The following articles are from the RAASC Digest archives, reprinted by CPT. Vic Doust, the editor of Par Oneri. (Ref Vol. 20)

RAASC Corps Badge
Par Oneri



-from RAASC Digest March 1967.

1 Coy RAASC (Div Tpt) has the distinction of being the first RAASC Tpt Coy to be deployed overseas since the Second World War. Of this the Company is very proud, and so we are prompted to give readers of the Digest some idea of our work, disposition and general functions.

The unit is deployed in two areas. The main portion of the Company, which is commanded by MJR. A.D.M. (Duncan) Glendenning is on the peninsular known locally as Vung-Tau. On larger scale maps it may be seen in the southeast corner of South Vietnam as "Cape St Jacques". Nestling in not too pleasant sand hills about one mile from the town of Vung-Tau and under the command of HQ 1ALSG, the Company consists of the HQ 1 Tpt Pl less 1 Sec, 87 Tpt Pl (tipper) less 1 Sec, 21 Sup Pl less one section, Det 1 Div S & T Workshops and Det 176 AD Coy RAASC. The missing two sections of transport and section of supplies are at Nui Dat. Nui Dat is the base area for 1ATF and in this area our small detachment of RAASC soldiers are responsible for the maintenance of the Task Force. The 1ATF base area is about 30 "clicks" (kilometres) from 1ALSG and this route stretches along a narrow but reasonably good road. The topography of the countryside through which it travels is extrememly varied, as can be judged from the following description of the two areas and the road between them.

1 Coy RAASC main body is deployed in the sandhills about one mile from the township and about 300 yards from the sea. During the wet season it is under water and during dry it is under sand. (One warning. If any wife or sweetheart asks an ex 1 Coy RAASC Vietnam veteran to take her to the beach, we do not accept responsibility for the consequences.) The sand during all seasons is intolerable, except that at least everything remains clean, and only requires dusting. All food, water, clothing, vehicles, beds and bodies are perpetually covered with the powder-like sand. One is glad in many ways to leave the ALSG area to go north on the re-supply convoys. Upon leaving the main gate the convoy passes over a causeway type road through a swamp and then eventually past the Vung-Tau Airfield where elements of the US Army and Air Force are located. Then through villages whose smell is reminiscent of O'Riordan St, Sydney. The countryside becomes flat and scrub covered and the causeway type road reappears, this time to take the vehicles across the tidal area. Three bridges, which have doubtful capacities, are crossed en route. A transformation takes place here. The terrain becomes green and lush and immediately it can be seen that the soil is excellent for farming. Along both sides of the road padi fields are laid and are constantly being tended by the local inhabitants. Great, grey, healthy looking water buffalo wallow in the mud and appear to be completely dis-interested in all about them.

Baria, the main town in the Phouc Tuy (pronounced 'Fook Twee') Province, is a reasonably clean, neat place. However, as can be understood after almost 30 years of war, signs of disrepair are evident. The main impression here, though, is that the people are friendly and smiling. Remembering the first convoys that weaved through the town when eyes of doubt were cast, it cannot but be thought that -here at least- the war is being won, not only the shooting war against the VC, but just as important, the war to win the hearts and minds of the people.

After Baria, the convoy moves north along Inter Provincial Route 2, about a further four miles. This area is mainly rice padi interspersed with heavy green undergrowth. About half way between Baria and Nui Dat the village of Hoa Long is passed. Once a hotbed of VC power, it is now undergoing pacification, although there are doubtless still VC sympathisers among the inhabitants.

On entering the Task Force area, one finds the Artillery deployed on either side of the road.

There in the middle of 1ATF area on the side of a small feature are deployed the two sections of Transport and the section of the Supply Platoon of 1 Coy. LT. P.K. (Peter) Roper has the task of commanding these troops and we believe he enjoys every minute of it. Amongst what is sticky red mud a foot deep in the wet, and heavy red dust in the dry, the men of 1 Coy carry out the important business of providing food, ammunition, water and POL for the Task Force.

A most significant thing about 1 Coy RAASC is that on no occasion throughout its seven months of operation, over 400,000 miles of travelling and its carrying of 20,000 tons of necessities for the 1ATF, can it be said the job has'nt been well done.

What exactly do we do? The Company has the following tasks:

  1. The maintenance of 1ATF -
    1. By road
    2. By air
  2. Provide internal transport requirements within 1ATF.
  3. Providing internal transport requirements within 1ALSG, mainly for haulage of items from US Depots.
  4. Water delivery.
  5. Collection, breaking bulk and issue in detail of all POL, Rations and RAASC expense items for the Force.
  6. Collection, holding and issue in detail of ammunition for 1ATF.
  7. The Administration and Quartermaster support of the smaller units of 1ALSG including HQ 1ALSG, Postal, Provost, Pay and Chaplains. As one might imagine the work never stops. Convoys to 1ATF are one a day, seven days a week.

Imagine the worst possible driving conditions, many critical points, changing speeds, densities etc, temperatures in the vehicles of up to 110° degrees, and the potential danger of enemy action, and you will have a small idea of how the 1 Coy driver spends his day. 1 Tpt Pl have adopted a motto which sums up the situation admirably: "You Call, We Haul".

The vehicles we have used in this "Hauling" are the 2½ ton GS Mk3 International and the 2½ ton GS AB 160 International Tipper. The Mk3 has done remarkably well and we are the envy of the US Transport operators because of the ability of this vehicle to be converted from a covered load carrier to a personnel carrier or a flat top in a matter of minutes. The US "Deuce 'n a half" is perhaps more rugged, but certainly no better than our Mk3. The 2½ ton tipper or "tipping teaspoon" as it is named affectionately, has done a wide variety of tasks with a good deal of success. But it is a commercial vehice primarily and a military vehicle secondarily. Bearing this in mind, it too, has done remarkable jobs. CPT. J.M. (John) Neenen, the 87 Tpt Pl Commander, says that this is because of the brilliance of the drivers. This may be so, but no one can honestly deny that all drivers, no matter what their age, experience, or military affiliations, have done a magnificent job with the tools they have been given, and have carried everything from beer to bulldozers and Viet Cong suspects to Australian Infantrymen with equal care and ability.

The Supply Platoon has had peculiar problems which few other Supply Platoons in the history of the Corps could have possibly had. From trying to convince high ranking US Officers that "Marinated green bean salad and dill pickles" is not really Australian fare, to organizing the issue of fresh fruit for the Force in one day (which is a remarkable effort when considering that this fresh fruit on one occasion consisted entirely of lemons), CPT. P.J.F. (Peter) Tuckett and his Platoon have done a fine job. These hard-working soldiers have become widely known amongst their fellow RAASC soldiers as "Jack's Platoon" because of their almost magical ability to produce results not only in provision of rations for Australian soldiers, but in their obtaining -by fair means or foul- more and varied aids to comfortable living than most Australian units. The Supply Platoon handles all the supplies and POL and the 1ALSG end of the MSR and its detached section at 1ATF handles all the supplies, POL and ammunition at that end. It is generally pressed for time to complete its task but has performed exceptionally well in most adverse circumstances. Of their part in our function the Supply Platoon can speak with pride.

"Nil Loadum Caribou" is the motto of Det 176 AD Coy RAASC who have become widely known as "Ali Baba and the 41 Thieves." CPT. D.R. (Don) Woolmer and his band have done everything it is possible to do in an LSG complex, short of technical tasks, except air supply. This has prompted the sub-unit to change its motto to "Nil Loadum anything". But these soldiers have, in fact, done a fine job in assisting the RAAF as loadmasters in Caribou and have done a number of tasks in support of the 1ATF using US as well as Australian aircraft as the transport media. A senior Air Force officer has said of this unit "They have given us wonderful support. Here is an example of Inter-Service co-operation at its best". The men of 176 have done well in their trade, no matter how little of it they have done.

Our Workshop, which is the first of its kind ever to go overseas, has been largely responsible for the high rate of vehicle availability in the unit during our tour thus far. We are both pleased and grateful that these nineteen men of RAEME have given 1 Coy RAASC their individual support and loyalty, without which we would never have completed our task.

And so to the HQ of the Coy. In addition to the normal function of a Coy HQ, this harassed band of tented troglodytes has been given the task of administering and providing quartermaster support for HQ 1ALSG and for all the other smaller units who, by virtue of their size, are unable to support themselves. It is easy for us to complain of the added encumberance of these tasks but unfortunately there is none available to do them. Therefore, the unit HQ, as with all the sub-units under its command, find that, in the true tradition of the Corps, the Company is, as always, "Equal to the Task".

December 1967 - December 1968

by MJR. P.M. Douglas
-from RAASC Digest July 1969.

5 Company RAASC was originally responsible for providing support both for 1ALSG in the Vung Tau area and 1ATF at Nui Dat. However, with the arrival of 26 Coy RAASC into the theatre during December 1967 it became necessary for a regrouping of 5 Coy RAASC to take place. The final composition of the Coy at Vung Tau was as follows:

  1. HQ 5 Coy RAASC
  2. 2 Tpt Pl
  3. 86 Tpt Pl
  4. Sect 85 Tpt Pl
  5. Det 176 Air Dispatch
  6. 25 Sup Pl
  7. Det 8 Pet Pl
  8. Det 1 Comm 2 Postal Unit
  9. Det 1 Div S & T Wksps
  10. Det 30 Terminal Sqn, RAE (tn) (A local Command arrangement for functional reasons).

At this stage, by a working agreement with 26 Coy RAASC, it was decided that each company would supplement the other where and when required, in terms of manpower and equipment. This was done primarily to give additional backing to 26 Coy RAASC which was given the charter for running the Task Force Maintenance Area (TFMA) Nui Dat and also providing an element for a Forward TFMA should the Task Force redeploy elements, needing support away from its normal resupply sources. To this end, 26 Coy RAASC (Coy HQ Tpt Pl, Det Sup Pl) retained the following additional elements at Nui Dat;

  1. Elm Det 8 Pet Pl
  2. Elm Det 176 AD Coy
  3. Elm 1 Div S & T Wksps
  4. Ammunition members from 25 Sup Pl

During this regrouping period replacement of personnel from the original 5 Coy was taking place. The bulk of the first replacement consisted of 9 Coy RAASC personnel; replacement and phasing into the company covered the period October 1967 to March 1968. By the end of March 1968 the company was again in full swing with fresh blood and plenty of work.

The new grouping was:

a. HQ 5 Coy RAASC
OC----MAJ. P.M. Douglas
21C----CPT. R.G. Whitehead
HQ CPT.----CPT. D.L. Childs
Admin Offr.----2LT. J.E. Heron
CSM----WO2 P.C. Delforce
CQMS----SSGT. I. Wells
SGT. Clerk----SGT. F. Wolber

b. 2 Tpt Pl
OC----CPT. T.J. Byrne
21C----2LT. G.J. Adler
SGT. Clerk----SGT. T.R. Berriman
SGT. Tpt----SGT. R.J. Brock

c. 86 Tpt Pl
OC----CPT. A.C. West
21C----2LT. D.Castle
SGT. Tpt----SGT. D. Spence

d. Det 176 AD Coy
OC----CPT. B.C. Irving
WO Supervisor----WO2 R. Harvey

e. 25 Sup Pl
OC----CPT. N.L. Francis
*21C----LT. R.L. Denner
SGT. Sups----SSGT. K. Luff

f. Det 8 Pet Pl
OC----CPT. M.A. Ball
21C----WO2. E. Rousell

g. Det 1 Div S & T Wksps
OC----CPT. G.L. Coat
21C----WO1. J. Maber

h. Det 30 Terminal Sqn
OC----2LT. O. Martinson
21C----WO2. M. O'Leary
SGT. Clerk----SGT.

*  In July 1968 LT. Denner of 25 Dup Pl was cross posted with 2LT. K. Laffer of 52 Sup Pl (26 Coy RAASC).

In the middle of changeover of personnel the Tet Offensive commenced throughout Vietnam and whilst this is now old history to most, at the time it put the company to the test.

The Task Force deployed out of Phouc Tuy Province into Bien Hoa Province and was then outside its normal re-supply channels. This forced a re-deployment of the support facilities and a Fwd TFMA was established.

To support the Fwd TFMA, 1ALSG decided to deploy a Fwd ALSG into the United States Long Binh complex, its task being to draw material and supplies from the US Logistics system and transport them to the Task Force as required. This type of deployment continued from January to late July during a series of successive operations in 1968.

After Operation Coburg, which took place in January and February, the Task Force was then employed clearing the Long Hai Hills some 10 miles south east of Nui Dat. During this operation support was direct from Vung Tau (ALSG) by both road and air.

Operation Toan Thang 1 took place between 24 April and 7 June. This commenced as a Task Force clearing operation, in force, into the Bat Dich hills to the west of Nui Dat and to the border of the Phuoc Tuy Province. To support this operation the Fwd TFMA and Fwd ALSG were again deployed.

The Fwd TFMA was sited at the US 9 Div base of Bearcat on Route 15; it was decided that road running to Bearcat was both uneconomical and risky and as most items required could be drawn from Long Binh the Fwd ALSG would again be deployed there. This meant road resupply to Bearcat on a 15 mile turnaround, with air overfly to units of gun and mortar ammunition.

Water distribution to units posed a problem and as water was not available locally, it had to flown in from Bearcat. The technique of lowering plastic water bottles to forward areas by helicopter was successful but proved costly on water bottles, which in most cases were not recovered.

Resupply items of Australian origin were taken to Bearcat by road convoy from Vung Tau, usually on a 5 to 7 day basis. The convoys were protected by a section of APCs despatched from Bearcat and marrying up with the convoy at Baria. Additional protection was provided by helicopters which flew over and to the flanks of the convoy to give early warning.

Generally this was a period of routine but steady work.

Word was then received on the possibility of a large scale attack on Saigon from the north. 1ATF was given the task of blocking the northern approach to Saigon and was redeployed into an area of operations known as Surfers where FSPBs Coogee and Coral were opened; this was west of the Dong Nai river on Route 16 and posed considerable resupply problems.

The Fwd ALSG remained in Long Binh while the Fwd TFMA deployed into FSPB Coral. Road access to Coral was only possible with heavily protected convoys and only two convoys were run during this period, the balance of resupply being by air. A total of 1463 tons were flown in as against 95 tons by road. Water again posed a serious problem and accounted for 369 tons during this time. Aerial delivery equipment was also a source of worry owing to the high usuage rate. However, in spite of many trials and tribulations the operation concluded on 7 June, when all elements had been withdrawn to either Nui Dat or Vung Tau.

Operation Toan Thang 2 took place between 12 June and 16 July. Again, the Task Force deployed into Bien Hoa Province in the area used for Coburg, its objective being to prevent rocket attacks on Long Binh and cut approach routes to Saigon. On this occasion the Fwd TFMA moved into Long Binh, separated from the Fwd ALSG by some three miles. This was a routine resupply by road operation, but again water posed a significant problem; out of a tonnage of 1258, water represented 560 tons.

The average daily tonnages of all commodities transported during the period of Toan Thang 1 and 2 are worthy of note. They were:
Water------------11.4 tons
Ice---------------4.3 tons
Ammunition-------13.0 tons
POL---------------2.0 tons
Engr Stores-------8.7 tons
Canteen Supplies--0.03 tons
Miscellaneous-----0.15 tons
Total per day----40.9 tons

The total of 40.9 tons per day was the average for a force of approximately 2,400 persons.

To meet each of these situations and operations, 5 Coy RAASC usually deployed a small Coy HQ control element, three sections of transport (including one section of dump trucks), a recovery crew and a repair team, 3 or 4 supplies personnel, a petroleum NCO and 6 to 8 air dispatchers.

In all our deployments and convoys over unfriendly terrain, our only casualty was the recovery vehicle (Tunza Gutz) of Det 1 Div S & T Wksps, which went forward to assist the cavalry troop to change the engine in a APC (M113). Whilst the vehicle was in location at FSPB Coral, the area was hit by a mortar barrage and shrapnel made several large holes in the hide of old "Tunza Gutz". With a new radiator installed, two new tyres fitted and the sump neatly glued and patched with Araldite, it came home with the next convoy.

A few brief notes on the sub-units...

a. HQ 5 Coy RAASC - the routine story of a headquarters, providing command and administrative support to the company. The RAP is the busiest in ALSG. Catering for both for the company and HQ 1ALSG; a total of some 550 personnel.

b. 2 Tpt Pl has 33 x 5 ton task vehicles and an FIA water tanker. Its most unenviable job is water distribution within 1ALSG where it distributes approximately 35,000 gallons a day. Three of the normal 33 cargo vehicles are fitted as permanent water carriers.

c. 86 Tpt Pl is the orphan unit, equipped at present with 15 x 5 ton cargo, 13 x 5 ton dump trucks, three hired US semi-trailers (15 ton) and two 32 seater Bedford buses. Needless to say many mixed jobs!

d. Det 176 AD Coy has done it again with several firsts during the year. These were the unloading of vehicles from HMAS Sydney by CH54 Skycrane helicopter; the loading and unloading of the LSM, again by the CH54, the flying of a mobile kitchen unit of three pieces, the largest of which weighed 15,500 pounds; and to cap it all, between 1 January and 15 November a total of 10,000 tons of stores of all natures were packed and flown. This figure should reach 12,000 tons by 31 December 1968.

e. 25 Sup Pl has now got its new warehouse forklifts and has fiendish delight in stacking pallets three and four high. To offset the joys of new forklifts, the refridgerators have regularly blown every fuse they own; they have now been converted to electric power instead to be installed and operating by the time this article is printed.

f. Det 8 Pet Pl now has its new installation in both Vung Tau and Nui Dat and is still satisfying all hungry consumers.

g. Det 1 Div S & T Wksps was expanded in the Force buildup in January and now provides support for both transport companies RAASC. An element of the detachment is located with 26 Coy at Nui Dat and handles all unit repairs, bigger jobs being backloaded to Vung Tau. The service and repair of 100 vehicles each month is continuing smoothly and each unit has a servicability average of approximately 78%.

December 1967 - December 1968

by MJR. G.J. Christopherson
-from RAASC Digest July 1969.

Deployment to South Vietnam

HQ 26 Coy RAASC (GT) and Det 52 Sup Pl RAASC received warning for movement to South Vietnam in October 1967. This came at the end of nine months of training which had included 3 Battalion Group exercises in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. During each of the exercises, HQ 26 Coy had commanded the logistic support group and this task was carried out again at Nui Dat within the framework of the Task Force Maintenance Area (TFMA). An additional bonus gained from Exercise Noisy Pitta (Shoalwater Bay) was that the Company became used to working with staff of HQ 6 Task Force, many of whom were subsequently posted to HQ 1ATF.

During the Company's first months at Nui Dat a good deal of assistance was received from the AQ Staff at HQ 1ATF. The working relationship established has remained a good one from the unit's point of view and has been of considerable value, particularly when occasions arose when the forward unit had to deploy a Forward TFMA to support Task Force Operations away from Phouc Tuy Province.

HQ 26 Coy RAASC and Det 52 Sup Pl deployed to South Vietnam in two phases. The advance party arrived in country by air on 18 December 1967 and comprised the advance element of the headquarters plus Det 52 Sup Pl. The main body arrived on 8 January 1968 and comprised the remainder of the headquarters group under the 2IC (CPT. Dick Jacombs).

Both units were responsible for bringing their TWET stores and these also arrived in January 1968. Accommodation stores were drawn on arrival in theatre and the Company ultimately became responsible for all accommodation stores in the TFMA.

Operations at Nui Dat

HQ 26 Coy RAASC has a dual role with 1ATF. It commands 26 Coy RAASC and acts as the administrative headquarters for the TFMA units and detachments.

To touch on the Corps responsibility, first it is important to realise that, although by name a General Transport Company, the composition of 26 Coy RAASC (GT) is tailored to its role within 1ATF. The company consists of the following units or detachments:

  1. HQ 26 Coy RAASC (GT)
  2. 85 Tpt Pl RAASC
  3. Det 52 Sup Pl RAASC
  4. Det 25 Sup Pl RAASC
  5. Det 8 Pet Pl RAASC

There is an additional RAASC unit within the TFMA which comes under the command of HQ 26 Coy RAASC for administration only. This is Det 1 Comm Z Postal Unit (Aust FP04) - perhaps more commonly known at Nui Dat as "The Posties".

Each of the units and detachments mentioned above will be discussed briefly in future paragraphs.

The other role of HQ 26 Coy RAASC is to command for administration the TFMA. When the company arrived in Nui Dat this rather amorphous organisation was known as the Task Force Administration Area (TFAA). It has now evolved into the Task Force Maintenance Area (TFMA) and, in addition to the 26 Coy units and Aust FP04, consists of:

  1. 1 Ordnance Field Park RAAOC (1OFP)
  2. Det AFV Cash Office
  3. Det 2 AFCU (ASCO)
  4. Det 11 Movement Control Group (11 MC Gp)
  5. Det 1 Div S & T Workshops

Altogether the TFMA has a strength of 210 All Ranks at the time of writing (November 1968). Over a period of eleven months, the TFMA units and detachments have learnt to live with each other and to co-operate with each other. A major factor in achieving this position was the development of the TFMA messes in June 1968 and the introduction of a common TFMA duty officer, duty sergeant and picquet system which included all units.

As may be seen from the date of completion of the TFMA messes, accommodation has been a considerable problem to 26 Coy, particularly in the first six months of 1968. Priority for engineer work had been allocated to the larger units and the intensive operations during the period February-July 1968 caused a heavy drain on engineer resources. The original HQ working complex was tented and this was vacated for hutted accommodation just before the "Wet" started.

Before dealing with more specific points on Company operations, mention should be made of the assistance which was always readily given by 5 Coy RAASC, particularly in providing additional personnel for Fwd TFMA deployments. With the restricted establishment of this headquarters and the size of the Company detachments this assistance was much appreciated. A Fwd TFMA detachment was deployed when the bulk of the Task Force operated at some distance from Nui Dat. The mechanics of the deployment will be discussed separately.

Notes on Unit and Detachment Operation

a. HQ 26 Coy RAASC (GT)
The following senior ranks were on the posted strength of HQ 26 Coy RAASC when the headquarters deployed to South Vietnam:
OC----MAJ. G.J. Christopherson
2IC----CPT. R. Jacombs
Admin Offr----2LT. A. Holmes
CSM----WO2 C.W. Farmer
CQMS----SSGT. J. Farnham
Veh NCO----SGT. B.J. McNical
SGT. Clerk----SGT. D.J. Finning
SGT Cook----SGT. J.P. Dempsey

The second Captain's posting was not filled until September 1968 when the establishment restriction was partly lifted. At this time Captain L.P. Miller was posted in from 1 Coy RAASC and commenced duty as the Company Operations Officer.

There were many initial problems associated with developing a system of administration to cater for the diverse units and detachments in the TFMA. The final solution was:

  1. HQ 26 Coy looked after the local administration for all TFMA units including R & R and R & C leave vacancy allocations.
  2. Those units with their own administrative facilities initiated specific unit administration which was then forwarded through HQ 26 Coy to HQ 1ATF or HQ AFV as appropriate.
  3. All matters relating to engineer work requirements were processed through HQ 26 Coy for co-ordination.

The operational side of the headquarters was responsible for two aspects:

  1. Operations within 1ATF base.
  2. Deployment and operations of Fwd TFMAs when required by HQ 1ATF.

It was obvious very quickly that the unit required the second Captain to allow it to carry out both tasks simultaneously. This, in fact, was the requirement from January 1968 until mid-July 1968. With the lifting of this restriction and the posting in of the Operations Officer the Company can now produce a degree of continuity in the Operations section even when the Fwd TFMA is deployed.

b. 85 Tpt Pl RAASC

This unit has operated as part of 26 Coy RAASC since January 1968. In addition to its five sections (two sections of 5 Ton Cargo, three sections of 5 Ton Dump vehicles) the platoon also operates the following vehicles:
1 x 5 Ton Garbage Truck
2 x 2½ Ton Water Trucks
2 x 50 Ton Tank Transporters (American).

One of the 5 Ton Dump sections works under the command of 5 Coy RAASC in the 1ALSG area.

The unit is responsible for the following tasks:

  1. Troop carrying.
  2. Load carrying.
  3. Water delivery.
  4. Herbicide and pesticide spraying.
  5. Bulk dry garbage collection.
  6. Providing dump vehicles for Engineer work.

In carrying out these tasks the unit has been involved in all major operations mounted by 1ATF. A transport section is deployed with the Fwd TFMA if road movement is possible.

During the time 85 Tpt Pl has been at Nui Dat the senior rank structure has been:
OC----CPT. Ron Sherman who was succeeded by CPT. Jack Humffray in February 1968.
2IC----2LT. O.M. Evans.
Veh SGT.----SGT. N.B. Fox. Upon his RTA he was replaced by SGT. H.S. Smart in March 1968.
Admin SGT.----SGT. L. Little.
Sergeants Fox, Smart and Little have now been promoted to WO2.

c. Detachment 52 Sup Pl RAASC

Det 52 Sup Pl RAASC arrived in South Vietnam on 18 December 1967. The detachment consists of one officer and eleven other ranks and was commanded initially by 2LT. K.G. Laffer with SSGT. R.F. Herring as the senior NCO. In July 1968 LT. R.L. Denner assumed command of the detachment and SSGT. Herring was promoted to WO2 in May 1968.

The detachment is responsible for:

  1. Making detailed issues of rations and expense supplies to 1ATF units. This requires a ration break down to fourteen (14) units.
  2. Holding operating and reserve stocks of combat rations and expense supplies.
  3. Providing personnel for the supply cell in the Fwd TFMA.

In addition, the detachment's two forklifts have been employed by many of the 1ATF units on an "as available" basis. The number of forklifts at Nui Dat is very limited and the demand on the equipment has been considerable, especially during periods when stocks arrive from the Jeparit or when a major unit is leaving.

This is the second tour in South Vietnam for a detachment from 25 Sup Pl. The first was from March to June 1967 when the detachment operated at Vung Tau under it's OC, CPT. M. Keane.

d. Detachment 8 Petroleum Platoon

The detachment of 8 Pet Pl based at Nui Dat comprises eleven other ranks commanded by WO2 E.J. Rowsell. It is responsible for:

  1. Holding and issuing packaged POL products.
  2. Operating a MOGAS and DIESO refuelling point for 1ATF vehicles and plant.
  3. Providing bulk AVGAS for refuelling fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
  4. Operating a JP4 (AVTUR) point for refuelling helicopters. This point can refuel up to ten aircraft simultaneously and has a capacity for storing 50,000 gals (US) in fabric tanks with provision for expansion to 70,000 gals (US). It was designed and built by 8 Pet Pl with Engineer assistance in site preparation. The point can cope with all types of helicopters up to CH54A (Sky Crane).

An American UH-1C gunship caught fire while it was being refuelled at one of the JP4 points. The aircraft was fully armed and only prompt action on the part of the two petroleum operators on duty (PTE. Ward and PTE. Scales) prevented the fire from spreading to the storage areas. As a result of their actions both soldiers received a letter of commendation from the Commander 1ATF (Brig. R.L. Hughes). Investigation of the incident indicated that the cause of the fire was not attributable to the operation of the refuelling point in any way.

e. Detachment 25 Supply Platoon RAASC

This detachment is responsible for the operation of the 1ATF Ammunition Point and the Helicopter Rearming Point on Kangaroo Helipad. It consists of three RAAOC personnel - an Ammunition Technician (SSGT) and two storemen.

The 1ATF AP has storage facilities for ammunition and explosives excluding tank ammunition. In addition, a bay is allocated for the storage of unservicable ammunition and captured enemy munitions prior to destruction or backloading to 1ALSG. The AP is sited on the side of Nui Dat hill and the bays have been cut back into the hill with blast walls along the access road.

The Helicopter Rearming point holds 2.75inch HE rockets and smaller calibre ammunition (7.62 and 40mm grenades) for aircraft operating from Nui Dat. There is a constant requirement for the 2.75inch rockets and the detachment is responsible for the preparation, assembly and storage of them.

f. Detachment 176 Air Dispatch Company

Detachment 176 AD Coy at Nui Dat fluctuates according to operational requirements but does not drop below one senior NCO and three PTEs. The detachment has been commanded by SGT. Bell since February, 1968.

The main role of the detachment is in providing AD assistance to 1ATF units for the movement of stores by air. As an indication of the scope of air moves, AD assistance was given during January 1968 to August 1968 on 945 sorties comprising CH47 (Chinook), CH54A (Skycrane), UH-1H-UHIB (Iroquois) and CVZB (Caribou) aircraft tasks. During this period stores lifted from and backloaded to Nui Dat totalled 2321 short tons including 33 gun battery moves.

The detachment has become used to rigging odd loads for helicopter lifts and has developed a sound reputation for competence. As much of the work has been done with the Field Regiment, it is necessary to go into a little more detail on this aspect.

When a Field Battery deploys by air the detachment provides an air dispatcher to assist in, and check the rigging of all guns and stores to be lifted. This air dispatcher moves with the battery to the Fire Support Patrol Base (FSPB) where he operates the LZ for resupply and backloading. At the conclusion of the operation the air dispatcher prepares the equipment for airlift and hooks up each load. He is normally the last man out of the FSPB.

During Fwd TFMA deployment the Air Dispatch element carries out the duties of an Air Supply Control Section to the extent of controlling the heavy lift LZ and preparing stores or artillery produce for backloading.

g. Detachment 1 Comm Z Postal Unit (Aust FP04)

Australian Forces Post Office 4 is a component part of Det 1 Comm Z Postal Unit and serves 1ATF.

The unit functions as a normal post office but with restricted telegram facilities. The postal services provided include daily outgoing and incoming airmail service to and from Australia and surface mail service for the receipt and dispatch of second class mail. In addition, registered, certified and express mail service is provided. Australian Postal Orders are available for the transfer of money to and from Australia and its territories.

A postal NCO is deployed as part of the Fwd TFMA detachment to make Aust FP04 facilities available to troops on operations.

At present the Aust FP04 staff consists of a WO2. (Clerk GD), SGT. (Clerk GD), 3 CPLs (Clerk GD), 2 PTEs (Clerk GD) and 1 LCPL. (Dvr/Postman). Currently the detachment is commanded by WO2. C.J. McShane.

The Fwd TFMA Concept

During the discussion of unit and detachment functions it will have been evident that 26 Coy was involved in two different types of support. One type of support was the normal maintenance of the Task Force at Nui Dat and the other the maintenance from a Fwd TFMA of units deployed forward on operation.

When 26 Coy arrived in South Vietnam, the Fwd TFMA concept was being closely examined by 1ATF and AFV. The requirement for an extension of the TFMA arises when the 1ATF units are deployed far enough away from Nui Dat to make air resupply from that area uneconomical. As the infantry echelons rely on UH-IH aircraft for the primary air maintenance this meant that once the Task Force moved into an Area of Operations more than 20,000 metres from Nui Dat the requirement for a Fwd TFMA started to exist. If the operation was protracted or involved a large proportion of the Task Force, the Fwd TFMA deployed. In operations out of Phuoc Tuy Province, eg, in the area of Long Binh, a Fwd TFMA would normally always be required.

The Fwd TFMA detachment is tailored to a particular operation but will usually consist of:

  1. A command group.
  2. Supplies Detachment (including water duties).
  3. POL Detachment.
  4. Air Dispatch Detachment.
  5. Engineer Storemen - for defence stores.
  6. Transport Section - based on one driver per vehicle.
  7. Postal NCO.
  8. Ordnance Detachment.
  9. Movement Control Detachment.

The whole detachment numbers 25-30 personnel and is responsible for:

  1. Receiving stores in bulk from the rear.
  2. Providing detailed issue of supplies, ordnance stores, defence stores and ammunition to unit echelons.
  3. Controlling the heavy lift LZ for air maintenance and backloading of personnel and stores.
  4. Holding reserves of all types as specified in 1ATF SOPs.

Fwd TFMAs were deployed on the following operations:

  • Operation Duntroon/Akron 5 : January 1968
  • Operation Coburg : January 1968 - March 1968
  • Operation Toan Thang : April 1968 - June 1968
  • Operation Toan Thang 2 : July 1968 - August 1968
  • Operation Capital 1 and Capital 2 : November 1968

During Operation Toan Thang the Fwd TFMA was located at FSPB Coral and maintenance was made difficult by the very muddy ground conditions and by enemy attacks on the FSPB with the resultant material damage causing backloading requirements to escalate. However, the operation provided valuable experience and data on which succeeding Fwd TFMA deployment procedures and stock holding figures have been based. As an example of ammunition expenditure on that operation, 8500 rounds of 81mm HE mortar ammunition was received and issued by the Fwd TFMA in the period 24 April to 6 June 1968. It is not intended in this article to go into detail on forward maintenance procedures. They are based on a demand system using the following:

  1. MAINTDEM - a demand for routine maintenance. Normally met from Fwd TFMA stock. Replenishment takes about 36 hours.
  2. PRI MAINTDEM - a priority maintenance demand submitted by a unit echelon on the Fwd TFMA. This specifies a time after which the demand is no longer acceptable or to put it another way, a time by which the demand must be met.
  3. OPDEM - a demand for operationally urgent stores which are required as soon as possible.

One other aspect of Fwd TFMA deployment is that the OC of the TFMA is responsible for allocating areas to the unit echelons as well as siting the Fwd TFMA detachments. The layout of the FSPB is controlled by HQ 1ATF in terms of area allocation. The area allocated to the Fwd TFMA includes areas to be occupied by unit echelons and it is up to the Fwd TFMA commander to decide how much area each echelon and the Fwd TFMA is to be given within the limits allowed by 1ATF. This usually posed problems in relation to helicopter pads as the Fwd TFMA commander must be included in the 1ATF recce party so a deployment plan can be made prior to occupation.


There are several points which have caused difficulties during operations. As they involve training it is considered that they are worth mentioning here.

  1. Weapon Training - the standard of training on certain weapons was found to be generally poor. This was noted on the GPMG M60, the M79 grenade launcher and the M16A1 5.56mm rifle. Although this is attributable to the scarcity of such weapons in Australia for service units it is felt that any RAASC unit deployed to South Vietnam must be trained on the M60 and the M79. For a unit coming to Nui Dat, M16 training is also necessary.
  2. Voice Procedure - all RAASC personnel posted to South Vietnam in an operational posting must have a sound knowledge of voice procedure. Radio is far more widely used than in Australia down to gun pit level and on convoy operations.
  3. Field Defences and Construction of Obstacles - a number of casualties on operation have been caused by lack of overhead cover or by personnel not sleeping below ground level. In Fwd TFMA deployments the construction of individual protection has first priority and every soldier must sleep below ground from Day 1 of the occupation onwards. Allied with this is the command posts and bunding of explosives and POL area.
  4. Climatic Conditions - the climatic conditions have a deteriorating effect both on equipment and on personal efficiency. This is a problem which can only be minimised by close supervision by Officers and NCOs.

None of the points are new ones but their importance has been proved constantly during the time this unit has spent as part of 1ATF. And 26 Coy has been proud to be able to say that it was part of 1ATF in Vietnam.

Some RAASC fleet documents:

LR CES CES 2025 CES 2071 CES 2003
Copies of 1969 RAASC Land-Rover CES docs. Series 3 CES docs are on the REMLR CD.


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