A GRUNTS VIEW
A Diggers viewpoint of being at the sharp end. Gained while serving with 3 Platoon - 'A' Company -7 Battlion (Infantry) Royal Australian Regiment, as a Rifleman in Australia's longest ever war - fought in South Vietnam.
Chapter 5 - Page 23 - Updated January 2008 - Next Page:- My Case 24/35
UNDER DEVELOPMENT - MY ARMY SERVICE AFTER THE WAR
See below for the following stories:-
The next 3 pages will be structured to separate three areas of my life, 1] Army Service after Vietnam, 2] My case, amd then 3] details about PTSD which I hope will help Diggers who think they may have it?
After The War
After getting home from Vietnam I stayed with 7 Battalion until July 1971. Straight after the March though Sydney I was released to Helen and we spent a couple of hours in Sydney with my brother and his girlfriend talking about events and I remember being very "twitchy" when cars back-fired. We stayed over night in the City and returned to Wollongong by train. When I finally reported back to the Battalion lines at Holsworthy I can remember many angry soldiers. When a Parade was called many would turn up with a mixture of uniform and civilian clothes. So the dress of the day often was a jungle green shirt and maybe jeans? By lunch time most people were gone for the day, so I would hitch hike back to Wollongong to stay over night with Helen.
When it started to change I cannot remember only that when lessons started to take place again, as the War was still under way and 7 Battalion was now training to return, our first group lesson was water conservation in the field and small arms tactics? I was sitting with a group of old and new members of 7RAR. We were being looked after by a couple of very enthusiastic young men with a 'Pip' on their shoulders. I looked around at the keen faces of the new diggers and the rather indifferent, bored look on those who were wearing Vietnam Ribbons and the Infantry Combat Badge, I looked down at my own medal ribbons and thought, fuck off!
No way was I putting up with this shit. "Water conservation in the field and small arms tactics", you have to be joking? What do you want to know? I decided not participate and say nothing. Did we all have that same look? One that came to be known as the 1000 yard stare? The new lieutenants finally recognised that they were not getting any cooperation and decided a new tactic was required. The next thing they relaxed a little and said words to the effect. Ok we are aware that many of you have returned from Viet Nam and do can these lesson standing on your head. However we have to conduct these lessons so how are we going to go about it?
If we all hook in and get it over with we can run through the lessons and have an early mark. So we looked at each other and nodded, anything was better then being out here all afternoon. So we duly got in to the spirit of the subjects and got through it.
During the months I stayed with the Battalion I had a very difficult duty, that of coffin bearer. In June 1971, in South Viet Nam a number of Diggers serving with the Task Force D & E Platoon were KIA in a contact with the VC. Three of them were 7RAR Diggers who stayed in country after the battalion came home. We were given the Honour of taking part in their funeral. We were flown to the country towns to carry out our duties and this was very difficult. Carrying the soldier out of the Church it was all most impossible to maintain your composure. This was followed by moving out to the cemetery for burial with full military honours.
A very painful and trying experience for all concerned. The one Digger who I could not pay respects too was Mick Towler as his remains went back to England. It was not until the year 2000 I was able to dedicate a Tree to Mick at the Cherry Tree Walk. A Photo to this effect is on the Memorial Page. The Battalion also took part in Parades at Victoria Barracks in Sydney, which was still manned and guarded by soldiers in those days. Below are a couple of photos taken outside the Barracks of myself, Helen and my brother.
I enjoyed my tour of the Barracks which in those days was rotated between Units in NSW. It was an opportunity to see a bit of Sydney and to do some Parade ground soldiering. Somehow I came to the attention of the unit RSM during our pretraining. We were lined up doing basic rifle drill with the fantastic SLR and the RSM was watching. Then for some reason picked me out and marched me out to the front of the Guard. Addressing the Guard he said something about wanting the rifle drill to improve and to watch this soldier.
With that he gave me orders to slope arms. Which is when the rifle is flung up the right side of the body and caught with the left arm around the stock and guided by the right hand to hold it steady. I concentrated really hard and threw the weapon up as hard as I could. As the weapon had bayonet fixed, I drove the bayonet right through the right sleeve of my Service Dress. Fortunately I missed sticking it in to my shoulder.
"Order Arms". I put the weapon back on the ground and the RSM said right ho, lets try that again shall we? Fortunately this time I managed to slope arms and then Present Arms without any further mishap. It was a good enough demonstration for the RSM to release me to go and get the tear in the uniform repaired.
After that debacle I managed to stuff up again when I did the main Parade. During the Parade which I was selected to be the left marker I was to pin the right form as the Guard formed up for its march across the front of the public viewing area. As I had experience of a number of Parades which included Forms, which is a method of changing direction but not formation, I felt comfortable in the role. Apart from being pleased for being selected as Left Marker. All was going well as I was in the form, marking time when the Digger next to me said you are out of step; change step. This is a maneuver by which you take two paces with one foot that enables you to pick up the correct left, right, left right! I was not convinced. "No I'm ok". He said it again. Thinking about it much later I always wondered if it was a fit up?
Despite my better judgement I changed step as soon as the Form was complete and stepped out. As soon as we went two paces I was very aware that I was now well out of step. So I changed step to once again, to get back in step with the rest of the Guard. I was very aware someone had picked it up. This was the case when we had a post Parade briefing, I was given a ticking off. What was there to say? I did change step?
For the next stage of my military career I then signed up for three more years, I transferred to the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps. I under took Corps Training at the main training center for the Medical Corps at Healsville in Victoria. It was a very difficult time but I shared it with another Grunt Rob Hines who also had made the move from Infantry to Medics, from 4RAR and had just arrived home after their 2nd Tour.
Medics and 2 Military Hospital - Ingelburn - NSW
After the course I was posted to 2 Military Hospital this time at Ingleburn NSW. Which as it happened was only half an hour by car from Holsworthy Village and still close to Wollongong. Helen my wife lived there while I was training; with her mother. During my training as a "medic" at 2 Military Hospital, David our first boy was born, in December at Wollongong hospital.
After training and gaining the qualification of "Medical Assistant" I was posted to the hospital and soon started work on seven day shift work, as the hospital ran 24 hours a day. While at the hospital I was able to secure an Army House at Cavalry Crescent, Holsworthy Village. My wife Helen and our new son, David moved from Wollongong to our first house. The house was not far from my old unit lines, of 7RAR.
Although due to government cutbacks it had been amalgamated with the 5th Battalion, (the Tigers) and the new Battalion was called 5/7 Battalion (Mechanised). The Battalion has served some TOURS of Duty at the turn of the Century in East Timor and performed magnificently. The 5/7 Battalion RAR then moved up to Darwin as part of the reorganisation of the Australian Defense Forces. As of 3rd December 2006 7 Battalion has been reformed along with its sister Battalion, 5RAR. 7RAR will move to South Australia in the future.
For over three years I worked in Simpson Ward which still treated wounded from the Vietnam War as well as handling routine surgery need by those serving in the Regular Army. However I was also working with another Grunt who had transferred to Medics and we were the only Medics at the time who not only had Vietnam Medal Ribbons but the coveted Infantry Combat Badge. We worked well together and kept our uniforms smick as we regarded ourselves as soldiers first and medics second.
After a couple of years of hard work in the wards building my skills; Rob and I was sent on subject for Corporal courses. The RSM was Warrant Officer Class One 'Bluely Mellowship whom I had worked with in Vietnam, at 1 Australian Field Hospital and literately bumped into getting off the chopper, after I had been wounded and flown to 1st Australian Field Hospital at Vung Tuy aboard a DUSTOFF Chopper. SEE Story on Mine Incident Page 20
I returned from the Course and stopped in at the hospital to say g'day to a few people I bumped in to the RSM. His first words after saying welcome back were "You are out of uniform". Now I knew I was spot on having just come from the Corporal's course so asked him how? He was having fun now and said "you don't have any Corporals stripes up I expect to see them first thing in the morning" with a big smile. I was very pleased I expected to get promoted of course that why Rob and I were selected, but to be promoted so soon, the both of us was NOT bad.
In particular that time in the Army's life when it was being attacked and degraded by the then Labour Government and torn apart. It was a sad period in the life of the Australian Army. So it came to be that there were soon two brand knew Corporals marching around 2 Military Holspital and as very junior NCOs used for duty left right and center but that's how you pick up your management skills. You are not a Corporal so you are expected to carry your self as such and set an example. That was easy for Rob and I as it was not as case of the Diggers doing as we said, it was a case of us leading by example.
After spending time in Medical Ward and Out Patents and a very short time in Training Wing, when I fell out of favour with the then Matron of the Hospital I was been my first RAP. The next posting was a move just up the road as it happened, about 300 yards from the hospital. This time as a Corporal Medical Assistant to 101 Field Work Shops in 1975. The unit was a Field Force unit, in support of the Brigade at Holsworthy. It was an 'Royal Australian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers' or RAEME unit and I was its 'Medic'.
It was during this posting that Helen and I decided to build at house at Mittagong. It was a difficult year I had a knee operation, which was very painful, and the house was being built down south. The Unit went on an exercise to Queensland and I stayed behind to be admitted in to 2 Military Hospital for the operation. I had damaged my knee which involved having a medial operation which removed the damaged meniscus. At the same time I had a growth removed from the side of the knee. I was in the hospital this time as a patient
At that stage we did not own a car, so I had to hitch hike to check its progress. However after many months the house was finished and we and our belongings moved to Mittagong, which thanks to creative accounting by a mate in the Orderly Room, was paid for by the Army. By this time we had a VW Beetle which used to fly.
The present Sydney to Melbourne freeway was not in the picture in those days the trip to Ingleburn and back every day was done at a high speed. It was about this time in late 1975 early 1976 that I noticed a change in my behaviour. Mainly while driving and became one of the first 'road rage drivers'. At this time I did not connect my behaviour and thoughts to anything to do with Vietnam, while struggling to carry on my duties for the unit.
The war was now some time away and I was getting on with life. After all what was so special about being a Vietnam Veteran in the 1970s? Finally after many months I went to a doctor for help, one that I trusted at the hospital. He made an appointment for me to see a Psychiatrist.
The Psych recommended that I move from Field Force as he thought this was part of the problem, as I was still "switched on" like Vietnam. As my present unit was Field Force I was even carrying a weapon in the bush, an SLR just like my Rifleman days with 3 Platoon. In early 1977 I was posted out of the field force unit to 2 Base Workshop Battalion at Moorebank. However the move did not work and after much discussion with Helen I looked for a job in the local area.
I left the Army on Monday afternoon and started a shift work job at a local brickworks on Tuesday afternoon, as a Kiln Burner, making bricks. Not bad, in 24 hours from serving as a Soldier to someone making bricks? Highlight of that year was the Birth of another son who we named Paul. Staying at the brickworks for 2 years, I moved to a Staff job in Security at a production plant, again on shift work, That year another son was born. Shawn our third son made it a good size family, so we called it quits on any more kids.
About this time I received my discharge certificate and was incensed to read that I had been graded "unfit to be a soldier". So after seven years as a professional I was so angry that I Crumpled the certificate in to a ball, I threw it as hard as I could away from me. It was some time in 1977. Some day I must do something about that and try to get another one? For someone who had just left the Army, I missed it? So I looked at how I could still be involved.
4 Battalion - Royal New South Wales Regiment
I was introduced to a member of a sub unit of B Company 4 Battalion Royal New South Wales Regiment, (RNSWR) an Army Reserve Unit. I decided that I would join and started attending their Parade night to have a look at what they did. The unit I was posted to Paraded in Moss Vale. A Parade night which started with being on parade with an inspection and then moving in doors for lessons. The Company its self was based at Wollongong. The Battalion was again a Grunt Unit and I was soon working in platoon tactics and handling my favorite weapon, the SLR. I found it hard to be excepted in the unit at first, even being a War Veteran?
Despite being a substantive Corporal in the Regular Army and wearing Campaign Ribbons and an Infantry Combat Badge, I found it very difficult to get excepted in 4 Battalion and I could never work out why? It was now only seven years since I had returned from War Service inVietnam yet this had no relevance to the CMF in 1978? However because of my experience and the fact I had not been out of the Army for over 12 months I was able to keep parading without having to under go Recruit training.
I worked very hard in all aspects of soldiering and although I could have used my medic qualifications I decided to work as a grunt to gain some credibility in the unit by working with the Company. I was careful to down play my activities in Vietnam and did not 'big-note' my self by playing the 'old soldier'. Some time we would join 'B' Company down at Wollongong and have weekends in the bush. The Company had a decent Officer in Charge at that time which saw realistic training .
Soon I was able to utilize my infantry skills when I was placed in a platoon of B Company when we were pitted against there Platoons from the Battalion to see who would have the right to represent 4 Battalion on a visit to our ANZAC brothers in New Zealand. Our Lt who is better left un-named was very keen to win this trip and he was well supported by the efforts. He gave me the role of Forward Scout. Perhaps it was good that he did not know my time in Vietnam as a Forward Scout lasted just one Operation?
PLATOON AGAINST PLATOON
Perhaps he thought my infantry skills would give his Platoon an edge? Another plus was the Platoon Sgt who had served with 7RAR when they had returned home so he knew the standard required of a Platoon that could take out this trip. The platoon came together well and worked hard. Up the front they responded to my signals correctly, also I was given a back up to give some training to. We looked all day and as last light was approaching fast I was told to find a Harbour position that we could defend. Without really thinking about it I selected some high ground to one side of our patrol direction.
The Platoon Harboured up and spent a reasonable night but we did not light fires and worked tactically greeting the dawn with a 'stand too' just in case. After a quick breakfast we saddled up and started working. For a change of pace I sent the newby up as first scout, the platoon followed and was pleased to see that under the influence of Dennis the Platoon Sgt everyone was wearing their gear correctly and moving with signals not talking. After moving forward in a few bounds the scout turned around to me and signaled he could hear something. I directed him to go to ground and watch his to his front. I then signaled the Platoon to go to ground and moved forward very low towards the scout. I left my big pack with him.
Moving forward slowly, I could also hear chatter and smell cooking. Down in to a crawl I moved slowly to the edge of the high ground we were on and to my surprise could see the whole Platoon and it was clear that they were just climbing out of their farters and had broken a fundamental tactic of infantry work. They had failed to secure the high ground either with a sentry or cover it with fire. They were sitting around having breakfast talking in loud voices. Unforgivable. I was amazed if I was the Company OC I would have sacked the Platoon Commander and Sgt on the spot!
After sussing out the layout I crawled back to the scout and whispered "stay put, don't move, don't fire I'm going back for the boss". I pointed out the arc I wanted him to cover as I did not want us to be surprised at this stage, as the platoon would be wondering what was going on. Normally if I was working with 7RAR I would have called the boss up and shown him the area. However I knew that we would have to put in a deliberate attack straight away to take the advantage away from the other Platoon, just in case they did wake up to the error of their ways.
I left my big pack with the scout as I knew we would be putting in a killing attack in a few minutes and would not need our big packs to slow us down. I made my way back to the boss. Giving the thumbs down signal (enemy) with a smile they knew we had them on toast with salt and pepper. Getting to the boss I outlined were we were and the fact we had them cold and the high ground. He responded quickly, "Right Sergeant we will put in a deliberate attack, I want two sections on the ground before we open fire. I will initiate the fire with an M60 please pass that on". Dennis started giving his orders and spreading the Platoon along the ridge line, you could see smiles everywhere and thumbs up to me as they knew I had turned the situation in our favour with some quick action.
Then the boss did something I still don't believe and don't approve off. He took an M60 off the gunner and telling me to follow him started off for the center of the two sections on the ground. The third were used to cover our equipment and cover both ends of the ridge line incase of a counter attack. The M60 opened up and the two sections blazed away into the position. The other platoon 'died' were they sat, with no weapons. They were either out of reach or buried under piles of basic webbing. Ridiculous.
After that I was selected to join a special 4 Battalion Platoon to spend two weeks in New Zealand with a Battalion from Auckland on exercise. This was entirely due to my skills learnt the hard way in Vietnam, while keeping my mouth shut. It was a great trip. We stayed in Auckland with the 4th Auckland North Battalion and they were very good hosts.
PROMOTION TO SGT
After the New Zealand trip I was placed on the Sergeants carter course. This was my first trip ever to Singleton for a two week exercise. I arrived having missed out on the pre-course preparation that every one else had been ploughing through for some weeks.
After a few very hard weeks the result was, along with the other successful course members, being promoted to Sergeant. This was handled by being on parade with the Battalion then in front of the whole Battalion having your name called out and being marched in front of the CO.
Then later that night, being introduced into the Battalion's Sergeants Mess. I can still remember this as a very proud day marching out in front of the Battalion, one of a few Diggers so recognised.
In 1981 I was lucky to be selected and involved in a major exercise as a Sergeant, in November of that year, this being KANGAROO 81. (i still have the T/Shirt;-)) This is held most years in North Queensland with many different units of the Army, Air Force and Navy of Australia. After the exercise and in the new year for some reason I decided to leave the Reserves, something which I later regretted, taking discharge in 1983.
Importantly this Service has been recognised and is included on my CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE, reissued in 2002 after receiving the new NASHO Medal. The medals are listed on the Orderly Room Page. All except for the new Australian Defense Medal which arrived just before Vietnam Veterans Day last year.
These images show one of my first 'Army' Parades at Victoria barracks in Sydney with the Battalion in the early months of 1971. With me is Helen of course and my brother. Note the 1970s hair styles!
These are two Diggers I served with in 7RAR in Vietnam and then met up with them on Kangaroo 81.
Here are the fine Diggers from B Company that made the trip to NZ.
CHAPTER FIVE STORIES
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