Former soldier Bob Bak calls for ‘true’ service recognition

The Wagga  Daily Advertiser reports that one of Wagga’s former soldiers says he and more than 9000 other infantrymen were lied to.

When Bob Bak was sent to Malaysia with the Australian Army Rifle Company in 1971 and again in 1976, he was told the purpose of the operation was for training.

Mr Bak said soldiers and airmen stationed at RAAF Butterworth Air Base between 1970 and 1989 were sent for “strategic protection”, with troops ordered to keep the base and its assets secure.

The operation came at a time when the success of communist terrorism in Vietnam was a global concern. The Australian government, in response, said it would commit troops to Malaysia, as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve Land Forces.

Despite being publicly labelled a “peacetime” deployment, Mr Bak said a number of military documents found the government had been “well aware of the seriousness of the threat”.

According to the Rifle Company Butterworth Review Group, this means personnel deployed to the base during this time were serving in war-like conditions.

“Documents clearly outline a cover-up of these tasks as training,” Mr Bak said. “(But) we were at a constant state of readiness. We were given operational rules of engagement to apply when necessary … that put us in danger.”

For this reason, Mr Bak said the group was demanding recognition of war-like service and pushing for the launch of a public inquiry into the alleged cover-up.

Without the appropriate recognition of service, he said every defence member involved in that operation had been denied significant associated benefits and entitlements, like the Service Pension.

The Daily Advertiser understands the criteria for war-like service requires there to be an “existing enemy threat; an incurred danger, resulting from being present during declared rules of engagement and the carriage of live ammunition; and an expectation of casualties”.

“We were told to carry live ammunition during during security patrols,” Mr Bak said.

“It was also carried by nominated members during training outside the base to protect from wild animals and belligerents … We had orders to shoot.”

He said a recorded “direct army order” called on all senior personnel to refer to all matters as “training-related”, despite orders later revealing the deployment of the Rifle Company Butterworth was for the “security and protection of Australian Defence Force assets and service families living on and near the base”.

Mr Bak said he and other service veterans were tired of being ignored by the government and were calling for further submissions to add to the group’s petition.

The Department of Defence was contacted for comment but failed to respond before deadline.

15th February 2018


  1. Further to my previous message.
    I have written an article on behalf of Bob and RCB.
    I have added the URL below as the article is too long.



  2. Hello Big Bob,

    My gosh old friend. You brought back many fond memories.
    Love to Glays. I have not forgotten you two and your young daughter.

    Say hell to our old mate Doug Luik.
    I hope the bastard is alive and well.
    Don’t know why he is off the radar. I do hope he is well.
    Contact details are:
    Mobile: 0481342791
    Email: [email protected]

    Love to all cobber.

    Pete (The Greek) Adamis

  3. Men of the RAR,serving&ex,we don’t need to go around in circles,withRCBwe did the job ,patrolled,tracked,protected AU assets(RAAF,F1-11’s,Malaysians,people of Malaysia),& had some time off,but not Bugis street as Viet Nam vets did because we were hunting CT.Once again go to RCB Doc 1 Rifle Company,Butterworth Supporters Intro,read true facts of 4 CAV attached to D Coy 6RAR 1975-1976.Says it all.Viet Nam Vets,u had our support in your fight for recognition now back us in ours.

  4. Ken Holmes says

    we were not the only force that was required to carry live Ammo, the Malaysian guards were always fully loaded, yes it was there Base as well as they guarded the entry and exit points of the base including Guard boxes around the Base..I know because i was nearly shot for running around the base for PT ( INDIVIDUALY ).on Dusk..Bahenti ATTU Saya Tembuk ,..stop or i will shoot…i think thats the right spelling….our role was to be ready react with live rounds..And D coy 1982 was equipped with live rounds as per section and coy orders…One section always at the ready 24 /7 So who had that order in place ?? my arse…Yes we all had our drink nights and fun..but the primary role was protection of that base.( F111″‘s and associates).you will find that any active or peace keeping force did the same thing…Vietnam and asccociated conflict areas Afgan , temor ect,,, yes was different, but those who were not front line did the very same thing..and they all got the AASM..yes they were all in active areas , but so were we..and out of Australia..if shit hit the fan, only 1 Inf company to deal with it until backup…do we deserve the AASM, not for me to acknowledge, but the evidence is there for a decision..positve i hope..cheers..

  5. Jeffrey Barrett says

    -Hi Bob.

    Like many other members I served in RCB in 1973 A Coy 6 RAR then in 1977 in B Coy 3 RAR. I have letter ( Somewhere) saying I was entitled to wear the two different ASM’s but would be issued one with a clasp. I feel this action by the Honours & Awards does not reflect my timeline of service along with others.I recall equipping my men with live Ammo whilst on the Air base as the F111’s came to the base etc.

  6. Butch Mathew says

    his has been going on for some time now. The Federal Government, know it’s a fair dinkum, claim , So why haven’t they affirmed it & declared these men on active service, for the time of their deployment ?

    • The 3 phases of DVA/Govt acceptance…. Deny, Delay, Die. If they frig around long enough, most of the Veterans will have died off. Ergo, less money to pay out.
      There *is* a copy of a (Secret) memo between Govt Departments way back at the beginning which states words to the effect of…. the true nature of the deployment must not be revealed to the public because of the backlash they will get, (immediately post-Vietnam) the public needs to be told that this is a training mission.

  7. phil brown says

    if it was peacetime ops,, why was i shot at?
    i also carried live rounds.
    there was also a story about a guy near the main gate Butterworth AFB who apparently had a grenade thrown at him which failed to go off due to the pin breaking off and remaining in place. No damage but the intent was clearly there

  8. colin.moul says

    I was with Bravo company 1 RAR stationed in Malay an Singapore from 1969 to 72 I think an we were sent to Butterworth air base to do ground security, an I am sure we were given live ammunition to be kept on our person an not to be loaded unless order to.

  9. Arthur Ernest Eggleston says

    About time real recognition was given for our service.