell is savvy enough to know there would be objections to his directive, saying he appreciated that “some will rile at this direction, but I am adamant that this is right for the army”.

Skip Telford is one former army engineer who disagrees and hopes that common sense will prevail. Telford, 71, who served with the 1 Field Squadron in Vietnam, says he can’t see the point of the directive.

“There’s nothing wrong with images of war,” he says. “They’ve done stuff like this in all wars … my dad, who fought in New Guinea, had a patch with a skull and crossbones on it.

“It all goes towards fostering camaraderie and bonding — and that can last well beyond the war.”

Telford, from Yankalilla in South Australia, is a member of the Veterans Motorcycle Club whose logo depicts a skull bearing a slouch hat.

The use of symbolism in war has been going on for eons. Most images have sought to invoke fear, aggression and strength and to encourage civilian capitulation. Swords, daggers, crossed rifles, two-headed eagles and skulls and crossbones appear in military iconography across the world.

The US is the home of modern military iconography. It is a tradition that began in World War I when artillerymen signed bombs and shells with chalk, with mes­sages such as “Merry Christmas Kaiser Bill”.

Nose art on a Boeing Flying Fortress bomber used in World War II.
Nose art on a Boeing Flying Fortress bomber used in World War II.

There was never any hope that the message would be received among the exploding shell and shrapnel fragments, but photographs of the shells before they were fired proved to be good propaganda. The habit took off in World War II when aircraft routinely was adorned with names and artwork. US pilots were encouraged to put their names on their assigned aircraft along with bomb symbols to denote how many missions had been undertaken. The aircraft that dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima carried the name Enola Gay, chosen by pilot Paul Tibbets to honour his mother.

Tibbets, out of respect for his mother, chose not to add an image of a scantily clad woman on the nose of his B-29 bomber. But he was unusual; images of curvy, pneumatic women in the 1940s style adorned most bomber aircraft noses along with names such as Memphis Belle, Avenging Angels, Night Mission or Sheer Madness. Fighter pilots, with less space to work with, often contented themselves with depictions of sharp teeth on the air intakes of aircraft such as Mustangs.

This form of art was encouraged because it promoted a sense of belonging. The tradition continues today when patches are issued for just about every conceivable reason — even test flights of new aircraft. Hundreds of them are available online, along with offers to create a patch to mark any event.

Popular culture has contributed myriad images ranging from the Grim Reaper to movie characters such as Darth Vader, the Simpsons or Disney cartoon favourites such as Goofy. Many carry inspirational messages, such as “We will not falter. We will not fail”, but some attempt a darker sense of humour.

A patch issued after the first Gulf war carries the slogan “Desert Storm — Iraqi Urban Renewal”.

Another, depicting testi­cles caught in a steel-gloved hand, declares, “To err is human — to forgive is not SAC (Strategic Air Command) policy”. Yet another, commemorating behind-the-border activities in Pakistan, carries the image of the Punisher with the words, “God will judge our enemies. We will arrange the meeting.”

By comparison, official Australian logos are tame. Our most elite fighting force, the Special Air Service, displays a simple dagger with wings.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly what Campbell wants to stamp out. A photograph of posthumous VC winner Cameron Baird wearing green and black face paint in a likeness of the Punisher on display at the Australian War Memorial would appear to fall foul of the ban. But AWM head and former defence minister Brendan Nelson declared he would not remove or alter the image, adding it would be “removed over my dead body”.

A Punisher symbol on an RAAF E-7A Wedgetail.
A Punisher symbol on an RAAF E-7A Wedgetail.

The Royal Australian Air Force, which is outside the army directive, has the Punisher death symbol on the nose of its new early-warning Wedgetail surveillance aircraft operating over Iraq and Syria as part of the coalition battling Islamic State fighters.

An image of the aircraft on the Defence Department’s public affairs website highlights the confusion over how the new rules are to be applied.

Retired brigadier Geoff Hand, former commander of the 13th Brigade based in Perth, says he believes Campbell is walking a tightrope between the war-fighting men and women of the army and the bureaucratic end of the organisation, which is much more exposed to the pressures of political correctness.

Hand says there are tensions between society’s values and concerns relating to the army being in good stead to fight a war and the army’s values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork.

Posthumous Victoria Cross recipient Cameron Baird with his war paint on.
Posthumous Victoria Cross recipient Cameron Baird with his war paint on.

“The defence force values are not necessarily shared by some of the subcultures within the younger men and women of the war-fighting units,” he says. “What Angus is doing is trying to take away the nasty edge of some of the subcultures.

“If this nasty element were evident only in the barracks, Angus could look the other way. But he is in a position where he has to deal as much with the political class, where political correctness is part of the daily grind, as he does with the war-fighting elements,” Hand says.

“These two worlds, normally kept apart, have come together. Wider society has to accept it needs to toughen up and support its war-fighting capabilities — and our military personnel are very good at it — and the war fighters have to accept their leaders’ need to keep a close eye on society’s culture.

“There is room to move on both sides. There is a need to find the middle ground.”

Perhaps Campbell has already arrived at this conclusion. Yesterday he appeared to waver from his adamant belief that his directive was right for the army when it was confirmed that commanding officers had been told they could apply to the Chief of Army to seek exemptions allowing them to retain symbols or icons that would have been covered by the original directive.

That may not be a full backdown, but it appears to recognise that there has been no demonstrable harm done by existing iconography, even if it breaches the new guidelines.

The Australian  By 

 

Opinion – Campbell off to Poor Start

IF General Angus Campbell had hoped for a smooth transition to his well deserved new role an ill conceived decision has put paid to that.

Campbell is widely regarded as an outstanding candidate for the role, including by predecessor General Peter Cosgrove.

Campbell is a taciturn soldier who brings combat experience with a considered intellect to his role.

His appointment canvassed hope he would end the Morrison era ideological and social engineering nonsense which has so annoyed the majority of serving and ex-army veterans.

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