Today marks the 25th anniversary of the commencement of Australia’s contribution to peacekeeping operations in Somalia – Operation Solace.
FILE PHOTO: Private AJ Shinner, 1RAR, stands guard over a food-distribution point near Baidoa. Photo by Corporal Gary Ramage – 21 Jan 1993.
In late 1992 a catastrophic humanitarian disaster compounded by a complete breakdown in civil order plunged Somalia into chaos
In response to the crisis Australia deployed forces from all three Australian Defence Force services in contribution to the Unified Task Force – Somalia (Unitaf), arriving in Mogadishu in January 1993.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Michael McCormack says close to 1000 Australian personnel, centred on the Army’s 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), with significant contributions from a number of other units [see more detailed synopsis below].
“The Royal Australian Navy deployed HMAS Tobruk and HMAS Jervis Bay with both ships providing important logistical support,” Mr McCormack said.
“Elements of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) were used to move the Australian forces to and from the conflict area and conducted regular resupply missions.
“RAAF personnel also served in Somalia as air-traffic controllers and in airfield management roles.
“Members of the Australian Army were deployed to the town of Baidoa about 240km north-west of Mogadishu, where banditry and warlord intimidation were rife.
“Australians were successful at fostering and protecting humanitarian-relief efforts and won international praise for their efforts in trying to restore law and order and re-establishing functional legal, social and economic systems.
“The lessons learnt from working with non-government organisations, building local security infrastructure and enabling local community governance continue to inform the Australian Defence Forces’ humanitarian and counter-insurgency operations today.”
Mr McCormack said more than 1500 Australians served in Somalia from 1992-94.
“One Australian soldier – infantryman Lance Corporal Shannon McAliney was accidentally killed on 2 April 1993 – and four others were wounded or injured.
“We remember Lance Corporal McAliney especially today and pay tribute to his service and sacrifice,” Mr McCormack said.
“His efforts are particularly significant to me as Forbes, his birthplace, is in my electorate and has given mightily to the military efforts of this nation right back to the Second Boer War.”
He said the government had provided nearly $29,000 to assist 1RAR and the Australian Naval Association to commemorate this anniversary.
“Australia has a proud history of peacekeeping having participated in multinational peacekeeping operations since the first intervention in the Dutch East Indies in 1947.
“Our Defence Force has made a significant contribution to worldwide peace operations and today we recognise the peacekeepers who served in Somalia and those who continue to serve in countries around the world.”
The Australia infantry battalion group totalled 990 personnel and was based around 1RAR, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel David Hurley and augmented by APCs and personnel from B Squadron, 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment; a civil and military operations team based on 107th Field Battery; engineers from the 17th Field Troop of the 3rd Combat Engineering Regiment; signallers from the 103rd Signals Squadron; Intelligence personnel; the 7th Electronic Warfare Squadron; and a support unit based on the 3rd Brigade Administrative Support Battalion.
This augmented battalion group was deployed in January and brought home again in May.
A small contingent of Australians stayed however, in HQ and support roles.
In April 1994 a 10-man patrol from the SASR was flown to Mogadishu to protect the remaining contingent, which by then was down to 67 people.
The last Australian contingent finally withdrew in November 1994 followed in March 1995 by the remaining UN forces, after suffering significant casualties and unable to restore order or peace.
Two friends of CONTACT contributed a very significant series of first-hand recollections of their time spent in Somalia. First was Wayne Cooper, a crew commander in a 3/4Cav APC who contributed 16 feature-length articles over the first four years of CONTACT’s existence.
Wayne then passed the baton to AJ Shinner, a digger with 1RAR (main photo above), who ran with his recollections of the mission for a further 12 issues – creating between them what must surely be one of the finest collections of front-line memoirs of any modern operation.
You can find AJ’s first article here, with four more thus-far archived on our web site (the rest to follow in due course)(and all 28 paper-based magazines still available for sale – including a secret stash of #12, which is listed as sold out).
We take this opportunity to say ‘happy anniversary’ to Wayne and AJ and to reiterate our undying gratitude for their contributions to and support of CONTACT over many years.