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A look back at Australia’s Chiefs of Defence Force

As General Angus Campbell, AO, approaches one year in the role of Chief of the Defence Force, Defence Connect is going to examine the history of the position since Sir Phillip Bennett assumed responsibility for Australia’s defence in 1984.

The Chief of the Defence Force has primary responsibility for the command of the ADF, with the role arising from section 10 of the Defence Act 1903, where the Chief of the Defence Force commands the ADF under direction of the minister.

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The Chief of the Defence Force is also the principal military adviser to the minister and provides advice on matters that relate to military activity, including military operations.

Previously, the position was known as Chief of Defence Force Staff, between 1976 and 1984, and before that was called Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, which began in 1958 with Lieutenant General Sir Henry Wells.

However, this article will focus on the individuals who filled the "Chief of the Defence Force" role, beginning with the current Chief.

General Angus Campbell, AO

GEN Campbell joined the Australian Army in 1981, graduating from the Royal Military College at Duntroon three years later, and was assigned to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps.

He initially served as platoon commander in the 3rd Battalion (Parachute), Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), before serving in troop and squadron command appointments within the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS).

In 2001, GEN Campbell was appointed the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), and deployed to East Timor as a component of the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor in command.

GEN Campbell has also served in a range of staff appointments including as aide-de-camp to the Chief of Army, as a strategic policy officer in Army Headquarters, an instructor at the Australian Command and Staff College and as Chief of Staff to the Chief of the Defence Force.

From 2005, GEN Campbell joined the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as a First Assistant Secretary to head the Office of National Security, before being promoted to Deputy Secretary and appointed to the position of Deputy National Security Adviser.

This role meant he was responsible for preparing advice to the Prime Minister for national security matters and co-ordinating the development of whole-of government national security policy.

GEN Campbell returned to the ADF in 2010, and was appointed to the rank of Major General, and was given responsibility for the Military Strategic Commitments staff in Defence headquarters until 2011, when he took command of Australian Forces deployed in the Middle East Area of Operations.

From February 2012, GEN Campbell served as Deputy Chief of Army until late 2013, when he was promoted to Lieutenant General to command the Joint Agency Task Force responsible for the implementation of Operation Sovereign Borders.

In May 2015, GEN Campbell was appointed Chief of the Australian Army until July 2018, when he was promoted and appointed to command of the ADF.

GEN Campbell also holds a Bachelor's of Science (Honours) from the University of New South Wales, a Master's of Philosophy in International Relations from Cambridge University and he is a graduate of the Australian Army Command and Staff College.

Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, AC 

ACM Binskin joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1984 after originally serving with the Royal Australian Navy from 1978, where he flew A-4G Skyhawk aircraft upon completion of his flying training.

He served in VC724 and VF805 Squadrons and became the first RAN pilot to undergo an exchange with the RAAF flying Mirage III aircraft. Upon completion of the exchange (and the disbanding of the Navy's fixed wing capability), he joined the RAAF.

ACM Binskin then went on to serve in flying tours including No 2 Operational Conversion Unit and No 77 Squadron at Williamtown, NSW flying Mirage and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft; training on F/A-18 aircraft with the US Navy at VFA-125 at Lemoore, California; instructing on F-16C aircraft with the US Air Force at 314 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke AFB, Arizona; and No 75 Squadron at Tindal, Northern Territory flying F/A-18 aircraft.

ACM Binskin has over 3,500 hours flying experience in single-seat fighter aircraft.

He served in command appointments in the RAAF including Commanding Officer of No 77 Squadron at Williamtown, Commander of Air Combat Group (F/A-18, F-111, Hawk and PC9-A(F)) and later as Air Commander Australia.

ACM Binskin then went on to several joint staff positions including Staff Officer to the Chief of Defence Force and in the Defence Materiel Organisation as Officer Commanding the Airborne Early Warning and Control System Program Office.

In 2003, during Australia's contribution to the War in Iraq, ACM Binskin served as Chief of Staff at Headquarters Australian Theatre, and subsequently as Director of the US Central Air Force Combined Air and Space Operations Centre where he was tasked with the conduct of coalition air operations to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (ADF Operations CATALYST and SLIPPER).

He was awarded a Commendation for Distinguished Service for this contribution.

From 2008 to 2011, ACM Binskin served as Chief of the Air Force, before he was promoted to Vice Chief of the Defence Force.

From 2011-2014 he filled this position, until he was appointed Chief of the Defence Force from 2014 to 2018.

ACM Binskin is a a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), and has also been awarded the following honours:

  • Order of National Security Merit
  • Gukseon Medal (Republic of Korea)
  • Distinguished Service Order and Meritorious Service Medal (Military) (Singapore)
  • Commander in the Legion of Honour (France)
  • Commander in the Order of Orange – Nassau with Swords (Netherlands)
  • Order of Valour – Gallant Commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces (Malaysia)
  • United States Legion of Merit – Commander

He is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program, Australian Institute of Company Directors and RAAF Command and Staff Course, where he was awarded the Chief of Staff's Prize for Professional Excellence. 

In 2017, ACM Binskin was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Deakin University for his significant and sustained contribution to the Australian community through leadership positions in the ADF.

To be continued.

A look back at Australia’s Chiefs of Defence Force
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