Infantry Anniversary Special Issue
November 2008

 

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Exercise Kakadu 2005

A Foreword by
His Excellency
Major General Michael Jeffery
AC CVO MC (RETD)
Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia
for the Royal Australian Infantry 60th Anniversary issue of CONTACT

...I know that this infantry edition of CONTACT will be enjoyed by former and current-serving Australian infantrymen and I hope it will also give families, friends and other members of the community an insight into this distinguished group of men who have given so much to our nation.


Exercise Kakadu 2005

Until 1950 the Defence Act precluded the raising of full-time or ‘standing’ infantry, armour or cavalry units in Australia.
In fact, when the Darwin Mobile Force was raised in 1939, ‘infantry’ soldiers were actually enlisted as artillerymen – even using the ranks of gunner and bombardier.
Legislation also prevented any soldier from serving overseas unless he specifi cally volunteered to do so. For this reason, after the outbreak of each of the World Wars, an Australian Imperial Force was raised on a volunteer basis for overseas service.
The perceived threat of Japanese invasion in 1942 did see Australian militia used overseas, but these were sent to carefully defi ned areas that were mostly Australian territories in Papua and New Guinea.
Australia fought the Second World War with three armies – the Permanent Military Forces (PMF), the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and the militia – each with its own conditions of service...


Exercise Kakadu 2005

WHAT KEEPS A TEAM TOGETHER DESPITE THE HARDSHIPS OF OPERATIONS AND THE WORRIES OF THE HOME FRONT?
When I received my skippy badge after fi nishing infantry IET at Singleton, I read its motto, “Duty First”. I heard the duty-fi rst call from angry sergeants dispelling whingeingdigger syndrome or at army history lectures but, at that time, I really didn’t
grasp or appreciate it. Even though I respected the badge’s signifi cance, the history behind it and the corps it represents, I felt I hadn’t done enough to understand the real sacrifi ces its motto engenders.
But that was then and this is now. I have seen what ‘duty first’ is all about.
I am not going to call them a platoon or even sections, for that would not do justice to the qualities that have developed over 15 months of training and operations together. I will simply call them a team, for they have all the qualities a winning team has – mateship, respect, motivation, professionalism, compassion, humour, unity and toughness – physical and mental.
I am writing about ‘the team’ because I am proud of them, not because they have done anything extraordinary, but because they did their job and did it well.
When the majority came together in September 2005, little did they know they wouldn’t be home until May 2007...

Words Private Jonathon Morison
Pics Corporal Ricky Fuller


CONTACT RA Inf Special Issue Nov 2008

When things went bad in East Timor in 1999, Australia was ready to react. Given the scale of the operation, the reaction was relatively swift – though, listening to the media, who wanted everything done ‘yesterday’, one might be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
One has to remember that nothing on this scale had been attempted by the Australian Defence Force since Vietnam.
We also went in as an Australian-led multinational force –although we had UN sanction, it was not a UN mission – which was also a unique experience for what was essentially a peacetime defence force depleted by evertightening
annual budgets. The Army in particular was the poor cousin at the budget table at that time.
None of this big-picture stuff meant much to the guys on the ground, however. They, as usual, were the mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed bullshit.
As a rifleman with 3RAR, Shane Van Duren was one of the soldiers on the bottom rung of the ladder, expected to hit the ground running, but with little solid info on what was actually going on.
But then, for he and his colleagues, that was nothing new...

Words Shane Van Duren and Brian Hartigan
Pics ADF


CONTACT RA Inf Special Issue Nov 2008

Shane Van Duren saw service as part of the International Force East Timor as a rifleman in 3RAR, and later joined the French Foreign Legion.
During a lengthy interview for another story in this special issue, I felt some of Shane’s insights on infantry life were too good to cull, yet didn’t quite fi t into the flow of that other story – ‘More arse than class; Timor and beyond’.
Here, therefore, is what Shane Van Duren sees as the essence of service and the high standards maintained by the Royal Australian Infantry Corps...

Words Shane Van Duren and Brian Hartigan
Pics ADF


CONTACT RA Inf Special Issue Nov 2008

It’s been said that you can sail past it, fly or drive over it, but the ground will never belong to you until an infantryman stands firm and digs a hole in it.
While respecting the other services and supporting corps, I must say I believe this statement is true and that even in the most non-conventional situations this is still and will probably always be the case.
But I’m also a firm believer in Mr Murphy, whose holy laws of combat don’t always shine down in favour of the lowly infantryman.
After two solid years of close-country and junglewarfare training with the 1st Battalion, I probably should have expected that we were going to be deployed to the desert in northern Africa – thanks Murphy.
From day one in country we did it all – humanitarian missions, defended water points, protected convoys, manned vehicle check points, kicked in some doors and yes, even dug a few holes...

Words AJ Shinner
Pics ADF and Shinner collection


CONTACT RA Inf Special Issue Nov 2008

Long Tan, Coral and Balmoral are names synonymous with Australian bravery and, in many cases, represent the full extent of general knowledge of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam.
However, during January and February 1968, Australian regular and national service soldiers fought another battle that could easily have gone down in the annals of history as one of the greatest engagements of the war, were it not overshadowed by the bigger picture of the first Tet Offensive.
Operation Coburg was another in a long series of Australian search-and-destroy missions designed primarily to protect the American base at Bien Hoa.
Three Australian infantry battalions – 2RAR, 3RAR and 7RAR – were involved in Operation Coburg and all three saw heavy and prolonged fighting over the course of the operation from 24 January to 1 March 1968...

Words Brian Hartigan
Pics Supplied by Mark Moloney


CONTACT RA Inf Special Issue Nov 2008

It was 1968 in the Republic of South Vietnam and I was on active service with 1st Battalion the Royal Australian Regiment – 1RAR – as a rifle-company commander.
We were proud of our battalion. Initially raised in Morotai for occupation duties in Japan, we had already seen active service in Korea, Malaya and an earlier tour of Vietnam, the latter in 1965.
Our battalion was, in many respects, like a large family – I had known and served with my sergeant major on and off for 15 years and knew many others as well. Half of our soldiers were national servicemen – all of them good young men who came with us willingly, worked hard and bonded as mates as only infantry soldiers can. We were very pleased with them, and their grandfathers would have liked them for what they were too.
My advance party had arrived at Nui Dat around mid March, settled in and been on several interesting operations into Baria with 7RAR, who we were relieving.
With the main body in place, we commenced zeroing our weapons, attended intelligence briefings and kept up a constant patrol programme outside the wire...

Words Colin Adamson
Pics ADF and AWM


CONTACT RA Inf Special Issue Nov 2008

In the early 1980s, the Army began to pay more attention to the northern regions of the nation and eventually raised Regional Force Surveillance Units, based on a squadron/troop structure, in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and north Queensland. RFSUs were created with the aim of filling a gap in the ground surveillance capability of Australia’s northern defence.
It was recognised that a force operating in this austere environment would require special knowledge and skills that regular forces do not readily possess and so, a key feature of the RFSU concept was the valuable contribution
that Indigenous people could make to the Defence of Australia, as they did during WWII.
Many Indigenous communities are located in remote areas or close to remote vital assets and, as such, can provide invaluable local knowledge to RFSU patrols operating right across the north and west of the continent.
For a number of reasons, the Pilbara Regt has been less active in the employment of Indigenous people, however NORFORCE and 51FNQR boast a high percentage of Indigenous members – 25 to 35 per cent and 45 to 58 per cent respectively. The RFSUs have the highest Indigenous representation of any other ADF organisation, and possibly any other Australian Government agency outside of ATSIC.
It is now well accepted that many Indigenous people, and indeed non-Indigenous people living in remote Australia are not able to meet the strict criteria for enlistment and service in the wider ADF. Literacy, numeracy and health standards preclude many from meeting these stringent requirements. However, to follow these standards rigorously would deny the RFSUs access to a large portion of a sparse recruiting base, effectively negating the original concept...


CONTACT RA Inf Special Issue Nov 2008

East Timor was only my second ever ‘real’ callout. The first happened in 1998. Operation Brancard saw the mighty 12 Platoon – ‘The Dirty Dozen’ – D Coy, 2RAR, deploy to RAAF Base Darwin, with elements of 4 Field Battery, ready
to conduct a servicesassisted evacuation of Australian citizens from Indonesia.
Like so many previous callouts for the longer-serving members of the platoon, Op Brancard resulted in the Dirty Dozen returning to Townsville when the weekend was over and the RAAF had returned to work.
We had no stories to tell from that first outing other than of sneaking into town in PT gear for some beers in downtown Darwin (yes Brady, I knew where you were!)...
So, when 2RAR went into lockdown in September 1999 for a battalion callout, I thought it might be Op Brancard revisited. Then the media coverage really started to intensify.
Coverage of the failing UNAMET (United Nations Mission in East Timor) and the escalating violence, particularly in Dili, looked serious.
Suddenly, there was a real feeling that the whole battalion might actually be going somewhere

Words Adam Rankin
Pics Supplied by Adam Rankin, and ADF


CONTACT RA Inf Special Issue Nov 2008

It’s early spring 2008, close to the Baluchi Pass in southern Afghanistan. Australian infantry, providing security to engineers building a patrol base, are out of their pits and moving. 7 Platoon, Charlie Company, 2RAR – the Unforgiven – are on patrol.
Only days ago, Charlie Company backed by cavalry, bushmasters and mortars, fought the enemy to a standstill here in a series of defensive actions that saw the entire battle group dig in. 9 Platoon – the Bad Tourists – took the brunt of the first attack and 7 Platoon repelled the final assault. The Taliban extremists had, as the official account said, ‘rolled the dice and lost’.
Today, Lieutenant Ben Watson is pushing his troops hard before they pull out and return to Australia after a tough six-month rotation. They patrolled last night, they patrolled this morning, they’ll patrol again tonight – and they’re patrolling now.
In denying enemy the initiative and freedom of movement, they’re doing what Australians have done on defensive operations since WWI – dominating the operating environment.
For the Unforgiven, that’s nothing new.
They spent the winter securing the high reaches of the Chora Valley through the harshest conditions in living memory, according to the locals, while the Taliban extremists laid low, enabling the Aussie engineers and locals to build Forward Operating Base Locke, right in the face of an enemy reluctant to fight...

Words Al Green
Pics ADF


Plus...

  • News
  • Photos
  • Bardia Barracks - the Ingleburn Connection
  • RAR Battalion histories
  • Infantry Corps Structure