The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK, MC (Retd), today presented the Meritorious Unit Citation for the Force Communications Unit, United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) during an investiture ceremony at Simpson Barracks, Victoria.
The Force Communications Unit (FCU) deployed as Australia’s main contribution to UNTAC under Operation GEMINI between March 1992 and October 1993. The Meritorious Unit Citation has been awarded for sustained and outstanding service in warlike operations. The unit was recognised with the citation in the Australia Day 2014 Honours.
The Governor-General presented the Meritorious Unit Citation Warrant and Citation Insignia to the two Contingent Commanders, Brigadier Stephen Ayling, AM (Retd) and Colonel Martin Studdert, AM (Retd); along with their respective Regiment Sergeant Majors, Warrant Officer Class One Barry Martin, OAM (Retd) and Warrant Officer Class One Jeffrey Yates, OAM (Retd).
“Your communications network enabled and assisted the stabilisation of the security environment, the eventual peaceful and legitimate electoral process, and the nation building activities that followed,” the Governor-General said.
“Quite simply, you were critical to the success of UNTAC.
“You represented our nation with distinction; you furthered the reputation of the Australian Defence Force with both the United Nations and our international partners; and you demonstrated the professionalism, skill, expertise and talent of Australia’s military signallers.”
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Darren Chester MP, also supported today’s ceremony.
“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to meet with a number of the Forces Communication Unit who served in Cambodia, several of whom are still serving members of the Australian Defence Force,” Mr Chester said.
“Members of the unit, and their loved ones, should be very proud of their efforts and achievements. Their dedication and contribution to the peace process under the most difficult of conditions has been exemplary and in the finest traditions of the Australian Defence Force.”
Brigadier Ayling said it was a privilege to receive the Meritorious Unit Citation on behalf of the Force Communications Unit.
“It is a great honour for all members of the FCU to be recognised with the citation,” Brigadier Ayling said.
“As a unit, we have a sense of achievement from our time in Cambodia 22 years ago and the work we did there.”
The Force Communications Unit comprised members of the Australian and New Zealand defence forces and was initially tasked to provide communications between components of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, the Cambodian Supreme National Council and the military headquarters of the four political factions.
As elections in Cambodia moved closer, the unit provided additional logistic support to the election process, often in hostile conditions. The unit also maintained the communications network at over 50 locations across Cambodia.
“We approached our task with a can do spirit,” Brigadier Ayling said.
“There were many unknowns and problems which were overcome by all ranks, in sometimes dangerous and uncertain conditions.
Brigadier Ayling also paid tribute to the support of families and loved ones during the deployment.
“I recognise the immense contribution by the wives, girlfriends and families while we were away, some of us for over 12 months.
“Mail took about two weeks to reach us and it was very difficult for our loved ones who were our support base, managing everything back home while we were away.”
A number of veterans from the unit also attended today’s ceremony.