Senate Questions on Notice 7 – RCB Recognition of Service

Senator Brian Burston  (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018

There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer  with our response to the answer.

Question 7 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

Why does the minister now seek to bring the RAAF  into the discussion when the RCB submission is specifically based on the deception method of deploying the Army unit (RCB) under warlike – specific tasks to protect the airbase, tasks and supporting Rules of Engagement repeatedly documented in both Army and RAAF operational and other directives, unless to accidentally reveal the Government’s REAL motive – the perceived cost of recognition?

Answer 7. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

The inclusion of the RAAF  is consistent with previous reviews of ADF service at RAAF Base Butterworth. Both Rifle Company Butterworth and RAAF personnel posted to Butterworth were both exposed to the same risk of harm, had the same rules of engagement (ROE) and had responsibilities associated with base security and in the event of a ground emergency. It is only appropriate that any consideration of the classification of ADF service at RAAF Base Butterworth consider all the ADF service over the prescribed period at that location.

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 7.


While one can argue a common threat applied to both RAAF and RCB, this response again fails to address the real issue. RCB was tasked to defend the RAAF who only had to exist there in case of any need for response to external aggression. The majority of RAAF personnel were only on base when rostered during daylight, with skeleton staffing at night, when the enemy was most likely to attack. RCB were specifically required on base to mount the QRF 7/24 if required, and always at night irrespective of the intelligence-assessed level of threat at any time. RCB was a potent combat force with full weapon capability. Except for a very small ADG group with dogs and a few Police with pistols, Most RAAF personnel had no small arms at all and were unable to resist a ground attack. Had an attack come in, RCB would have taken the main casualties as they were there for one reason- to fight.

By grouping RAAF and RCB in this reply, the Minister’s scriptwriters seek to adopt the ‘least risk’ approach used in the original decision to award the ASM. That decision showed the Government was forced to accept that there was trouble in paradise (hence the ASM), but only a slight level of trouble (the perceived risk to RAAF). Without denigrating the level of threat to RAAF colleagues, RCB faced a far higher level of the definition of warlike service, AND under a deliberate deception. Notwithstanding the fact that RCB endured this higher level of threat to persons, it would still support the RAAF being recognised as also rendering warlike service.


  1. Rob Williams says

    So I did RCB with D Coy in 97…..does that mean I get a medal?

  2. As someone who served from the 90’s I understand that some guys feel like they missed out on proper operations. I have had a few Anzac Days where certain diggers tell me they should have bigger racks than me etc. I try to tell them that is Young veterans v don’t care about that stuff.?

  3. “”Notwithstanding the fact that RCB endured this higher level of threat to persons, it would still support the RAAF being recognised as also rendering warlike service.

    Had to giggle at this. Of course you would support the RAAF as they were under no threat just like we were. And what higher level of threat… next you will say we actual were attacked. Do you think the domino theory was the main instigator of All that threat …

    It was Not War like.
    Threat …no such real threat existed..

    I was in OP Morris dance.. .
    I want a ASM or AASM for that as we had real bullets and real threat.
    We even thought we were going to have KIA or WIA…. but na. We only got a bbq and a look at Bob hawke.

  4. Agree Crackles. Very sad..

  5. Sounds as though it was Afghanistan!

  6. Jeffrey Barrett says

    As a Section Commander I was ordered to equip my men with live ammunition to protect RAAF assets. Why are they including the RAAF into the duty of the RCB. Is this another deceptive move to denie entitlements to those who served.

    • Hi Jeffrey.. reminds me when we got paid.. remember two diggers, one full mag with live ammo, an SLR and they would sit next to the pay..just in case that real threat of a robbery came true…it didn’t… .

  7. Crackles says

    This is getting crazy, talking up RCB with words like “ground attack” and “casualties” when nothing of the kind existed.
    It’s almost like the old boys are retelling stories that are getting bigger and bigger over time.
    All a bit sad really…

    • Crackles if you bothered to read the intelligence reports you would have seen that there was a likelihood of “ground attack” and through that likelihood there was an expectation of “casualties”. And (IMO) what is sad is that the government were at the time covering this all up and now still denying rightful recognition and what is even sadder is that some of our own cannot read the documents and come to a logical conclusion and offer support but like everything in this wonderful world, everyone is entitled to an opinion.