Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, AO, DSC, MVO, has announced a host of changes to the Australian Army’s order of battle (ORBAT) following allegations of war crimes committed by Australian Special Forces soldiers on operations in Afghanistan.
Following the devastating revelations regarding allegations of war crimes by Australian Special Forces operating in Afghanistan, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, AO, DSC, MVO, has released the details of a review to overhaul the Australian Army's order of battle (ORBAT).
First off the rank, LTGEN Burr reinforced the statements by Chief of Defence, General Angus Campbell, AO, DSC, detailing changes to Australia's Special Operations Command (SOCOMD): "As the Chief of Army, I also directed the removal of the title: 2 Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment, from the Australian Army’s Order of Battle.
"Although the incidents outlined in the Inquiry occurred across the Regiment, the report has made it clear that there was a nexus of alleged serious criminal activities, in 2 Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment at a point in time. This alleged grave misconduct has severely damaged our professional standing.
"This action reflects no judgement on the current members of 2 Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment, but we all must accept the wrongdoings of the past. Current members of the squadron will be reassigned to other sub-units within the Regiment. A deliberate implementation plan will be developed to support this."
LTGEN Burr made a concerted effort to reassure both the Australian people and current service members of the ADF that the force will learn the lessons of the Afghanistan operations and the Army will work to ensure such actions never take place again.
"The issues in the inquiry report are so shocking that a clear message is required. It’s important we learn from this experience and begin the healing process so we can focus on the future. This must never be allowed to happen again, anywhere in our Army. Our profession demands we must always operate lawfully, ethically and responsibly. Even in the most complex and challenging environments," he said.
"Future generations will be reminded of this moment in our military history from the gap in our squadron numbering system. As I continue to analyse the extensive findings, be assured that where there is evidence of misconduct individuals will be held to account. This may be through disciplinary or administrative action.
"Significant reform has been underway within Special Operations Command and more broadly across our Army for the past five years. Important progress has been made and this work continues. These reforms will be given an increased focus, emphasis and urgency based on the findings and recommendations in the inquiry report."
Building on this, LTGEN Burr added additional detail regarding the impact of the review into the special forces and subsequent changes to the Army's ORBAT: "I will accelerate existing plans for workforce mobility for personnel within Special Operations Command.
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"Individuals within Special Operations Command will be expected to take postings out of the Command. This will enable respite, regeneration, broadening of perspectives and to share knowledge and skills throughout Army. This has individual and collective benefit for the entire Australian Defence Force. Independent posting oversight for the Command will ensure workforce and strategy are aligned.
"We will continue to strengthen the fundamentals of governance, assurance and accountability. This includes reinforcing the importance of culture, leadership, accountability, ethics and our values through the Army’s Good Soldiering initiative.
"The Centre for Australian Army Leadership will be core to our training and how we conduct ourselves as ethical, capable and effective leaders at all levels in our Army.
"Today we start a new chapter and commit to restoring trust with the nation we have sworn to defend. Symbolic of this ongoing renewal is tomorrow’s beret parade for new members of the Special Air Service Regiment and recent beret parade for the 2nd Commando Regiment."
LTGEN Burr's final comments were to reassure the public and ADF that the allegations and subsequent investigations will deliver a transformation of the Army and an overhaul of the culture to ensure that the Army, as part of the ADF, continues to represent the ideals and values of Australia.
"I am confident that as a result of this experience we will emerge a stronger, more capable and effective Army. I would like to thank the families, loved ones and those who support our Army during this challenging time. I strongly encourage anyone who requires welfare support to access the services available," LTGEN Burr said.
"I commend those who had the courage to provide information to the Inquiry. Our people past and present, have made extraordinary contributions to the defence of Australia. I remain inspired by the overwhelming majority of professional men and women who serve in our Army. Our people should continue to be proud of their service and know their commitment is valued.
"This is a challenging time for us all. Our Army must learn, improve, support each other and together we will get through this. We remain, an Army for the nation, an Army in the community, we are Australia’s Army."
ADF members and their families can contract the Defence All-hours Support Line, a confidential telephone service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 1800 628 036. Defence families can also contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
Safe Zone Support (1800 142 072) is also available as a free and anonymous counselling line for current and former ADF personnel and their families. The service is available 24/7 and provides access to specialised counsellors with an understanding of military culture and experience.
Defence personnel, veterans and their families can also access free and confidential counselling 24/7 through Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling Service (1800 011 046) or online at www.openarms.gov.au.