Re-action to the CDF’s Intention to Remove Medals From Afghanistan Veterans

29 May 2023

See the joint Media Release from the Australian Special Air Service Association (ASASA), the Commando Association and the RSL National here

In addition to this Media Release. the Chairman of the ASASA Martin Hamilton-Smith has written the following letter to all ESOs.

I write with a heavy heart to inform you that CDF General Campbell has decided to recommend the removal of  DSC’s from seven outstanding SF officers who fought with their men on rotations courageously in the Afghanistan war. These awards belong not just to the Squadron or Rotation Commanders but to the soldiers who did the fighting, and their families who waited at home. This follows the egregious treatment, including  constructive dismissal from service , of a large number of enlisted soldiers, corporals and sergeants on the basis of a relative handful of yet to be substantiated allegations about possible illegal acts in theatre. Many of the mistreated soldiers were accused of nothing and  were not involved in anything other than the fighting, apparently guilty by association.

My view is that the entire SASR, soldiers officers, the accusers and the accused were over deployed, overused and caught up in a mismanaged war run by ministers and generals in Canberra, particularly Op Slipper Phase 3 from around 2006 to 20013.  The aim for government was to reduce political risk and fight the war inexpensively. If we allow the ANZAC’s of today to be treated in this way by their governments and their generals it creates a dangerous precedent. I am particularly concerned for the families and loved ones of our veterans who suffer this lack of grace from Canberra in silence. No veteran should be made to feel ashamed of their service, least of all by the generals and governments which sent them to war.

The ASASA has written to CDF (letter above) but by his actions it is clear our advice has been ignored. As National Chairman of the ASASA I have sought meetings with Minister Marles who referred me elsewhere choosing not to meet, and with Minister Keogh. Meetings with the government have not occured. We will not be ignored, and as a consequence we will take our concerns to veterans and to the Australian people directly in a determined campaign of action. Our people deserve better.

The media release is right to be widely distributed to all veterans and their families  through our networks so please push it out as you deem appropriate. SAS veterans and their families would be encouraged to know the broader ESO community  are on their side, whatever their views on the details. The CDO Association Steve Pilmore  and the RSL led by former SF officer Greg Melick have been magnificent in supporting us to the hilt.

Letter to CDF  Jan 23 Copy 2.docx

The media release has received extensive national media coverage.

In truth, successive governments and the generals who advised them at the time mishandled this war, including the overuse of our people. The aftermath, particularly the Brereton  inquiry and developments running before and out of it have been even more poorly mismanaged. The mishandling of  matter generally by ministers and generals is clearly  contributing to the ADF’s woeful retention and recruiting problems and will impact on mental health of veterans. The CDF’s action today is in our opinion likely to increase the risk of veteran suicide ideation. We treated our Vietnam veterans poorly on their return from war. This senior ADF leadership appears to have learnt nothing and is now treating our Afghanistan veteran just as badly.

Over time we will reset the national conversation on the achievements of the ADF in Afghanistan. I would be grateful if ESO leaders and members could reflect on this development and canvas their memberships view? Your organisations may wish to write to Minister Marles and Matt Keogh asking them to reject the CDF’s proposal. We might need to ask you to assist with a letter writing campaign to local MPs in the near future, if your ESO were keen to help? This information can go out to veterans and into newsletters if you wish.

Thank you for your support and fellowship. Better days for our people must surely be ahead. More to follow.


Hon Martin Hamilton-Smith
National Chairman
The Australian Special Air Service Association
PO Box 65 Stirling SA 5152
M: +61 (0) 408854707
Email: [email protected]