Reserve troops play key role in 1 Bde’s readiness exercise at Cultana
By Capt Sharon Mascall-Dare and Capt Lucy Saaroni
FOR Combat Team Bravo, the pressure was on during Exercise Predators Gallop, 1 Bde’s major exercise last month.
Its role, as part of Battle Group Jacka, was to undertake security operations to support 1 Bde’s manoeuvre plan. Enemy contact was expected at any time.
“We’re sending patrols out, we’ve established observation posts and we’re clearing routes,” said Maj Jared Hill, OC Combat Team Bravo. “Our company has adopted a defensive position here to secure the brigade maintenance area (BMA). “But we’re also supporting other 1 Bde assets. One of our platoons is out with 1CER providing security while the engineers complete a water purification task.”
Combat Team Bravo was not alone in fulfilling multiple roles during Predators Gallop.
Various elements from BG Jacka were called upon to reinforce 1 Bde as the exercise successfully demonstrated force integration and capability generation. At the BG Jacka command post (CP), the extent of that integration was clear, as staff coordinated multiple requests for support across the battle group.
A platoon from Combat Team Alpha was working with 5RAR on a bridging task, while other force elements provided security to the BMA.
An infantry platoon mounted in Bushmasters was providing a battle group reserve for 5RAR, while a light cavalry scout troop was attached to 1 Armd Regt. In the BMA, 9CSSB and 4CSSB were working closely with 1CSSB providing a range of skills, including specialist expertise from RAEME and health units. “We’ve received a number of requests for support, while also providing security for vulnerable force elements,” said Capt Lachlan Joseph, Battle Captain at the CP. “For example, Combat Team Charlie is providing security for 1 Bde’s retransmission facility – a high-value asset for Commander 1 Bde.
“The fact that 1 Bde have given us the responsibility to secure it shows the level of confidence they have in our capability.” BG Jacka infantry patrols in the AO were supported by a combined battery, including elements from 9 Bde’s 6/13 Lt Bty based in South Australia and Tasmania, and 4 Bde’s 2/10 Lt Bty based in Victoria. Activity on the mortar line was intense, as members of both batteries tested their individual SOPs, working together to merge into a single fighting unit. “This training is vital in the leadup to Exercise Hamel,” said Gnr David Henry, of 6/13 Lt Bty. “We’re working with 1 Bde to provide capabilities Army relies on during operations. This is an important part of the lead-up to that.” For Bdr Stephen Mitchell, also of 6/13 Lt Bty, Predators Gallop offered more experience in working with multiple CPs and joint task forces.
“It’s an opportunity to get more experience as a CP officer on the mortar line,” he said. “Over the last two years in the lead-up to Hamel, I’ve seen my skills develop and improve. We’re performing at a higher level.” Hamel was a focus and a motivator across the battle group, with all members using Predators Gallop as an opportunity to improve their skills.
CO BG Jacka Lt-Col Tom Biedermann said they had built effective capability bricks in 4 and 9 Bdes through unit-level training, which were now being deployed in the battle group. “We’ve generated capability in infantry, armour, combat service support, engineers, signals and artillery among others – we’re becoming complete as a battle group,” he said.
“Our command and control is using the battle management system and our use of digital radios is more complete than before. “Our engineer and Bushmaster capabilities are now mature and our combat service support admin company is the most complete we’ve had to date.” Lt-Col Biedermann said it took time to develop capabilities during the force generation cycle. “Now, just a few weeks from Hamel, we’re ready to support 1 Bde with reinforcements and on security tasks,” he said. “We’re doing our job.”
Morlancourt takes to bush
INTERNATIONAL elements were integrated into Exercise Predators Gallop, with a UK Army Reserve rifle platoon and additional infantry elements on exchange from the New Zealand Defence Force. Members of 4 Bn, Yorkshire Regt (4 Yorks), were embedded in 10/27RSAR as part of an exchange program called Exercise Morlancourt, supporting capability generation and cooperation between Army Reserve units in the UK and Australia. SM 4 Yorks WO1 Paul Kitching said Morlancourt was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“You never know who you’re going to be attached to in theatre, so it’s vital that our UK reserves have a deep understanding of how our Australian counterparts operate,” he said. During Predators Gallop, the British soldiers were embedded in Combat Team Bravo, along with members of 10/27RSAR.
They undertook a number of patrols and engaged with enemy forces as they contributed to the combat team’s defensive operations to secure 1 Bde’s maintenance area. Pte Simon Sunderland, of 4 Yorks, said it was great working with other nations to see what they did. “I’ve done a tour of Iraq and two in Afghanistan where I worked with Danish and US troops,” he said. “This is an opportunity to test our skills in a new landscape.” Before they deployed to Cultana, the 4 Yorks soldiers received training on Australian weapons systems and quickly put their new skills to work in the field. For section commander Cpl David Myhowycz, a highlight was being sent out on overwatch duties as a mechanised infantry patrol in Australian Bushmasters.
“Working in vehicle packets has been a great experience for us, as it’s useful to learn Australia’s SOPs and TTPs,” he said.
Like 10/27RSAR, the 4 Yorks element included members of the UK regular Army and reserve, with a number having served on operations overseas. LCpl Jonathan Cummings, of 4 Yorks, said he had worked overseas before, but this was the first time he’d worked this closely with a foreign defence force. “It sets you up better for operations if you’ve been embedded in a foreign defence force,” he said. “During this exercise it’s struck me that the way we operate is quite similar. It’s useful to give our reservists handson experience in a different environment, in a different country.”
BG JACKA AT A GLANCE
- By Exercise Hamel, BG Jacka will be at full strength – manning reached more than 600 soldiers during Predators Gallop.
- The battle group includes members of the regular Army and reserve from 4 and 9 Bde units in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.
- The patches worn by BG Jacka members are individually numbered, adopting the same system used on operations in Afghanistan.
- The battle group is named after Albert Jacka, a forestry worker from Victoria who landed at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915. He served with 14 Bn and was awarded Australia’s first Victoria Cross of WWI.