Story 77 - ACB Submission

Task Force Signals


WO1 Brian Fisher
Dedicated to the memory of
WO1 Brian Fisher (Rtd), 104 Sig Sqn
SSM in South Vietnam 1971, who passed away in 2015, still fighting for his soldiers

The 1ATF Commander's analysis at the end of Op Hayman in 1966

"The area occupied by the forward HQ complex is too large to be effectively protected by the  Defence Platoon.
Signals must be made responsible for their own security"

The 1ATF Deputy Commander statement  about Signals at the
Battle of Coral Balmoral in 1968

"For a period of approximately three weeks the task force was exposed to some of the heaviest fighting seen by Australians in Vietnam.  Coral was partially overrun by the enemy. The Signals Squadron held an important part of the inner perimeter directly protecting the Task Force command post. Throughout these engagements' and a number of subsequent attacks by fire, the members of the Squadron not only held their ground but continued to maintain communications with Australian and supporting United States units and headquarters."


Army Combat Badge
(Army Standing Instruction (Personnel), Part 11, Chapter 3, Para 3.3, Purpose)

The purpose of the ACB is to recognise the unique service of a member operating with an Arms Corps unit within a warlike area of operations. The purpose of the ACB is not to recognise combat duties but to recognise service with a combat element through formal force assignment.


The 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) Signal Squadrons (103 Sig Sqn 1966/67 and 104 Sig Sqn 1967-71) during the Vietnam War were not only communicators but part of the combat team.  Elements of 104 Sig Sqn fought at the Battle of Coral Balmoral.  Two of 104 Sig Sqn’s soldiers - Sig Abraham and Sig Young were KIA and others WIA.  However, 103 and 104 Sig Sqn's were the only 'Arms Corps' Units of 1ATF Order of Battle (ORBAT) refused retrospective approval for the award of the Army Combat Badge (ACB) when it was introduced in 2005. This was in inspite of the fact that both 103 and 104 Sig Sqn’s maintained permanent Detachments at each of the 1ATF Infantry Battalions, 1 Fd Sqn (RAE), 161 Recce Sqn, US Army Infantry units, other Allied Infantry Formations, and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) units, along with sundry Liaison Officer (LO) Detachments at far-flung locations such as Blackhorse, Xuyen Moc, Duc Thanh, Dat Do, Long Dien, Baria, Hoa Long, to name just a few.

104 Sig Sqn soldiers were used as a prized ‘extra infantry resource’ and provided numerous Recon, Fighting and Ambush Patrols into 1ATF’s Tactical Areas of Responsibility (TAOR). These patrols came under enemy fire and in one incident, a 104 Sig Sqn patrol ambushed a number of enemy in the vicinity of Nui Dat 2. 104 Sig Sqn also provided protection parties for M113s of A/B Sqn 3 Cav Regt during ambush operations in areas between Hoa Long and the Horseshoe.

It would appear that after the Vietnam War, the Royal Australian Corps of Signals changed from an “Arms Corps” to a “Supporting Arm”, and this maybe the reason why our soldiers from 103 and 104 Sig Sqn's were not honoured as a unit entitled to the ACB, unlike the other 1ATF ‘Arms Corps’ units who served in Vietnam.


WO1 Brian Fisher (Retd), ex RASigs Corps RSM and the last SSM to serve with 104 Sig Sqn in South Vietnam, researched 103 and 104 Sig Sqn's service in Vietnam and provided a submission in Jan 2014 to DGPER-A on behalf of the Task Force Signal veterans in an attempt to have this 'injustice' corrected.

Sadly, Brian passed away in July 2015.  This was 18 months after submitting his submission, with no formal answer as to why the ACB had not been awarded to the Task Force Signal Squadrons.

To this day, Army has never provided a clear or satisfactory Statement of Reasons as to why 103 and 104 Sig Sqn's, were the only two 1 ATF “Arms Corps Units” to be denied entitlement to the ACB. This arbitrary denial of entitlement is an insult to every soldier who served in 103 and 104 Sig Sqn's during the Vietnam War.  It has caused unnecessary anguish and bitterness to soldiers (many National Serviceman) who did the hard yards as part of the 1ATF combat team.   Brian's submission from Jan 2014 is below.


After Brian's passing a chance meeting with the then Assistant Minister for Defence, the Hon Michael McCormack MP by Ken Mackenzie at the 104 Sig Sqn 50th Anniversary Reunion in May 2016, the ACB was discussed.  Michael suggested Ken write to him with the details, which was done.

Ken received a letter in June 2016 from the Chief of Staff, Army Headquarters, which included the following statement :

"In early 2015, a mernber of the Army ceremonial team advised Mr Fisher by phone that his application had been reviewed and neither 103 nor 104 Signal Squadrons would be reclassified as eligible units for the Army Combat Badge.  This is because neither unit, nor the 1st Australian Task
Force, is considered a combat element for the purposes of the Badge.  Mr Fisher was advised that applications from members who served with 103 and 104 Signal Squadrons would still be
considered on a case-by-case basis."

Veteran Comment on Army Statement  

"Combat element" is not defined in the Army Combat Badge, Army Standing Instruction (Personnel), Part 11, Chapter 3 which is a key detail in the Army statement above!    In fact the online uncontrolled instruction copy does not show Annex A (Army Combat Badge - Qualifying Service Since 16 June 1948).  This must be secret now as the Annex A shows the eligibility units for South Vietnam which 103 and 104 Sig Sqn's are the only 'arms corps units' to be excluded!

ACB Secret Annex A

The Army statement is contradictory and totally incorrect. The entire 1ATF was a Brigade Combat Force at war.   Army have never explained what their definition of a “combat element” is, as it pertains to the ACB and how that definition excludes 103 and 104 Sig Sqn's, from eligibility.  For example, in May 2018 the Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) was awarded to the 1st Australian Task Force (Forward), which included 65 members of 104 Sig Sqn.   But 1st Australian Task Force can not be a "combat element" as defined in the Army statement above - well what the hell is?

UCG               ACB not for Task Force Signals

The post-Vietnam Army has never had a brigade at war, appears to have no understanding of the Vietnam War and adds further 'ongoing insult' which continues to fester amongst our veterans.   Dealing with the modern Australian Army on this matter is like pushing turds uphill with a toothpick!

Army Combat Badge Submission by Brian Fisher

104 Sig Sqn

Note:  Attachments are not included in this web page but are availalble on request.

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