Geoff Hazel - The advance party
If we go back to the start of the year, in 67, I went and saw my platoon commander, the original signals, regimental signals, officer, and I said, "Can I put in for a particular set of leave dates this year?" He said, "What for?" I said, "Because I want to get married". "Ah, right. Go down and talk with the company clerk, and he will run through the program of where we're going to be."
We looked down, we were aiming for the 12th of December, our intentions were. But on the program on the 12th of December, we're going to be on an exercise somewhere. And there was only one two-week period in that whole year, when we were going to be in Adelaide. So righto, in the middle of that, that’s when we'll get married. Put in, got the leave approved.
As it turned out, we were on our what became our last exercise in October in South Australia when listening to the radio one morning they said, "Oh, 3 Battalion is going to Vietnam in December". And even the CEO, because I was his radio operator, he did not know. So he made a few phone calls and then he left and went to Canberra to find out what the hell was going on. And it'd been announced in parliament the night before. So we actually, I went out on the advance party because I was the CO’s sig, he was on that party and we flew out on the 10th of December. the boat sailed, the Sydney, sailed on the 11th from Adelaide.
So the advance party we were forewarned, right, "When you get there, you'll have two days inside another units base before we move you out on your own". We landed, we were put into trucks and we're driving through Nui Dat and all of a sudden we're driving through barbed wire and out into the open. Another kilometre and a half down the road we stopped there’s these partially constructed huts. And this is your base. "Where’s the other unit we’re supposed to be sharing with for a while?"
That was it. The hundred of us there, this was going to be the battalion base. And the area we just crossed through later on would become where the armoured corps moved the tanks into. But yeah, so it was an interesting first few days. I mean, we had to put our own patrols out to guard the structures that were there and the engineering equipment that was being left overnight.
And the first night I think we had at least three stand tos. Probably one of them was a genuine probe to see what was there and the other two were shooting at shadows. And I'd say there was about five days, five nights when that happen every night, one or two and most of the time, it was probably shadows and we were jumping because we were inexperienced. I'd say the whole battalion only had to be lucky to have 5% who experienced battle at the time. [How big was the advance party] 100, nearly 10%, a bit over 10% of the battalion.
There was people from every company. So you had people that were responsible to set up their own areas and look after it so that when their troops moved in, the rest of moved in, they could all move in and then you'd have people who knew what was going on, where, why and how.