Open letter to Chief of Army re death symbology ban
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The following is an open letter to Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, Chief of Army, in response to his directive banning “death symbology/iconography” – see details of that directive HERE.
Thanks to the ‘digger net’, I have read with great disappointment the message and direction you have recently released with regards to what most diggers and veterans would describe as a ‘soft politically correct militarily’ stance on the wearing of what you call death iconology (on platoon PT gear, apparel etc). As a soldier that served under you at the 2nd Battalion, it only disappointments me even further to read of this. Going the next step, the fact you yourself are an Infantry Soldier…my head spins with confusion!
I have read your statement multiple times to try make some sense of it. I found it so left of field and farcical; I thought it was actually a hoax? But now, I am just left wondering as to the levels of stupidity that this order can be interpreted or enforced. Humour me for a minute Sir, and let’s use the 2nd Battalion as an example. You’re calling these images death iconology. I ask you to consider the following. Have you seen the movie Jaws, based on a big nasty evil killer shark indiscriminately eating everyone in its path? Does the proud heritage of the Bravo Company Men and their Company logo of a Circling Shark disappear forever? I was a proud member of the Zulu’s whilst I served in Delta Company and in Afghanistan. Are these vicious killer savages too much to handle for the precious modern day Army? The popular TV show, Game of Thrones features fire breathing dragons that kill small children. Are the Charlie Company men and their Company Image of a Dragon going to give you nightmares? What about the2/4RAR Delta Company Road Runner? He without remorse affected the murdered of Wiley Coyote multiple times. Is this feathered beast from the depths of hell a concern to you and the public? Are you starting see the point here Sir? Even if we duck over the road to our brothers in arms at the 1st Battalion. They proudly have The Immortals, The Rebels, The Body Snatchers, The Dirty Dozen and The Morticians.
Let’s not forget my beloved Mortar Platoon, the most senior Platoon in the Battalion. Our emblem is the Grim Reaper, with the words “Dealers in Death”. I can tell you this with great certainty…the 1000s MAGGOTS that served in that Platoon will hand over their Reaper Shirts the day the Devil snowboards down the slopes of hell. Years of pride and history, gone because it’s allegedly offensive? Other than you Sir, offensive to who? Name the offended people or the group? I will bet you every cent I own the offended are the minority! Sounds much like modern day society to me?
Finally Sir, I draw your attention to the most feared emblem of violence, death, terror and war that’s currently used in the military. It just so happens to be the most revered and coveted of them all as well! You wear it; I am very fortune along with 1000s of others to have the honour and privilege of wearing it, The Infantry Combat Badge (ICB). A badge based around the bayonet, the most feared and gruesome up close and personal weapon on the battlefield. An emblem or icon that is matched by no other and has no other purpose in its existence other than inflicting extreme pain, bone chilling physical and psychological fear in your enemy and of course horrific death. Yet as Infantrymen, not only do we wear it with pride, it’s worn as the centre of importance above our medals on our ceremonial uniforms and suits! Men have it tattooed on them, flags of it fly in man caves and sheds, shirts and hats are emblazoned proudly with it. Are you going to ask the RSM Ceremonial to ban the ICB? This is the most violent emblem of death there is in our Military? Are you getting it yet, Sir?
The Army, in particular the Infantry, are a fighting force designed to kill! We are not and never should be a reflection of society, we are trained and programmed that way. Although it seems every effort is being made at the top levels to denigrate combat effectiveness, but that’s a discussion for another time. Colonel Tim Collins, a former CO of The Royal Irish has summed it up best for me…
“The Army has been taken over by the PC Brigade and it is putting lives at risk!”
Any decision you make Sir that denigrates the morale of the enlisted, flows on and denigrates combat power! A fighting unit with low morale and less than effective combat power…I don’t need to paint that picture for you. But it goes hand in hand with writing heart breaking letters to families! At present Sir, this decision is the most talked about thing in veteran forums at the moment…and in no way have I seen any remotely close to positive feedback, either on the decision itself or you personally. Any respect you wish to garner or grow of the enlisted men and women during your tenure as CDF is gone with this terrible idea. I doubt you will ever get it back.
I have no idea if this open letter will reach you. If it does, good. I do genuinely hope my comments are not taken in offense, as that has not been my intent at all. During my service I was never known for tact or manners. I was respected by my peers and subordinates for my brutal honesty and my willingness to call a spade a spade and if needed, to call it a useless bloody shovel!
Justin Huggett MG
Former 2RAR Platoon Sgt.
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10 thoughts on “Open letter to Chief of Army re death symbology ban”
Could it be that Lt-Gen Campbell’s directive against “death symbology and iconography” is a
defensive pre-emptive strike in the coming public relations battle which will ensue when the inquiry
into possible breaches of the laws of armed conflict by members of the ADF is eventually released?
The irony… from a man who accepted a distinguished service cross for ‘distinguished leadership in action’, but has never been in action…
Angus Seriously? First week on the job and you alienate everyone, why don’t you just openly declare your support for the Greens Party, take away all weapons from our armed forces and replace them with ‘negotiation skills classes’. Very disappointed in your leadership skills Sir, even more in your level of EQ, support and understanding of those that serve.
Offended, hell yes. Starting with the Rising Sun badge, a collection of bayonets made for maiming and killing, far more confronting than a skeleton or part thereof. Then of course there is the badge of the Royal Reg’t of Australian Artillery, an affront to every non thinking minority and professional offence taker. That badge is quite clearly an offensive phallic symbol if ever there was one and should be done away with post haste, along with the Armoured Corp symbol of a great big butch brute of a tank that would be enough to put the wind up anyone with the obviously delicate sensibilities of the senior Canberra based officer corps. (Or is this so called leader of men, like several recently before him, simply trying to make his mark and appear relevant in his new job)
SVN 66 & 69
To me our defence force has been infiltrated with a lot of pansies that have made it all the way to the top. No doubt their appointment to top positions have come from likewise imbecilic politicians of the same calibre. Where the hell do we find good soldiers today when most TRUE diggers wouldn’t follow some of our so called Top Brass to a Fn football match let alone into battle. We need to get our military back to a high standard with NO WEAK LINKS before we lose it all together. Our defence is suppose to be a fighting force not some circus run by clowns.
The next step will be a return to Injured ,passed away and missing rather than WIA, KIA and missing
in action. Mr Campbell, he does not deserve to be called a leader of men, is a true symbol of the pussy whipped generation.
I think drawing the comparison between the ICB and The Punisher is a bit of a stretch. As is the comparison to current approved symbols and crests.
Whilst this is potentially damaging to morale, team building and feelings, I think the biggest focus is the damage to Velcro patch makers in Australia and the world over. Most of their effort revolves around shit-stirring patches.
Years ago as medics we wore Pirates on our treatment section T-shirts. Didn’t make us better medics.
I was also reminded of Cameron Baird VC’s image as well. It is hard to challenge such a representation, if at all. I think though, this fine soldier is best represented by his unimaginable efforts as a brave man, not the patches or symbolism he wore.
In the past, a boxing kangaroo in khaki would’ve sufficed. Somehow we have evolved where symbols of unity, cause, operation all become valuable tool. Look how censorship even goes to the extreme of blurring out these patches of release of SOF media.
Don’t play the man on this. Don’t even hark political correctness. There was a time where LtGen Campbell was lauded for his background and suitability for the roles he holds. Now over a bunch of symbols he is lesser of a man?
Fight this by all means. Just do so with a bit of nous.
I completly agree with Justin and others. Bowing to political correctness every night on tv makes me sick so when our military leaders do it I get angry.(I just hope chief of army Angus Campbell had a bloody good reason)
Ex 2/4 C SPT A Coy & SASR
I have deployed many times and often under various symbols which were used to rally a sense of pride, part of a select team and member of a great bunch of men. Each time I deployed, I didn’t find an urge to “Do more harm” or “Act without Remorse” simply because the Unit/Company/Teams symbol was used by a movie or an act of history.
I find it offensive and sad that Mr Campbell would use these symbols, dating back to the heart of our Nations Defense Forces most epic birth periods, as a platform to launch the next stage of his career. Are we to now look back and change the “Rats of Tobruk”, given to the men of ANZAC by one of the most feared German Military Leader, and call them the “Mice of Tobruk”? The member of the RAF (and later RAAF) with names and symbology on their planes and bombs that were then used to cause damage to the heart of the enemy, all while defending precious lives and family at home.
My last deployment was under a symbol that is often referred to as “The Punisher”. According to Mr Campbell, I should now feel shame and disgrace over the message that it was sending to our partner forces and wider public. I can say for sure, the wider public didn’t give a damn about what we were doing, let alone what symbol may or may not have been on a shoulder patch, or day pack, or helmet, or even sprayed in a discrete corner of an iconic vehicle. I am I proud of the unit I served with, hell yes. Does it change who we were, not at all. But it is this backwards thinking mentality and belief that those who are trained to accomplish the harshest of tasks, in the face of dangers that no one wants to admit, should have the ability to act and behave like a Royal Princess while partaking in High Tea.
For those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, that I’m sure Mr Campbell will be too aware of, does this mean their service is any lesser because they may have done it under the banner of one of his “Offensive Symbols”? Does it now mean that the photo of one of our most decorated soldiers, with a “Punisher” style face paint, and Spartan shoulder path, should be taken down and removed from all public viewing. I’m sure that there would be a whole lot of current and ex serving members that would love to stand between Mr Campbell and the depiction of Cpl Cameron Baird VC MG, proudly standing there in his uniform.
I am now retired so I guess like others we will be passed off as part of the old system. Ignored as grumpy old men who are not up with the changes in society. I say to you Mr Campbell, as a retired member and now Active member of the community, I have closer ties and more exposure to the changes in Society that you will have while shielded by the Defence umbrella.
My final advice would be for to be humble in the appointment that he has been given, to remember how and why he got there, and that these final actions will be what he will be remembered for… Don’t follow in the footsteps of a previous Chief and have these final actions undo what was a hard worked for career.
I agree, with Justin Huggett’s letter above. I’m not in the Military, just a member of the public who had a close family member KIA in WW11 and has a grandson serving in the ADF at present. Surely the task of any Defence Force is killing. If an Army is sent into combat we expect them to fight and kill the enemy, not pussy foot around by pretending to fight them. It’s a very strange request not to have symbols of death on their apparel etc. Surely it helps them bond and can show what conflicts they have been involved in or even show a bit of bravado which is no bad thing in a soldier.