Defence chiefs will not strip Diggers of medals


After a national public backlash, Defence chiefs have raised a white flag and say they will now not necessarily strip 3000 Afghanistan veterans of their meritorious unit citation medals.

A report following the damning inquiry into the actions of certain Special Forces soldiers last week saw ADF chief General Angus Campbell vow the sins of a few would see the citation stripped for all who served in the Special Operations Task Group between 2007 and 2013.

It was, he said, based on recommendations that the revocation was "an effective demonstration of the collective responsibility and accountability" of the unit.

But in a clear back down Defence now say no decision has been made. It is understood that decision came after high level talks involving Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Mr Morrison confirmed no decision had been made now on the medals issue.

"Governors-General take advice from their prime ministers," he said.

"The best thing we can do, is to ensure that we have a fair process, that deals with this both in terms of issues that need to be dealt with within the Defence Force ... regarding the conduct of a small number and those who were in positions of command."

Since General Campbell's move to revoke the citation, a campaign led by veterans, serving soldiers and the families of the fallen saw thousands sign an online petition condemning the action.


There are almost 60,000 signatures including from the general public and thousands of angry comments.

The move to remove the citation came after distressing revelations 19 Special Forces soldiers, largely made up of the SAS and 2 Commando regiments, were allegedly involved in war crimes including shooting innocent civilians.

Critically on November 21 post the report's release, the stripping of the citation was reaffirmed by Gen Campbell to News Corp Australia.

"The IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry recommends the revocation and review of honours and awards," Defence said.

"The CDF accepted the Inspector-General's recommendation and will write to the Governor-General requesting he revoke the Meritorious Unit Citation for Special Operations Task Groups who served in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013."


In what is one of the darkest chapters in Australia's military history, in all 25 elite soldiers were involved in unlawfully killing 39 Afghani men and adolescent males. The AFP is currently looking at 36 specific briefs involving 23 unlawful deaths and two cases where non-combatants were treated cruelly.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said Defence was listening to feedback and the citation issue was now under consideration and no decision had been made.

In a statement on Monday night, General Campbell said there were 140 recommendations by the report and all, including the citations, would be considered.

"Transparency is key to this process and I intend to speak publicly again, once the initial implementation plan is developed and first considered by Defence leadership and presented to Government for consideration and input," he said.

He added: "No decisions have yet been made with regard to the appropriate options and approaches to implement the more than 140 recommendations, as the complexity and sensitivity of the issues outlined in the report will take extensive and considered deliberation."

Former 2 Commando Regiment officer Heston Russell who founded Voice of a Veteran campaign said last he won't believe it until it's done given the amount of mix messages from the ADF, Defence and the Federal Government.

"Sounds like a backflip because of the public backlash but also no decision has been made so we really don't know and we will still maintain the campaign," he said on Monday night.


Originally published as Defence chiefs will not strip Diggers of medals