Countless former servicemen who worked on the deseal/reseal (DSRS) program at Amberley have died of dreadful diseases. Some have taken their own lives. Other seriously brain-damaged men, lost inside the Kafkaesque maze that is Australia's military compensation system, are frustrated to the point of suicide.
a story written by Paul Daley and published in the Bulletin Magazine
A July 2001 military Board of Inquiry found the RAAF command at Amberley culpably failed to protect its personnel due to a chain of command malfunction. In layman's terms, this means no superior officer put the health of his men ahead of the aircraft until late 1999, when a new sergeant complained. De-seal operations were immediately suspended.
At a time when a federal parliamentary committee is about to report on failures in the military justice system, the episode stands as a shocking indictment of a "group think" culture that pervades sections of the military and allows such unjust - even, arguably, criminal - practices to continue unchecked. No senior RAAF personnel have ever been punished. The committee has given no in-depth consideration to the episode.
The 2001 military inquiry found "... the scale and duration of the problem indicates that we are dealing with a deep-seated failure for which no single individual or group of individuals can reasonably be held accountable".
Meanwhile, a health study concluded the de-sealers were 50% more likely to develop cancers than other military personnel and that many suffered from depression, erectile dysfunction, skin and respiratory diseases, cardiovascular and neurological disease, mood swings and memory problems.
Anecdotally, an inordinate number of de-sealers' wives have miscarried or given birth to children with abnormalities. Many of their children are now experiencing reproductive problems. Many have failed to eke out any sort of living since being medically discharged. Hundreds of marriages have failed. Domestic violence is rife.
Military aircraft technicians are drawn from the top 5% to 10% of society's IQ pool. It is compelling, then, that the University of Newcastle health study concluded the de-sealers today live among the 30% of society with the poorest lifestyle and health.
This is a dark, disturbing story with no prospect of a happy ending. Its central characters will never recover. Not even the swift delivery of compensation - as promised by the federal government - could change that.
This story's only light comes through the window it opens onto a human spirit that compels these desperate people to keep fighting the systen they so unquestioningly, so patriotically served.
No Happy Endings!
Brothers in Arms
The Government's Game