30 January 2017
A Star News Group Publication
Australia Day awards
Rangers ready to unite
Medal honour By Casey Neill “Gee, that’s a surprise” was the reaction from retired commando Captain Donald Bergman to news he’d made this year’s Australia Day Honours List. The Noble Park 88-year-old will receive a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to veterans and their families, and to the wider community - unsurprising to those who know Don and his dedication to volunteer work. “I think it’s just one of the things that people do if they’ve got time and they’ve got the expertise and it helps other people, which is the main thing,” he said. Don was a march marshal at Melbourne’s Anzac Day service for more than 50 years and is a volunteer guide at the Shrine of Remembrance one day a week. “I’ve volunteered to make props for the Berwick Amateur Theatre Society and the Windmill Theatre Society, plus the Cranbourne Secondary College Amateur Theatre Group,” he said. “Also, years ago I designed a training aid for teaching coastal navigation in the army. “All of Australia’s Special Forces use it. “I’m just finishing one off for the Dandenong cadet unit at the moment. “Around the coast of all countries, ships when they’re coming in from the open ocean, they’ve got to know the safe areas that they can sail their ship into. “The lights, the navigation lights are similar to what you do when you’re driving around on a road. You’ve got your traffic lights to guide you. “The navigation aid teaches the principals of this.” The first training aid was in music box form, he explained, and came about when he was asked to take over training during his time with 2 Commando Company and found nothing to assist him. “In the '70s when I did a course on electronics I realised it could be computerised,” he said. This version involves a switch box and maps containing lights that measure metres in size.
He still repairs and makes these units today, with his own time and money. Don joined the Air Training Corps during World War II. “My brother was in the American Merchant Navy in early World War II and my stepfather was serving overseas,” he said. “The war was on and something had to be done.” In 1948 he joined the Citizen’s Military Force (CMF), now known as the Army Reserve and in 1955 transferred to 2 Commando Company. “It gets a bit hazardous sometimes but it was quite good,” he said. “You’re training a lot of people and they turn out to be better citizens for Australia.” In 1969 he volunteered for deployment to Vietnam and spent a short time there as a CMF observer. “I was awarded the Reserve Force Decoration and the Imperial Efficiency Decoration and also I was awarded an Australian Army Training Command Commendation,” he said. “In my civil job I was awarded the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner’s Commendation.” His civil job was in the postmaster general’s department as a senior telecommunications technician and he was the first non-police officer to receive the honour. “When you earn them you can feel quite proud of it, but you don’t worry about it once you get them,” he said. Don and his wife Audrey, 89, have six children - four boys, two girls - and nine grandchildren. Son David followed Don into the armed forces at age 17. “He outranks Don now - he’s a major, Don only got to captain,” Audrey laughed. “He went to Afghanistan twice and Iraq once.” Don added, smiling: “It doesn’t matter what your rank is in the army, you’re always outranked by your wife - and I’m outranked by my son, too.”
Don Bergman shows off the navigational training aid he developed for the Australian Defence Force.
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