Our History

The roots of Air Dispatch in the Australian Defence Force can be traced back to air drops of millstones for grinding corn to a besieged garrison in Kut Ai Amar, Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1916, by Captain H. A. Petre of Half Flight - Australian Flying Corps.

This was followed up in 1918, during the Battle of Hamel, Captain L.J. Wackett of No 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, developed a system of dropping supplies, and about 100,000 rounds of ammunition were dropped to advancing Australian troops.

That laid the groundwork for what was to occur in our neck of the woods during the next global conflict.

As far as research has resolved, the first airdrops in the New Guinea campaign took place on the 28th of July 1942 at Efogi and Kagi during the withdrawal to Kokoda.

In early 1943 Colonel T.G. Millner MC. Deputy Director of Supplies and Transport resolved that air supply was to be an Australian Army Service Corps (AASC) responsibility.

An extract from "The Biscuit Bombers" article written by Capt P.L. Angelatos which appeared in InteRACTion Newsletter Issue No 4 Dated April 1992)

176 Air Dispatch Company (RAASC)

During the Campaign in New Guinea the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Air Maintenance Companies "Biscuit Bombers" were formed from members of the Aust Army Service Corps.

The operational skills were kept alive in the CMF units of 38 and 39 Air Dispatch platoons (AD Pls) located in Sydney and Melbourne during the 1950's.

In the mid 1950's regular army air dispatch tasks were carried out by "Ad Hoc" crews put together by 1 Tpt Coy RAASC, they were trained at the RAASC School Puckapunyal (Air Dispatch Wing).

The requirement for regular army air dispatchers was recognised in 1959 during exercise "Grand Slam" in North Queensland where the Monsoon Season in the Mackay/Sarina area limited the resupply of units by conventional road transport due to the torrential rain.

October 1960 saw the raising and training of a Section of ARA Air Dispatchers, (Ex 1 Tpt Coy Soldiers), who were marched into and formed an ARA Component of 39 AD Pl. RAASC (CMF) at Frenchmans Road Depot in Randwick, Sydney.

In order to gain operational experience the ARA section of 39 AD Pl. was detached to 55 Coy RASC (AD) in February 1961 for duty on the Malaya/Thailand Border.

At that time duties of 55 Coy RASC (AD) included the resupplying by air of the Commonwealth Brigade in their operations against the Communist Guerrillas.

On returning to Australia the ARA Section carried out extensive parachute training plus logistic support force supply path finding duties.

A second (ARA) Section was formed mid 1961 and detached to 55 Coy RASC (AD) for duties on the Malaya/Thailand Border from February to May 1962. Both ARA sections were then sent to Singapore in May 1962 for International Ex "Trumpeter ", this was followed by heavy drop training at the Far East School of Land/Air Warfare.

On return from Singapore in July 1962 an ARA Platoon of half strength was formed (40 AD Pl.) at Avoca Street Randwick using the 2 ARA Sections of 39 AD Pl. as the NCO base.

By mid 1963 the Unit was at full strength with detachments for operational training to the Malaya/Thailand Border, Singapore and Ubon, Thailand.

The formation of HQ 1 Army Air Supply Organisation (HQ 1AASO) in February 1964 saw the rapid expansion of units dedicated to providing Air Transport duties with HQ. 1 AASO Commanding 2 ARA Pls (36 & 40 AD Pls) 36 AD Pl. being newly formed, 3 CMF Pls, Namely 37, 38 & 39 AD Pls, plus 5 Air Supply Control Sections (ASCS) and an Air Maintenance PI manned by RAAOC personnel.

At the same time a joint service (Army/RAAF) unit was raised at RAAF Base Richmond and designated the Air Movement Training and Development Unit (AMTDU)

In the 1960's all corps courses were run by this unit for Unit Movement/Enplaning Officers and Unit Air Loading Teams, when "Air Portability" was the catch cry of the times.

1st Army Air Supply Organisation

  • HQ 1 AASO (RAASC) - Air Maint PI(RAAOC)
  • 36 AD Pl.
  • (ARA) 37 AD Pl.
  • (CMF) 38 AD Pl.
  • (CMF) 39 AD Pl.
  • (CMF) 40 AD Pl.
  • (ARA)

During the Period 1964 to 1965 with the Indonesian Confrontation on the PNG Border, AD Sections were positioned in PNG for Air Dispatch duties.

These detachments consisted of 1 Sgt and 12 Dispatchers (3 crews of 1 x Cpl & 3 x Pte's) working the length and breadth of the country.

Towards the end of 1965 the ARA units started to receive National Servicemen from the first intake and the initial group marched into 36 AD Pl. which brought that unit up to full strength.

By early 1966 1 AASO was fully trained in Trade skills (70% parachute trained) and Military skills so much so that 36 and 40 Pls. were used as Enemy for the final shake out exercise for 5 RAR in February/March 1966, prior to departure for South Vietnam.

It was at this point that the requirement for an AD Unit for South Vietnam was announced and the ARA units were paraded at Gospers Airfield to call for volunteers. 2 Officers and 40 OR's were selected to form Det 176 AD Coy RAASC.

Where the "176" came from

The 176 came from .. 1 AASO , 36 Pl., and 40 PI which is believed to have influenced the numerical naming of the unit by adding 36 & 40 to give you a sub-total of 76, then by placing the 1 in front, the units numerical identifier of 176 was created.

On return from the Gospers Mountains training area to Holsworthy, (40 AD Pl.) and Randwick, (36 AD Pl.), the members who had been nominated to go to SVN were marched out of their units and marched into the 1 Tpt Coy lines at Ingleburn to form Det 176 AD Coy.

After Operational readiness checks and an all expenses paid tour of Land Warfare centre, the unit departed for SVN on the 25th of May 1966 and served under command of 1 Transport Company RAASC until the 11th of May 1967.
On the 12th of May 1967 the unit was renamed 176 AD Coy and was relocated from Vung Tau to Nui Dat, where it remained until the last Air Dispatcher returned to Australia on the 27th of February 1972.

At this time, while 176 AD Coy was the operational unit "in country", the Australian based unit at Wallgrove NSW was renamed 186 AD Coy acting as support.

(The AD base at Wallgrove is now the site of Australia's Wonderland Amusement Park.. things don't change much)

Just after the Vietnam Conflict, Air Dispatch in Australia underwent command structural changes in the form of renaming the 1st Army Air Supply Organisation to the 1st Air Transport Support Regiment (RACT)

1 ATSR was one of the Regiments that formed part of the Transport units controlled by the Commander Field Force (Movements & Transport) (Comd FF Mov T) who was charged with the Role/Task of providing Third Line Road, Sea, Air and Movement Control capabilities for the Australian Army's Field Force units.

The other units under the control of the Comd FF (Mov T) were, 9 Tpt Regt (Road Transport) and 10 Terminal Regiment (Sea/Rail Transport).

The 1970's also saw RAASC being renamed the Royal Australian Corps of Transport (RACT), with the loss of Clerical Duties and Food Stuff/Ration to the RAAOC and gaining of Small Ships Responsibilities from RAE.

Today - the passing of time has seen the unit returned to a situation where it has, along with many other units been reduced in manpower.

The Air Dispatch duties are currently carried out by one Squadron, that Squadron being 176 Air Dispatch Sqn RACT.

It has also seen the trend of 1960 being reversed by the disbanding of Army Reserve Air Dispatch units and the inclusion of ARes Air Dispatchers as part of 176 AD Sqn.

It was said that by the year 2000 Air Dispatchers will be serving in the Airborne Infantry Battalion Group, the Commando Battalion Group and the Parachute Training School, Air Dispatchers who are serving/have served with these groups will be identifiable the distinctive Airborne Parachute Wings and/or Head Dress that they have qualified for and been issued with as part of the Airborne/Commando, or Parachute Training School Air Dispatch contingents.

"Par Oneri de Caelo"
(Equal to the Task from the Sky)

" We trained hard - but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised.

I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation "

Attributed to Petronius Arbiter speaking about his days in the Roman Legion. (He died by his own hand in 66 AD)