Maryborough Anzac Day dawn service – former soldier Jason Scanes.
Maryborough Anzac Day dawn service – former soldier Jason Scanes.

Move to strip war medals ‘kneejerk reaction’: Former captain

A FRASER Coast veteran, who served in Afghanistan, has slammed the Federal Government's decision to strip unit citations from all 3000 special forces troops who served in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013.

It comes after an inquiry by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, the details of which were released last week, found "credible information" 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners had allegedly been unlawfully killed and another two subjected to cruel treatment.

It was recommended 19 Australian defence personnel be investigated.

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Stripping the unit citations is a move the Federal Government looks almost certain to back away from after Chief of Defence Angus Campbell's initial decision drew fierce backlash from veterans and media critics, prompting the Prime Minister to intervene.

Former army captain Jason Scanes described the initial announcement as a "kneejerk reaction".

The Fraser Coast veteran said recent weeks had taken a toll on Australia's veteran community, first with the furore over citations and then after China's foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian shared a fake tweet depicting an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

Mr Scanes said the cumulative effect of recent weeks had impacted on those who served, with reports up to 11 former soldiers had taken their own lives since the results of the inquiry were revealed.

He said the allegations against the 19 defence force personnel were serious, but had yet to be heard in court.

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But members of the defence community were already feeling the effects of the condemnation, he said.

Mr Scanes said he hoped the alleged crimes would be tested in court sooner rather than later and that the matter wouldn't drag out for years, damaging the mental health of soldiers and the reputation of the defence force further.

"The defence force continues to serve with distinction and honour as it has done for over 100 years," he said.

"All veterans should be extremely proud of their service.

"There hasn't been enough information about our role in Afghanistan and what we did achieve."

Mr Scanes urged former soldiers who might be struggling to reach out for help.


Lifeline: 13 11 14

Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling: 1800 011 046

ADF Mental Health All-hours Support Line: 1800 628 036