Geoff Hazel - AATTV ambush
Early 1970, called down to the adjutant's office and she said, "Oh, I've got something. Here’s your promotion to Sergeant". I thought, "Well, they did come true". And she said, "But before you do it,. there's a request that you go to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, as a corporal". And I just signed it. There was no way you weren't going to take that job. They were already renowned throughout the army. Why they picked [me] Well, apparently, because it was training. I mean, they looked at, you needed to have good combat experience and you needed training.
And so there I was off and did the training courses and all that sort of stuff and next thing, you know, we flew into Saigon and shipped off to do the three-week American course, which really was almost a waste of time because all they were doing was repeating stuff. I know we spent one day towards the end, just down from the training base there was a helicopter company base and we got to know them and got on with them and the bar was open 24 hours a day.
A couple of classes, there were nine of us and for most of the classes we were split into two groups. They only thought that we had two people from Australia in each class because we used to take it in turns of being there and not being there and we were sitting there at the bar this day and they said ,"Oh look, are you guys doing anything tomorrow?" and said, "We’re part of a big insertion into Cambodia. Do you want to come along and fly as door gunners?" Try and stop us. So we were there early next morning.
First thing when we got allocated, the first thing we did was clean our guns because the Americans aren't all that good at that maintenance. And we did three flights into Cambodia went to hot hell’s edge every time. And then we came back and the next day I got, well, the senior instructor finally found somebody who found me and called me down. He said, "I can't find your senior officers. I want to talk to all your people" because none of us had turned up. So, came in and sat down. He was not a very happy man.
But yeah. And we were in Phuoc Tuoy province with the Matt team, mobile army training team. Our first job, the one I was on, Matt 11, our first job was, it started as soon we got there, was a little village just on route 52, between Saigon and, it was just outside of Baria and it was to train the PSDF, Popular Self-Defence Force, kids, males under 16, or were over 45, they had World War Two weapons and they were to patrol. We run the pool and the end of the two-week program, theoretically you take them out on a night ambush. And this is little lot told us, "Look if we go just a little bit further up the road here.
Every night Charlie goes across, comes from the sea and goes up into the mountains". "Yeah, righto". . Okay, we got to do it, we'll do it. So we went up, walked past, went straight up the road, I hated that but anyhow, we went straight up the road, turned around, and came back. And we're starting to set up the ambush, I had the M 60 and I trained three of the locals who had the ammunition belts all over them and just after I got in position before everybody else was, all of a sudden, I got a group of about seven walking across, coming up the other side of the road, walking straight at us. Well, there was nothing to do but start shooting.
And the Warrant Officer thought that I was shooting at shadows until the group behind who were doing rear protection started shooting as well at a group back there. And we'd actually split a party that were going from the from the water through into the mountains. So these guys have told us the truth. Charlie crossed there most nights.
So the other funny thing was then they talked to a local popular force platoon and they started putting shit on him because, "Hey, we had a go at Charlie, why haven't you?" So that they came to us and said, "We know where the base is at the bottom of the mountains where they take this stuff". And we looked at it and ‘Oh, that's in Australian Task Force area." So we went up and told them, "We don't go in that area, because we don't go any closer than 500 metres to the border in case we run into South Vietnamese troops and we're shooting them instead" We said, "Right, well can we take our people in and fix it up?" "Yeah, we'll make sure nobody's anywhere near you."
Went back and the platoon was very happy when we went in and took out their little, it wasn't very well manned but it was a base. And then that got the local RF company, Regional Force Company saying, "Well, hang on" and really made it good and actually, the interesting thing about that company, the company number was 445. Same as D455 from way before except it didn't have the D on it. And we just, you just worked with them. And they were they were good company.
They were actually good units and pretty well. We were based then in the company that would provide security for the RF rifle range that was on the side of the mountains and that was right beside Baria. But every night we were at least once out engaged with people that were trying to sneak in and out of Baria. And then from there, we lost Blackhurst in the Long Hais, and I got moved from there down to work with Matt 3, which was working with 302 RF battalion. And we had responsibility then for the Long Hais. And then we moved to the Horseshoe. We still had the Horseshoe and Dat Do and the whole area.