They were an extraordinary unit of the Army that were awarded all four VCs of the Vietnam War - and why were they in Seymour?CHALPAT SONTI March 19, 2014 11:06am
Members of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam Association Victoria reflect on their comrades at the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk.
Veterans of Australia’s most highly decorated unit of the Vietnam War visited Seymour at the weekend.
A 30-man group of Army instructors, the Australian Army Training Team, first went to South Vietnam in 1962 to help train the locals. The team eventually grew to more than 200 men in Vietnam each year and finished the war with all four Victoria Crosses earned in the conflict, as well as many other imperial and foreign awards.
Team veterans from Victoria conducted a brief service at the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk on Saturday and later dined with Mitchell Shire Council Mayor Rodney Parker at the Seymour Club.
Branch secretary Bruce Davies said about 500 of the 996 Australians who served in the team were still alive, though it should be noted they were older than the average soldier at the time.
The branch had planned the service for about six or seven months, and had liaised with Carolynne Burgess — who has done such a great job with the information for the panels on the digiglass wall — to make it a reality.
They were familiar with the area — the armoured corps spent most of its time at Puckapunyal — and praised what has become Seymour’s biggest tourist attraction.
‘‘It’s world-class,’’ branch president Barrie Wade said.
‘‘It’s a real credit to the community and the committee who worked so hard.’’
Although the AATTV’s initial role was restricted to training only, its duties officially expanded in 1964 to include a more active participation in combat with South Vietnamese units.
The team operated principally in the northern provinces of South Vietnam, known as I Corps, until 1968 when a small group was established in the Mekong Delta, south of Saigon. Some members served with the US Special Forces and CIA-sponsored programs.
Others were stationed in lonely outposts with Regional and Popular Force troops.
From being bombarded by North Vietnamese artillery to slogging through waterlogged paddy fields of the Delta or fighting in the jungles of the Central Highlands, the experiences of the men are as diverse as were their locations around the country.
Their stories were many, from the mundane to the terror of being surrounded and fighting for survival.
The team consisted of officers and warrant officers until 1970 when corporals were added to allow the unit to provide mobile assistance teams in Phuoc Tuy Province an area to the southeast of Saigon.
At the end of 1971, following the withdrawal of the Australian Task Force, the entire AATTV was collected into the emptying allied spaces of Phuoc Tuy to assist the Vietnamese and to train Cambodians.
The unit was withdrawn in December 1972, as the final elements of this proud unit were ordered to leave their Vietnamese units and quit Vietnam.
Eleven New Zealanders also served with the AATTV in those 10 years.
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Tuesday, August 16
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