Story 9 - Deployment of RR to FSPB Andersen


Operation Coburg - January 1968

(Draft RA Signals History and discussion with Norm Munro)

Early stages of the FSPB Andersen deployment - Signals digging-inThe first deployment of the Task Force in 1968 was on Operation Coburg.   The Task Force HQ was estabished at FSPB Andersen near a rubber plantation on Highway 1, astride a well-known enemy route and was easily observable by the Viet Cong by day.  Throughout the operation the usual Task Force communications nets were estabished including the Command VHF Net and various links to the Task Force base at Nui Dat and the higher operational command, II Field Force Vietnam at Long Binh plus other adjoining units.

 US Signals were to provide the Radio Relay (RR) links to Long Binh and Nui Dat but suffered from numerous equipment breakdowns and appear to only have inexperienced technicians and operators available.  After four days the Task Force Signal Squadron (104) Commander (Major Norm Munro) recommended that an Australian RR (AN/MRC-69 Shelter) be deployed.

The deployment of 110 Signal Squadron's last RR resource stetched equipment reserves to breaking point, one fault in any location would have disrupted the whole system.

The AN/MRC-69 arrived under a US Chinook.   The starting effect of the downdraft of the twin rotor helicopter as it deployed the shelter to a prepared scrape was a new lesson for all.    It demolished the signal centre (moved the SB-86 switchboard three feet and disconnected many lines, upturned a table and smashed a teletypewriter) blew the Task Force RAP tent 40 feet away and left the medical officer sitting bewildered in an open scrape amidst his smashed bottles, and wrecked the 104 Sig Sqn OC's tent.   The Command Post remained intact only because every Soldier/Officer available held down the tent.  The scene afterwards resembled the aftermath of a Tornado and it became very important that the Australian RR provided the service that had been promised by RA Sigs.    It did !!

The RR Shelter coming into FSPB Andersen - Can you see some pill bottles?

Lesson 1:  Chinook deployments of communication equipments should occur before other facilities are setup.

Lesson 2:  Avoid using US Army Network for Australian internal communications to ensure control over the restoration priority.

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