Welcome to the first instalment of the Contact Editor’s Blog – and what could surely contend as the worst first blog ever.
And in the interests of opening this new comms channel on a positive note (sarcasm attached here), let me start by telling you about how I spent four days driving to spend just one night and one day ‘out bush’ with the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
Let me just say, this was not the original plan, however.
I take full responsibility for this, but, there was a certain amount of confusion as to the purpose of my visit with 7RAR from the get go. And I freely admit (after reviewing the email evidence) that the confusion was entirely down to me.
You see, I initially asked Lieutenant Colonel McLennan for an opportunity to fire the EF88 myself, so that I could report to you guys what I thought of the Australian Army’s new rifle. And he accepted that request.
But when the offer of a visit with 7RAR in Cultana, South Australia, was officially made several days later, the acronym SCE had become the point of interest.
Not knowing exactly what “SCE” meant and foolishly making an assumption (with very little thought put in to it), I was content in my own head that SCE was probably some form of ancillary attachment to the rifle and its meaning would become clear once I saw it and photographed it.
So, off I set for South Australia.
And knowing I had 15 or 16 hours driving ahead of me with patchy radio reception, I at least had my entertainment organised – podcasts by ‘one-of-those-American-life-coach-type-people’ recommend to me by Contact affiliate, The Military Shop. And that’s a topic I’ll delve into later.
I actually love driving – and The Hay Plains is a very surreal place to drive.
But that’s a whole other story – or even two.
So, two days later and pretty much ‘on time’, I reach Cultana Military Training Area on the Eyre Peninsula, with a couple of hours daylight left.
I meet my host at Range Control and we sit for a chat – he to enlighten me on the plan for my visit over the next 4 to 6 days (I was flexible) and me to clarify what I hoped to achieve from the visit.
“As long as I get to fire the EF88, everything else will be a bonus,” I said.
The look on his face spoke volumes – “7RAR doesn’t have the new rifle yet”.
Long story slightly shorter – it turns out SCE = soldier carriage ensemble – or, in other words, pack, webbing, body armour etc.
OK, that was pretty disappointing – but, as I admit freely, the confusion was entirely my fault.
Adapt and overcome, as we used to say – and they still do – in the Army.
The plan for the next 4 days looked pretty exciting. A company clearance of an enemy position dug in to a full-on WWI-style trench system, and two further follow-on clearances of smaller enemy outposts – all using live ammunition, with live mortar and M113AS4 support.
This promised to be big – and more than adequate compensation for my initial disappointment. But, you’ll just have to wait to see the eventual story (which isn’t written yet) in the next issue of CONTACT Air Land & Sea, on 1 December.
For fear of labouring this story too much, let me cut to the chase and tell you why this could be the worst first blog ever…
I suspect I may have contracted a mild bout of food poisoning on the trip down which, combined with heat/dehydration, age and shamefully low fitness, conspired to knock me for six.
By the evening of my first full day in the bush, I was quite unwell (and remained so for several days after) – and thought it best for everyone concerned that I pull the pin early and get out of there, lest the hard-working diggers of 7RAR end up with a VERY-EX-Army no-duff casualty to deal with.
Imagine the paperwork!
So, that’s how/why I spent four days driving 3,200km for just one day in the bush with 7RAR.
And that’s why this blog didn’t quite turn out as good as I had hoped/planned.
Till next time – safe travels 🙂