Members of the Royal Australian Navy’s Clearance Diving Team 3 (AUSCDT 3) were awarded a United States (US) Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service in the 1991 Gulf War at a ceremony at HMAS Penguin today.
In 1992, the Acting Secretary of the US Navy awarded a US Unit Commendation to units involved in the 1991 multinational Desert Storm Task Group.
Australian guidelines at the time prevented Clearance Diving Team 3 personnel from accepting the US award. Following later revision of the guidelines, the US has been progressively reviewing records to ensure all entitled personnel receive their awards.
Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, presented the commendation to the original teammates, many of whom are still serving.
“The award of the US Unit Commendation was a reminder of the significant achievement of Clearance Diving Team 3 during the First Gulf War,” Rear Admiral Mead said.
“Under the command of then Lieutenant Commander John Griffith, the team was initially involved in the preparations for a possible amphibious assault of Iraqi occupied Kuwait.
“As the requirement for an amphibious operation receded, the team’s primary mission became the explosive ordnance clearance of Kuwaiti ports in support of the US Navy’s Coastal Warfare and Port Recovery operations.
“The members distinguished themselves and earned their branch an international reputation for courage, skill, professionalism, flexibility, and adaptability.”
Former Executive Officer of AUSCDT 3 and current Head of Clearance Diving, Captain Stephen O’Brien, said the commendation was welcome recognition for a deployment that was both challenging and rewarding.
“The experience and the lessons learnt from the team’s time in the First Gulf War helped us in later deployments and are still part of the way we operate today,” Captain O’Brien said.
The events in Kuwait in 1990 resulted in the international community responding swiftly with a large multinational task force.
AUSCDT 3 cleared four ports, searched 2,157,200 square metres of sea bed, surveyed 32 wrecks, dealt with 60 mines, cleared 234,986 pieces of ordnance, cleared seven ships and secured countless buildings, ports and oil facilities.
The operational recovery of these ports provided the Government of Kuwait and supporting coalition forces with their most important means to resupply the beleaguered Kuwaiti populace so they could rebuild their nation.
During that time, HMA Ships Adelaide, Darwin and Success also deployed to the region, followed at the end of 1990 by HMA Ships Brisbane and Sydney.
Ms Linda Daetwyler, US Consul General, and representatives from across Defence attended the special event.