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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - A mission of presence



With the suddenness of a summer storm out of a clear blue sky – or, more exactly, with an unexpectedness to match the Ayatollah Khomeini's acceptance of Security Council Resolution 598 – fifteen Australian Army officers learned of their deployment to Iran in August 1988. As noted in chapter 6, there had been some public discussion of a possible mission, but it was not until 3 August that the Prime Minister announced Australia's in principle agreement to send observers, and even then none of the officers had any idea that they might be asked to go. One of the first was Major Bob Brown, second-in-command of the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), who received a telephone call from the Director of Infantry on Friday 5 August asking him to volunteer for uniimog. It was Tuesday 9 August before Army Office finally despatched the signal with the names of the selected officers. Captain Andris (Ziggy) Balmaks, at the Central Army Records Office in Melbourne, saw the signal only because he was duty officer that night; next day his commanding officer invited him to volunteer.

Ironically the contingent commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kerry Gallagher, was the last man selected. He was well qualified. Aged 42, he had graduated from Duntroon in 1968, had served in the Australian Army Training Team in South Vietnam in 1971, when he had seen the pressures of working alone in a foreign culture, had been the commanding officer of 3 RAR in 1984–85, and as Staff Officer Grade 1 (SO1) Operations at Army Office he had helped plan Operation Morris Dance, the deployment to the waters off Fiji in May 1987.

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