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C21/2012 Qualifying service with the Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point (Operation Trimdon)
DATE OF ISSUE: 6 December 2012
Qualifying service with the Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point (Operation Trimdon)
Replaces DI No.
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).
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
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.
The contact officer is Martin Page, A/g Director L&SE on (02) 6289 6309.
Rehabilitation and Entitlements Policy
6 December 2012
IMPORTANT: LEGISLATIVE CHANGE RELATED TO THE CONTENT OF THIS ADVICE
An instrument dated 15 September 2015 and signed by the then-Assistant Minister for Defence amended the original 1997 instrument of allotment covering certain service by RAAF members based out of Sangley Point. The 2015 instrument amended the relevant wording from “Aircrew members of Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point” so as to read, more specifically, “Aircrew members of Australian Air Force Detachment Sangley Point who served on Operation Trimdon between 2 June 1965 and 13 June 1965”.
This amendment was intended to clarify and give legislative effect to the extent of the coverage originally intended for RAAF members flying from Sangley Point, in line with the authoritative advice provided by the Department of Defence and outlined in C21/2012. As a result of this change to the instrument, no prior or subsequent service by RAAF aircrew out of Sangley Point outside Operation Trimdon can give rise to operational and qualifying service under the VEA. Notwithstanding any decisions or commentary by appeal bodies to the contrary, the amended instrument only applies to the cohort intended to be covered, which was always only those who rendered service on operational activities that were part of ADF involvement in the Vietnam War.