A charmed life.


First class butcher.
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Reminiscing time again. Some might call this a book, for me it is simply a short story.

When I returned to Oz in 95 after spending two years in Malaysia I took over the Dog section at RAAF Edinburgh in SA. Things went fine for a while, even though my predecessor was a lazy bugger and left me heaps of paper work to clean up. A new boss was posted in, a female SQNLDR (Squadron Leader). What a horrible thing she was: Word was she hated SNCOs (Senior non Commissioned Officers), which put myself and my mate Skip in the firing line, me a SGT (Sergeant) he a FSGT (Flight Sergeant). She thought we were pulling a swifty on her so pulled me out of dog section and sat me in an office at the cop shop. Being responsible, for rosters, admin, training, husbandry and kennels, it proved difficult being so far away from the section. The dog handler mustering had been amalgamated with RAAF police the year before, dog handlers were not happy with this merger and we lost many to discharge. Now along with security of RAAF assets we also picked up general policing duties and investigations. To help us acclimate, we all completed a two week police conversion course. You can guess how much we learnt in two weeks.

The new boss tasked me with a couple of investigations, which I blundered my way through, then she started making major changes to the way we did business, her favourite saying was ‘I have the big picture’. Unfortunately, when you have the ‘big picture’, you tend to lose site of the little pictures that make up the big picture and soon everything fell apart.

She set to work trying to drive a wedge between myself and Skip. Not satisfied with that, she applied the same to the troops. Eight troops including the FSGT investigator found they couldn’t cope and sought assistance from the base psych. Meanwhile, Skip discharged and the FSGT investigator was posted out, leaving just five SGTs, including me, whilst she disappeared on an exercise attachment. For some reason, even though a couple of the other SGTs had seniority over me, I was selected to take charge of base security and policing, under my control were dog section, general policing, investigations and counter intelligence sections, picking up higher duties allowance along the way and skipping over the ranks: FSGT, WOFF (Warrant Officer), Pilot Officer, Flying Officer, Flight Lieutenant and on to Squadron leader. Good bucks, but a lot of responsibility for a somewhat junior SNCO. I managed to knit the section back together in her absence, in my mind at least, and everything ran reasonably smoothly.

When the SQNLDR returned, she called me into her office and said ‘ I’ve heard everything ran smoothly whilst I was away, but I still want to put my ‘big picture’ in place and make some changes’. With that she took charge again, made a lot of changes the base couldn’t accommodate, with no detail on how it was to be done and blamed the staff for everything that went wrong. Once again, the troops found it difficult to cope and sought the help of the base psych again. He became alarmed at the number of coppers unable to cope and reported to the OC (Officer Commanding) of the base. The OC hit the roof, sacked to SQNLDR on the spot and banned her from the base. Shortly after I was put in charge again with instructions from the OC that the SQNLDR was not to be allowed on base and I was to change our door combinations to deny her entry and I was to deny her access to the troops. When she turned up to clear her office, she couldn’t gain access without my approval, so, I allowed her in, told her she was not to speak to the troops and escorted her to her office, now mine, and supervised her. While packing her boxes she turned to me and said ‘ Tony, as a friend I would like your help in identifying sexual discrimination that was aimed at me’. Stunned, I replied ‘first off ma’am I am not your friend and I have seen nothing of the sort’. With that her face visibly dropped, she finished packing her boxes and I escorted her from the building. We never saw her again and I believe she finished off her career as an ADMINO.

In the meantime, the OC had enlisted the aid of a senior Army legal officer who was tasked with investigating the SQNLDR. This did not go well for the SQNLDR, being re categorised from police officer to ADMINO and leaving me, a mere SGT, to take her place. I’ve no idea why I was picked for this position over four other SGTs. In all honesty though, I felt the power heaped on me running through my veins and immensely enjoyed my time, attending OC’s and CO’s meeting, apprising them of base security and policing matters and operating well above my station as a lowly SGT. I think I managed to keep an even head, certainly I never received any complaints and I began reversing most of the SQNLDR’s ‘big picture changes’. Around the same time, the police mustering underwent major changes and I received instructions to implement these changes. With that, I moved SNCO and troop duties around to what I best thought they could handle. When posted to a unit, personnel are posted to a particular position, I ignored that and moved people around to achieve best affect. This upset HQs greatly, but, I was running base security and policing, so, I simply ignored them.


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Part two.
During my tenure as acting BSECO (Base Security Officer), I ran base security and policing through a number of exercises, kept the media at bay when the lone yachtsman, Tony Bullimore, was rescued. Ran base security and policing during two exercises and organised base security, policing and parking for the Edinburgh base open day with some 80 personnel under my control. Believe me I had an absolute ball writing orders, instructions, security briefs, counter intel briefs and so on. Unfortunately, I did have to remove one SGT from her position as she was inadequate. She discharged shortly after. Not something I’m particularly proud of, but?

I did have some fun with another SQNLDR who was the CO (Commanding Officer) of one of the squadrons. During an exercise I received word that this SQNLDR was moving around the base, ignoring delineated areas on base, contrary to the OC’s orders. I sent out two LACs (Leading Aircraftsmen) out to stop him and escort him to my office. They both objected, saying ‘he’s a SQNLDR, what if he refuses to comply’. Simple’ said I ‘arrest him and bring him to me, you are RAAF Police now’. In short order he was brought to the police section and I instructed the LACs to confine him to the interview room. I left him waiting for about 15 minutes, then marched in and said ‘OC’s compliments’ and ripped him a new one. Unaccustomed to being spoken to in this manner by a lowly SGT, he remained silent. When he left, he turned to me and said ‘thank you sir’. What can I say – power corrupts, but it can be a lot of fun. I saw him a few times moving around the base after the exercise, but he always avoided me and refused to look me in the eye when he couldn’t.

During the exercise I tasked my counter intel SGT, John, to prepare a brief for the OC’s meeting. Rather than steal the limelight, I had John read the brief to the CO, after all, it was his work. I expected John to reap the accolades for this brief as it was concise, factual and very well written. Instead, the OC said it was not good enough. He then called upon his INTELLO (Intelligence Officer - an oxy moron if ever there was one) to prepare a ‘proper’ counter intel brief. Next day, the INTELO turned up at my office asking for a copy of the brief John had prepared. I supplied her with the brief and at the next OC’s meeting, she delivered her brief, a word for word copy of John’s. When finished, the OC looked at me and said ‘ that is what I wanted, a proper counter intel brief' John and I were left sitting with our mouths open. John was probably the best best copper I had ever come across, as a result I gave him near perfect evaluation reports, I could not fault him. I was hoping he would be promoted, certainly he was a lot better at his job than I, but sadly, I discovered shortly after I left Edinburgh he had been diagnosed with cancer and died, John was only in his early 30s when he died, such a waste. Sometimes life is just not fair!

I can’t remember how long I served in this position, but senior officers do not like dealing with lowly other ranks, so eventually a FLTLT was found to fill the position of base SECO, and I was promoted to FSGT shortly after and posted to Darwin as DSECO (Deputy Base Security Officer). My shortest time in rank - three years, three years being the minimum time one had to serve as SGT. I took up the position of BSECO shortly after when the encumbent was attached to East Timor. I had my name down to take control of dog operations in East Timor, but being at a forward supply base and too senior in rank, I never made it to East Timor. As the acting BSECO in Darwin I took control of dog section, general policing, investigations, counter intelligence, physical training and ground defence sections as well as Base Cyclone Officer. Whilst in this position I wrote SOPs for police, dog handlers and wrote Base Cyclone orders, where previously there were none.

All did not go well on this posting, a run in with the CO ensued, I won which left him with egg on his face, but that’s another story. The previous five years were a hard slog, my body shut down with widespread OA and type one diabetes. I could have possibly squeezed another five years and retired at the mandatory retirement age of 55, but, by this time I was having trouble moving, had multiple joint and vertebral issues and I’d had a gutful of the RAAF and the entrenched BS so pushed for a medical discharge. I was discharged in 2000 aged 49 and never worked again. I believe I was top of the pile for promotion to WOFF when the encumbent discharged, another minimum time in rank promotion, but that meant a position in HQ where I would sit behind a desk until I reached mandatory retirement age. Another reason I pushed for a medical discharge.

When I look back, I’m truly amazed at how well I did, despite multiple health challenges: Widespread OA, type 1 diabetes, thyroid issues and blood pressure problems, it took me 15 years after discharge to recover to a position where I was reasonably comfortable, but then I was struck with rheumatoid arthritis and lung cancer. In retrospect I think I have led a charmed life. With only one year of high school education, I manage to climb to the top of the ladder, along the way, picking up Tog Dog, winning three consecutive dog competitions, taking control of a dog section after 8 years service with a rank of CPl. Serving as an instructor at the dog school, taking control of husbandry and training at another base and taking control of two dog sections, finishing off my career as Deputy Base Security Officer, Base Security officer and Base Cyclone Officer.

When I left school in 1966 after one year of high school, I could barely write my own name, and yet towards the end of my career I found myself correcting the written works of officers and university graduates.. Truly a charmed life. Do I miss it? Not on your life, I don’t have the personality, temperament, disposition or management skills to be an effective leader. The only thing I really miss are the dogs, particularly my three boys Dante, Shinta and Chum.. They live on in my memories and are never far from my thoughts.


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