A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
AUSTRALIAN ARMY TRAINING TEAM VIETNAM

"It is their war and you are to help them, not win it for them"
(LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, 1917)

The Australian Army TrainingTeam Vietnam (AATTV), affectionately known as "The Team", was raised and sent to Vietnam in 1962 initially under the command of Colonel F.P. Serong (then Brigadier, now deceased).

The Unit at this time consisted of 30 Officers and Warrant Officers who were originally to be employed in the training roles of Vietnamese Units.  As the war escalated in 1965 AATTV was increased to 100 members (including some Staff Sergeants, Sergeants and Corporals) and they were employed from the Delta areas in the far South to the Northern border of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Vietnam.

AATTV was both elite and unique.  It's members were specially selected, it was small, and for it's size it was one of the most highly decorated Units in the history of the Australian Army.  It's claim to uniqueness springs from a  number of factors; it existed only in Vietnam where members joined it from Australia, singly or in drafts, it consisted mostly of Officers and Warrant Officers who operated individually, in pairs, or occasionally in groups of normally not more than ten; and it's task was unique- training, advising, or commanding a variety of Vietnamese forces.  The first Australian Unit into Vietnam and the last out, it was operational for ten years, four months, and sixteen days, achieving the distinction of  being the longest serving unit of any service in any theatre of war.  Even if only because of it's name, it is not likely to exist again.  The members of AATTV were so spread across South Vietnam that they met as a Unit only on ANZAC day, and once when they paraded in Vung Tau in 1970 to receive a Unit honour from the Commander of the American Forces, General Abrams.  Collectively theUnit can claim to have built up a special knowledge of the war as it was fought over the whole of South Vietnam.  Early in the conflict the Unit was referred to by a Federal MP as "the expendables".

The AATTV identification shoulder patch is green shield with gold lettering, a boomerang with 'AATTV ' across the top of the shield, a crossbow depiction the Unit's involvement with the Montagnard tribes of the mountain regions who played a large part in"The Team's" operations and below this, a scroll with the word 'Persevere'entered within.

British and Australian military awards received by all ranks during the period 1962 - 1972 were:

                                        Victoria Cross (VC)                                                4
                                        Distinguished Service Order (DSO)                    2
                                        Order of the British Empire (OBE)                      3
                                        Member of the British Empire (MBE)                  6
                                        Military Cross (MC)                                                6
                                        Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)                20
                                        Military Medal (MM)                                             16
                                        British Empire Medal (BEM)                                 4
                                        Mentioned in Dispatches (MID)                          49
                                        Queens Commendation                                           4

A total of 114 decorations in all.  Add to this the Unit decorations of the United States Meritorious Unit Commendation ,the Unit Citation of the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm and individual awards from both US and Vietnamese Governments too numerous to mention here and one can begin to understand the esteem with which the AATTV  was held by all Allies involved in the war.

A total of 1000 members served with AATTV during the entire period of the conflict - 1962 to 1972.  This consisted of  990 Australians and 10 New Zealanders.  Casualties were recorded as 33 members Killed In Action (KIA) and 122 as Wounded in Action (WIA).

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The following extract was taken from the book; "Australians at War, Vietnam - The Australian Experience"one of a series of  volumes produced by Time Life Books Australia:

"During the regular morning commercial flight from Singapore to Saigon on August 3, 1962, a remarkable transformation took place among a number of male passengers.  There were 29 of them, short haired, strong looking men in civilian clothes.  One by one,  they left their seats, strode purposefully down the aisle and disappeared into the lavatory for a few minutes.  When each passenger emerged, he had made a quick change into the jungle-green combat uniform of an Australian soldier.

The men were the first Australian troops to be engaged formally in Vietnam.  They were the Officers and senior NCOs of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam,  soon to be known simply as"The Team".  For reasons of  diplomatic sensitivity, this initial contingent had been instructed not to wear their uniforms when boarding the  plane in Singapore; later such niceties would be dropped.  If  "The Team" was the first Australian unit to go to Vietnam, it would also be the last to leave that tragic place.

It would remain there, doing it's best for Australian foreign policy and the non-Communist South Vietnamese, for nearly ten and a half years - by far the longest period of time any Australian Unit of any service had served in war.

So critical were "The Team's" jungle skills that it's first leader was himself a former Commandant of the Jungle Training Centre at Canungra, Queensland.  Confident and innovative, Colonel F.P. Serong had recently returned from a two-year stint as adviser to the Burmese army.  On his way back to Australia, he had toured Vietnam and had observed the deteriorating combat situationat first hand. His personal qualities and his intimate understanding of the type of war being fought made him an ideal choice to head "The Team".  The Americans thought so highly of Serong that he was consulted at the highest levels; indeed, he ranked as a special adviser on counter-insurgency to General Paul D. Harkins, Commander of  all U.S. forces in Vietnam."

END

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