Media Release: Veterans Condemn CDF Proposal to Strip Soldiers of Distinguished Service Medals awarded in the Afghanistan War

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 that:

…. 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