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C21/2012 Qualifying service with the Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point (Operation Trimdon)

Document

DATE OF ISSUE:  6 December 2012

Qualifying service with the Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point (Operation Trimdon)

Replaces DI No.

C16/2011

Purpose

The purpose of this Departmental Instruction is to provide clarification regarding the circumstances in which service with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at Sangley Point in the Philippines in the 1960s may be considered qualifying service under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA).

Background

In June 1965, a temporary detachment was formed from Lockheed P2 Neptune aircraft of Nos. 10 and 11 Squadrons RAAF and operated out of the United States Naval Air Station at Sangley Point in the Philippines. This detachment flew a number of sorties in support of HMAS Sydney as she made her first voyage to Vietnam.  RAAF detachment Sangley Point was led by the Commanding Officer of 10 Sqn and was part of Operation Trimdon.

In an Instrument signed in December 1997 the then-Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel, the Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP, determined that aircrew members of the Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point are to be taken to be allotted for duty for the purposes of the VEA.  This decision means that such members have operational and qualifying service.  However, the Instrument did not specify a timeframe or the nature of the duties that must have been undertaken in order for a person to be considered to have been a member of the Detachment.

In October 2011, the Repatriation Commission decided that operational and qualifying service should be conceded to former RAAF members who served as part of the Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point on Operation Trimdon without the need for explicit evidence of entry into the Vietnam operational area.

Who is a member of Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point?

In view of the historical evidence, it is clear that a person may only be considered to have rendered operational and qualifying service as a member of the Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point if they participated in Operation Trimdon between
2 – 13 June 1965.  The temporary nature of the Detachment and its precise duration have been confirmed in advice from the Department of Defence.

A number of other cases have emerged involving service by RAAF members staging from Sangley Point after the conclusion of Operation Trimdon, particularly on exercises 'Sea Imp' and 'Sea Dog' in 1966 - 1967.  However, given the timing of these duties, they are clearly not covered by the December 1997 instrument.  Furthermore, Defence has advised that members would not have been allotted for duty in relation to service on exercises.  The facts that a member flew from Sangley Point and entered Vietnamese airspace do not mean that they are a member of Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point for the purposes of the VEA.

Nevertheless, in May 2012, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found in favour of a former RAAF member who had flown out of Sangley Point while participating in Exercise Sea Imp in May - June 1966, a full year after the completion of Operation Trimdon.  This former member had previously applied unsuccessfully for recognition of qualifying service in relation to these activities and had been rejected at both primary and review levels on two occasions.  The Rehabilitation and Entitlements Policy Branch disagrees with both the substance of this decision and the reasoning underpinning it, and delegates should not consider this decision an authority for granting qualifying service to RAAF members who undertook exercise-related duties at Sangley Point at any time, whether before or after Operation Trimdon.

Advice for delegates

Operational and qualifying service should be conceded where a former aircrew member of the RAAF is able to show that they served on sorties departing from Sangley Point as part of Operation Trimdon between 2 – 13 June 1965.  This is often clearly shown in logbooks.  Where no such evidence is available, delegates may refer the case to the Liability and Service Eligibility section, which holds copies of archival documents listing members assigned to the Detachment prior to the commencement of the operation.

Where a claim is received from a former member of the RAAF whose service at Sangley Point related to an exercise (whether before or after Operation Trimdon) it should not be accepted.  Such members fall outside the required timeframe and their duties are not such as can be considered operational and qualifying service.

Contact

The contact officer is Martin Page, A/g Director L&SE on (02) 6289 6309.

Mark Harrigan

Assistant Secretary

Rehabilitation and Entitlements Policy

6 December 2012