World News

Revealed: General’s private apology to Navy hero

Australian Defense Force chief Angus Campbell has personally apologized to a naval hero who lost his brother to suicide and was subsequently allegedly mistreated by senior officers.

The apology to diver John Armfield followed Mr Armfield’s testimony to the Royal Commission Into Defense and Veteran Suicide about the death of his brother, RAAF Senior Airman Andrew Armfield.

Mr Armfield, an Afghanistan veteran and military recruiter, alleged serious failings in the ADF’s treatment of his brother and spoke of a hostile culture as he grappled with the circumstances of Andrew’s death.

Andrew took his own life in October 2011, but Mr Armfield only learned of the existence of an internal report into his brother’s death ten years after the traumatic event.

When the report was presented to him, he told the Commission how he drove to the post office to collect it without any on-site assistance available to him to deal with the findings, which he said revealed serious failings in his brother’s care .

“I was sitting in my car broken,” he said.

“I served my nation faithfully and so they gave me the report of my little brother’s death.

“I sat there and sobbed. I couldn’t take it home to my family.”

He said he was not informed of the existence of the report or its outcome, which he learned about through the commission.

He said he had a “struggle” to get the report and was “angry” about the bureaucratic hurdles he faced trying to find out the truth about what happened to his brother .

Mr Armfield also told the commission that he faced a hostile culture when he raised concerns about his brother’s care with his superiors.

In his March 18 letter to Mr Armfield, delivered personally to him on the Gold Coast by Navy Warrant Officer Andrew Bertoncin, General Campbell said he had observed some of the diver’s statements.

“I would like to commend you for your courage, clarity and dignity in detailing your experiences surrounding the tragic loss of your brother Andrew and the events you have experienced since that time,” writes General Campbell.

“I sincerely and deeply apologize for the experiences you have had and for the traumatic impact these actions have had on you.

“The Royal Commission is an important opportunity for the Ministry of Defense to better understand the complex issue of suicide.

“Thank you for sharing your account and for your continued support of the Royal Commission’s final report and recommendations.”

But Mr Armfield, speaking to NCA NewsWire on Wednesday, said the letter was vague and lacked any “accountability”.

“It doesn’t spell out what he’s apologizing for,” he said.

“Is it medical negligence, defamation, a breach of Australian privacy principles, loss of career and earnings?”

“He doesn’t recognize anywhere what he’s apologizing for.”

Mr Armfield raised concerns with the Commission about possible data breaches within the ADF.

While on duty, he discovered files relating to his brother’s death on an internal defense storage system.

“It was all on Objective (the storage system) and accessible to me,” he told the commission.

“I was very torn and emotional that this was there.”

When he raised concerns about possible data breaches with his superiors, he said he was threatened with possible criminal charges for illegally accessing the system.

Mr Armfield was cleared of any wrongdoing, but only after nine months of what he described as stress and hardship.

Facing the possibility of criminal charges, he once told his wife that if he were arrested, he wanted her to film the whole thing and send it to the media.

The diver left military service in 2023 after 20 years of service and is now writing a book about his experiences.

Titled “Leadership Failure,” Mr. Armfield said he wanted the book to highlight what he sees as a “two-tier” culture within the military, with one set of rules for officers and another set of rules for enlisted soldiers, sailors and airmen.

“We all have an agenda in life and mine is to honor my brother,” he told NCA NewsWire.

“And to make my father proud and fix the military.”

General Campbell is scheduled to testify on Thursday at the commission’s final day of hearings.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button