An Uneasy Start

John Sinclair

My journey started with a posting order received while I was serving as the Brigade EME (BEME) with 28 Comwel Bde. I had been with the Formation for two years, with John Reimers as my Brigade Armourer for most of that time, first in Malaysia and then in Singapore.

With barely enough time to return my family to Australia, do the Battle Efficiency Course at Canungra Jungle Training Centre (where I managed to injure myself by falling from a great height, along with Gary Swan) and to be given a quick briefing at DEME, I found myself shaking hands with Alan Nolan at Tan Son Nuit Airport and taking command of the Unit from him. Alan was sorry to be leaving the Unit but pleased to be going home. I was excited at getting the command that I had most wanted while saddened by the separation from my wife and little girls.

I arrived at the Unit in the late afternoon to the usual round of greetings and briefings. Late that evening I was going through the Unit's records when the Bryan Coolahan, the Adjutant came in, reminded me we had a Listening Patrol deployed as part of Task Force Area of Operations patrol program and suggested that I might like to go to the CP and listen in on the patrol net. This patrol consisted of a Corporal and six and had left the compound before I arrived at Nui Dat and were unknown to me as individuals.

The Listening Patrol was located to observe approaches used by enemy subunits at night, providing information to Fighting Patrols from 4RAR. The situation that developed however was the the Patrol position was right on top of an enemy rallying point. On the radio, a muffled gong could be heard in the background and an understandably perturbed young National Service Corporal was whispering information and seeking instructions and being told to hold his position for the night and do whatever he could not to be discovered.

Bryan went to the 4RAR CP to see what was planned. In particular I needed to know their assessment of the situation and if arrangements could be made to extract or reinforce the patrol. The answer was negative. The safest option was for the patrol to stay in place and that was what was done.

By two or three o'clock the enemy forces moved from the area.

Within the next twenty four hours we had arranged with 4RAR for future patrols to be of fighting strength,(which suited their needs better anyway), polled the Unit for volunteers to take part in the patrolling activities and Bryan had drawn up a patrol training program

By the time morning came, I knew I had arrived in a theatre of operations