The 43rd Birthday of 104 Signal Squadron

in Southern Afghanistan

Operation Slipper

By Maj David Jenkins, OC Afghanistan Signal Squadron (104 Sig Sqn)
Force Communication Unit-1

30 Nov 2008 in southern Afghanistan dawns a fine, clear day. Quite cold in the early morning, the weather quickly warms to mid twenties in the middle of the day.  This is a memorable day for more than one reason and generates mixed emotions.  Today, 43 years ago, 104 Signal Squadron was raised. Today is our 43rd birthday.

In the early morning the linesmen and the SSM (WO2 Mick Clarke) have conspired to set up the OC, MAJ Dave Jenkins – he’s been talking about getting the pennant up to the top of a 100 foot radio mast for the occasion, and they have decided that he should be the one to climb the tower in order to fly the pennant. The SSM breaks the news to the OC and hands him a harness. MAJ Jenkins, who loves heights, eagerly goes ahead with no bleating about not having had a morning cuppa (maybe that bit is artistic licence).  The OC climbs the tower under the watchful eye of SGT Dave Evans who is the Squadron’s oldest serving soldier (born about a year before 104), was acting SSM for eighteen months, and is deployed as the Linesman SGT and rigger.

The pennant is unfurled, the unreliable breeze is cursed, and eventually some photos are taken as the cold wind picks up.  The climbers descend and the birthday is put on hold for a more somber occasion.


104 Sig Sqn pause in their celebration to join other Australians and Coalition partners in Afghanistan remembering the life of LT Mick Fussell, a member of the Special Operations Task Group who was KIA on 27 Nov. During a simple service we remember his life, pray for his family and mates, and recite the ode for him.   The Last Post plays as the Australian National Flag is taken to half-mast and we reflect in silence.   We will remember him.

Later on all of the Afghanistan Sqn members in the camp gather for the birthday celebrations proper.  We listen as CAPT Mick Scott, the OPSO, recites the Squadron’s lineage from the day of raising through the various changes of the nineties to the current 104 Sig Sqn as a sub-unit of the 1st Combat Signal Regiment.  We agree that although we have adopted some members of 105 and Support Sqn and also some mates from the RAAF for the operational tour, we are 104 under another name here.

The OC speaks of the Squadron being a part of us, and us a part of the Squadron.  He points out that some of the first men to belong to the Squadron recently commemorated the 40th anniversary of the battles of Fire Support Bases CORAL and BALMORAL, and that while we are the third membership of the Squadron to deploy on operations we will not be the last.  He speaks of the future and of a time when we will sit, quietly amazed at the changes, as a whole new generation of 104 veterans tell us about their exploits in some future RSL on some future ANZAC day. He reminds us to be proud of who we are, what we are part of and what we have achieved.

The SSM reminds us that just as SOTG lost a mate last week, the Squadron lost three men in South Vietnam. He reads the Roll of Honour, and leads us in the Ode.   We, the next generation of veterans of 104, will remember them.

The pennant (CPL Dan Lamberts, our orderly room clerk, didn’t get a chance to emulate some of the pass member feats, it came over in the OC’s pocket) flutters above us in the fickle breeze as the OC and SIG Rachel Allan, the youngest member of the Squadron who is not on task, cut a birthday cake for the Squadron. Alcohol-free beer (hope the guys in Australia had a few real ones for us) and a BBQ follow the cake.  Happy Birthday 104 Sig Sqn, and many happy returns to us all. Certa Cito.

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