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Veterans Condemn CDF Proposal to Strip Soldiers of Distinguished Service

Medals awarded in the Afghanistan War

(Embargoed until Wednesday 24 May 2023)

Senior Veteran leaders are calling on the federal government to reject outright the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) General Angus Campbell’s second attempt to strip awards for distinguished and conspicuous service on warlike operations from soldiers who served the nation with honour and resolve in the Afghanistan war. We are advised that General Campbell wrote to at least seven officers in recent days telling them he has decided to go ahead with his effort to remove the awards, stating


“.... I am.... referring the matter to the Minister for Defence (the Minister) for consideration. It

is then for the Minister to independently determine whether he accepts the assessment in my

letter after considering the relevant information including your response. If he is of the view

that your award should be cancelled, the Minister will make a recommendation to the

Governor General. The Governor-General will then make a decision. This is in accordance with

the Letters Patent. My consideration of your command accountability is now closed.”

In a joint statement in November 2022, the Australian Special Air Services Association (ASASA) and the Commando (CDO), with the support of the Returned and Services League (RSL) expressed the clear view that any administrative action against soldiers should cease until criminal charges were dealt with and the facts established, in accordance with due process. The SAS Association wrote to the CDF on 8 February 2023 repeating the request. General Campbell has ignored our advice. Mr Hamilton- Smith said.

“Whilst we respect the institution of the ADF and the appointment of CDF as part of that institution, we now recognise that General Campbell’s actions necessitate a more prescient response. In our opinion this CDF has mishandled the yet to be proven war crime allegations from the outset and has in the view of many veterans, created an inference of guilt against those involved before the defendants account of events had been heard, in accordance with due process.

“The removal of awards for distinguished and conspicuous service from soldiers after a war in this way appears unprecedented in the history of ANZAC. This second attempt by CDF in effect impugns and humiliates dedicated young commanders who led brave soldiers in the fight against terror in Afghanistan with great distinction. It is in the opinion of veterans both unjustified and a stunning demonstration of poor leadership from our top-ranking military officer.”

“SAS soldiers volunteered to get the job done but they were worn down and overused by their government in a lethal and under resourced workplace to minimize the government’s political risks and to fight the war on the cheap by avoiding the need to deploy and put at risk, larger conventional combat forces. Because they were so few, some soldiers were required to deploy on 9 to 10 rotations and spent up to three and a half years in combat. Our soldiers and their families paid physical, psychological, and moral price for their service. Each of them continues

to carry a burden.

“General Campbell was commander of these soldiers as Commander Task Force 663 in 2011-12. He had oversight of all operations and reviewed after action reports. On the back of the efforts of Special Forces facing the enemy in the Afghan desert, General Campbell was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the same award he wants to take away from the soldiers. As the senior Australian commander General Campbell had a moral and command

responsibility for Australian operations. He excludes himself from the standard he requires of others. The General should hand in his own medal, or he has no credibility. This is not the leadership example of Sir John Monash or Weary Dunlop.” Mr Hamilton-Smith said,

We are concerned first and foremost for each of the individual veterans who were ordered to fight

the Afghanistan war, particularly former troopers, commandos and noncommissioned officers,

officers, and their families.

Draft Media Release Medals 24 May 2023
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