The Department of Defence has hit back at claims it lied to former soldiers across the Riverina.
It comes after army veteran Bob Bak said the government had incorrectly labelled the military service of almost 9000 men during an overseas operation.
When Bob Bak was sent to Malaysia with the Australian Army Rifle Company in the 70s, he was told the purpose of the operation was for training.
But, reports containing details the operation at RAAF Butterworth Air Base between 1970 and 1989, have since revealed this was inaccurate.
As a result, veterans say they have been stripped of a deserved “war-like service” recognition and its associated entitlements. They have since called for a public inquiry into the matter.
Despite these claims, the Department of Defence last week said Australian Defence Force service at Butterworth had been examined across several independent reviews, that found it to be peace-time service.
“Defence has responded to a number of claims for reclassification of Rifle Company Butterworth service,” a statement read.
“These claims were investigated through extensive research of available records … and found personnel were not engaged in duty relating to warlike operations.”
A department spokesperson said the role of the company was to provide a ground presence, to conduct training and to assist, if required, in the protection of assets.
“Unless authorised, (the company) was not to be involved in local civil disturbances or … security operations outside (base),” the spokesperson said.
RCB Review Group’s comments on Defence’s rebuttal above and previous rebuttals
Our rebuttal of Defence statements made by the then Minister Stuart Robert and his staff at the House of Representatives Petition Committee in 2014 can be seen here
The Government did not respond to that document
Following that, two letters were sent to PM Turnbull seeking his personal intervention and if declined then to appoint an independent (of Government) inquiry. Neither was given.
We re-presented all of the entire evidence discovered after 2011 to the Defence Department for their consideration. We challenged their response that there was no new evidence since 2011. Another deception
In our submissions we asked to meet with the Ministers’ officers to discuss the new evidence supporting our claim. We are still waiting.
Now that the MPs are this week back in their electorates it is a good time to visit them. We expect that the Defence Department will have prepared a letter for the MPs to respond to the letters we sent to all the MPs and Senators. Send us a copy of their letter please so we can guide your reply.
How can a soldier be charged with a more serious offence that began with the statement”Whilst on War Service did and therefore receive a more serious penalty? How can a soldier train local Malaysian soldiers without putting themselves in harms way in the theatre of ground operations whilst Air Force people (who had their family with them, and had the Rifle Company to protect them) are entitled to an Australian Service Medal? I was an RAAF Policeman in Butterworth in 79 – 80 and every night we activated a Key Point on the Air Base and the Rifle Company would send a quick reaction force to that point as an exercise to defend against a Communist Insurgency threat, that the Malaysian Government acknowledged did exist. I placed my safety and that of my family in the hands of the Rifle company. (Though I did lock a couple of cheeky chaps up for their own safety). Bravo guys and best of luck.
I served at RCB in early 1971. A Coy 1 RNZIR was deployed to Butterworth Air Base, We carried out regular patrols on the Malay Tailand Border, on one patrol in 1971 we came across an underground bunker set up that was being used by the CT. we found large quantity of food ammunitions medical supplies etc, we radiod a report back to Batt HQ, and were advised to pull back 1 000. yards and an air strike resulted in the camp being destroyed, The Malay Rangers went in the next day on a clearing patrol and were accredited with 4 kills.,we were deployed again after the CT blew up the main trunk Rail line Bridge a few miles north of Butterworth,in 1971. we always carried live ammo and were given rules of engagement. Most of our senior NCOS were Vietnam Vets, and the patrols were regarded as Active Service, we were deployed twice to RCB and once into the Cameron Highlands during my 2 year deployment to South East Asia Nov 1970 to Nov 1972. WE were Posted on Active service from NZ to Singapore awaiting re-Deployment to South Vietnam
While serving my. Time at Butterworth I recall soldiers being charge with various offences WHILE ON WAR SERVICE , maybe this would be an avenue to investigate to support the claim to recognise the type of service that RCB was. Surely the records of service of the soldiers charged with various offences should still be available
On a QRF call out to search the flight control tower, on arriving were met by MP WO2 and told nobody is supposed to be in the building anyone in the building are to be treated as hostile after searching the bottom floor we proceeded up the stairs to the tower about half way up the door at the top of the stairs flew open and a very frighten RAAF air traffic controller had a flare gun pointed at me screaming who’s there as i went to shot him, at this stage the MP WO2 started too yell stop stop and the situation calmed but only after a lot of yelling i was told to shut up by my section commander and dragged away by the arm.nerves were fraid, mine from nearly shooting someone i thought was hostile and i assume his from believing he was in danger which he was because when that door opened i was about to pull the trigger this was in 1982 i was the forward scout 4 section 11pl d/coy 2/4 RAR. This could be confirmed by the section commander who was covering from the bottom of the stair well,everybody else was in a cordon around the building