Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein
Submitted by : Alan Price
SSgt Frank N. Stein wears the medals of all 4 RAR campaigns, the commando parachute wings and the green commando beret.
At long last the truth about Sgt Frank N. Stein, his early experiences as a civilian, his rapid rise in rank to Staff Sergeant and his later war time experiences. Still, some parts of his life may continue to be exaggerated over the years as happens to all legendary Army figures. Even in this account, some exaggerations may be discovered and argued over. Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein is the longest serving soldier in the Australian army and is a legend in his own right.
According to his creator, former Warrant Officer Class One Noel Huish, but interspersed with legendary offerings from those close to him, like former Private Dave Morris and former WO2 Alan Price, is the story of the legend that is Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein.
Frank N. Stein first arrived into the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR) on a cold winters night in Woodside, South Australia in 1964. It was late, and his entrance into the Sergeants’ Mess was in a cardboard carton. Some dry ice and a candle provided the back lighting for effect.
He was a civilian at this stage and to say that his arrival rather stunned the two older members present in the mess is an understatement and as a result the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Leslie Edward Brennan MBE or “Paddy” as he was affectionaly called behind his back (or “sir” to his face) by fellow but subordinate Mess members, meted out numerous extra duties to the junior sergeants involved because they had shown a lack of respect to more senior members of the mess and to the standards of the mess itself. Paddy, however recognised something about Frank and recognised his potential.
Sergeant Huish was asked if he would bring Frank to the Mess for the two year trip to Malaysia that the Battalion was to embark on in 1965. Needless to say Frank was immediately promoted to sergeant, a rank commensurate with Noel’s at the time and of course the minimum rank allowed into any Sergeants’ Mess. He quickly became a staunch mess member.
At the Terendak Garrison in Malacca, Malaysia, Frank was kitted out by the battalion civilian tailor, Mohammed Rafik in a full set of Jungle Greens, both Summer and Winter Service Dress, Mess Dress and civilian suit.
So commenced the Army and 4 RAR career of the then Sergeant Frank N. Stein.
He accompanied the Battalion for its six months tour of Borneo against the Indonesians gaining his first campaign medal; the British General Service Medal with Clasp, Borneo. He was later to earn another three medals for his Malaysian and Borneo campaigns along with the Infantry Combat Badge and the Returned From Active Service Badge.
On return from Malaysia and with a break of only a few months, he went with the Battalion for its first tour of South Vietnam in 1968-69. After his tour of South Vietnam, it was decided to promote him to Staff Sergeant. By a remarkable coincidence his creator and mentor was also promoted to Staff Sergeant on the same day.
It is told that at that time, it was decided that he should never be promoted above the rank of Staff Sergeant after discussions concerning the chain of command within a rifle company and how it might be improved. It was agreed that the operational chain of command progressed downwards within the Sergeant’s Mess from the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) to the Company Sergeant Majors (CSM) to the Company Quarter Master Sergeants (CQMS) whose rank is Staff Sergeant, down to the Platoon Sergeants. It was then agreed if a Sergeant within the Sergeants’ Mess had a problem he should be able to freely voice that concern to his CSM but this posed a problem. It is the duty of the CSM to keep his company commander informed so there was a slight, albeit a very slight, chance, that a sergeant’s problem might not remain confidential. (This thought process may have been initiated by Sergeants Bundy and Coke [Bundaberg Rum and Coca Cola])
It was then decided that as the CQMS (Staff Sergeant) was a little outside of the immediate operational chain of command, that a sergeant should be able to voice a problem or concern to his CQMS rather than his CSM, without recourse or retribution. They then concluded that should a sergeant have an immediate personal and private problem and a staff sergeant was not present in the mess, then the problem could not be immediately addressed. This could cause a serious breakdown in morale. (Another logical thought process perhaps initiated by Sergeant Bundy and Sergeant Coke.)
It was further decided that as responsible members of the Mess, that they would always allow Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein to live in the mess and an open coffin was made, nailed upright to the wall where Frank could reside and always be available for the mess members.
Frank completed a second tour of Vietnam with the Battalion in 1971-72.
During all these year Frank was on loan to the Mess. When SSgt Huish left the Battalion in 1972 it was agreed that if Frank did not join 2/4 RAR on their linking in 1973 that he would be returned to Noel. Happily Frank’s military career continued with 2/4 RAR and it was many years later in 1981 that Noel officially presented Frank to the 2/4 RAR Sergeants’ Mess with the proviso that should 4 RAR be delinked from 2 RAR that Frank would be returned to 4 RAR.
On that night Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein had completed 15 years’ service and was presented with his National Medal to complement his two Vietnam Medals.
When 2 RAR and 4 RAR de-linked, Frank marched into 4 RAR again and soon earned more service medals and even more campaign medals including East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He will never be promoted because as a Staff Sergeant, the Sergeants know that he will keep their concerns, complaints, bitches and late night mental meanderings confidential.
Customs associated with SSgt Frank N. Stein include that he attend all Sergeants’ Mess activities and many Battalion activities, appropriately dressed.
A newly promoted Sergeant is appointed as his sponsor and at all formal dinners the sponsor sergeant eats and drinks on SSgt Frank N. Stein's behalf.
Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein is now a qualified parachutist and commando having passed all the qualifying tests as undertaken by his nominated sponsor. Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein wears the medals of all 4 RAR campaigns, the commando parachute wings and the commando green beret.
He was wounded in action in Iraq whilst on active service, and on patrol. He was sitting to the front of one of the 4 RAR (Commando) patrol vehicles (as a forward observer and forward scout) when the vehicle came under enemy fire and was forced to brake suddenly. As Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein was only secured by the bottom half of his body, the top half did the soldierly thing and immediately went to ground, rolled, observed and took up a firing position. Although visibly shaken and stirred Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein fully recovered from his wounds and after receiving first aid on the spot and later at the RAP (not the Regimental Aid Post but the Rapid Acquisition of Parts) he returned to duty.
Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein’s actions that day exemplify the standards required of a 4 RAR warrior and especially a 4 RAR (Commando) warrior who led from the front and who continually inspired his fellow warriors.
Unfortunately his citation for gallantry was refused as at the time he was Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) from the Sergeants’ Mess at Holsworthy in Sydney. He had gone to war without the permission of the RSM!
Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein was once kidnapped by the Special Air Service Regiment who demanded a ransom paid for his return. They may have been refining their ant-terrorist skills but the ransom was paid and Frank was returned home.
Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein has attended many 4 RAR parades and 4 RAR Associations dinners and reunions throughout the past 55 years.
Although Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein was commando qualified thanks to his succession of mentors, he was considered too short for any 2nd Commando Regiment war operations so because 4 RAR (Commando) had formed the 2nd Commando Regiment and because 4 RAR was now on the Order of Battle by name only, there was no standing 4 RAR unit for Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein. Perhaps his refusal to be promoted had something to do with it. Sadly he was transferred to the Unallotted List and marched into the David Morris Home for Wayward Girls and Boys in Sydney.
David accepted Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein into his own home and took care of him. Sometime later Frank N. Stein failed an inspection parade. It was found that as he was getting older his movements were slower affecting his drill, his positioning behind a machine gun and his general appearance was not up to scratch. David called for help from all the 4 RAR state associations and they all committed finances to allow Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein to be admitted to the doll hospital for immediate rehabilitation and remedial training. On his way home from the hospital he sent postcards to the Mess from Tamworth, Narrabri, Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst, saying how much he was enjoying his holiday.
After a few weeks in rehabilitation, Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein took on his old appearance and looked like the enduring soldier and legend that he is.
One day, the Sydney office of the Defence Credit Union was held up and Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein was subsequently arrested as a suspect after a CCTV image captured him making a hurried exit from the premises. He was later released as he maintained his right to silence refusing to incriminate himself and the tellers could not identify him because ... “we could not see him over the counter”. He was subsequently exonerated of all charges.
Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein is now a permanent resident at the David Morris Home for Wayward Girls and Boys and is enjoying life whilst waiting to be marched back into 4 RAR. I have been informed that he keeps up with his military skills.
Staff Sergeant Frank N. Stein is still available for speaking engagements, dinners and parades. In deference to his enduring patriotic service, and not unlike any star performer, he insists on first class travel, five star accommodation, with meals and beverages being paid for by the requesting parties and that he be provided with a host at all events. He does however miss his old mate and creator, Warrant Officer Class One Noel Huish OAM.
Police CCTV photo of the wanted man
(obviously an imposter)
A newly promoted sergeant looking after SSgt Frank N. Stein at a dining-in night.
"Oops, Sorry Staff. Sergeant!"
SSgt Frank N. Stein wearing his Commando Green beret, with Rick Currie and Shorty Langford at the 2014 Adelaide reunion. He later wore Mess Dress to the very successful Reunion Ball.
CO 2/4 RAR Lt Col John Deighton MC, Unknown member and the RSM WO1 Bernie Le Seuer MM in the 2/4 RAR Sergeants’ Mess.
Two members of Frank’s fan club
SSgt Frank N. Stein asleep in his bed.
Ever vigilant, he sleeps with his eyes open and in full uniform ready to deploy at a moments notice.
4 RAR Associations of Australia