The support capability 17 CSS Bde provided during Exercise Predators Gallop was fully tested, Cpl Sebastian Beurich writes.
SOLDIERS of 17 Combat Service Support (CSS) Bde tested their mettle during 1 Bde’s Exercise Predators Gallop by providing support to more than 2500 people over the course of five weeks.
As an enabling brigade, 17 CSS Bde provides specialist CSS, medical, catering and military policing support to major exercises around Australia every year.
Commander 17 CSS Bde Brig Paul Nothard said his brigade did not have a force generation cycle like other brigades.
“Many of the capabilities that exist in 17 CSS Bde are unique to this brigade. Unfortunately, we don’t have three of everything, so there are elements of the brigade that are constantly ready and on short-notice to move,” he said. “We certainly don’t get the opportunity to have a reset period, because of the nature of what we do. It creates unique challenges, but that’s just the nature of the business.”
17 CSS Bde faces the challenge of having the entire brigade spread out across Australia. Brig Nothard said this created additional complexities when it came to command and control. “We have outstanding sub-unit command teams who have more responsibility and less top-cover than a regular subunit,” he said.
“It really goes to show the quality of the people we have in those sub-units, which are dislocated from their higher headquarters.”
The elements of 17 CSS Bde have long-standing relationships with the brigades they support, which shows with the feedback they receive. “In the last few weeks, I’ve had formal letters to recognise the great work my soldiers have done supporting a number of exercises and operations,” Brig Nothard said. “I get quite a bit of feedback from the supported brigade commanders about the great work my officers and soldiers are providing to them as they go about their training.”
Much of that feedback is because of the message Brig Nothard is pushing throughout his brigade – readiness, professional mastery and ensuring they can integrate into the formations and units they are supporting. “The support the 17 CSS Bde elements provided on Predators Gallop is indicative of the support the brigade provides to the whole of Forcomd throughout the whole force generation cycle,” he said. “We focus very heavily on readiness, not just in accordance with our operational requirements, but for unexpected, short-notice contingencies such as Operation Fiji Assist. “It’s a great role, one that we enjoy and relish. I’m extremely proud of the work the brigade does. I know the formation is well represented by its officers and soldiers when they head out to conduct training or support tasks.”
Secrets to feeding troops on exercise
CAN you imagine cooking more than 6000 meals a day, with yourself and only a small team? 10FSB’s cooks did just that over the course of Exercise Predators Gallop, and at one point they even worked out of a collapsible field kitchen based out of the brigade maintenance area.
Adelaide-based caterer WO2 Paul Carne has been working with 1 Bde through his whole career – spending most of his early years with 2 Cav Regt before catering elements consolidated into 17 CSS Bde under Plan Bersheeba. “1 Bde is a fast-moving brigade.
We’ve fed anywhere up to 2500 people during this exercise, but the number fluctuates, sometimes it’s 900, sometimes it’s 2000,” he said. “That’s per meal, not per day.” WO2 Carne said his new soldiers had taken working in an austere environment in their stride. “It’s both an experience and a challenge for them, but we have the right people to take them under their wing and train them,” he said.
“It’s not often you get a large team and everyone gets on well together. No matter what the task or challenge is, I always hear ‘let’s go, let’s go, we’ve got to get this done’. “When we are working in a difficult environment, we can take our time doing things. It’s a lot easier with things like electric ovens and air-conditioning.
“Even simple things most people take for granted – hot water for example. In a kitchen, water is on tap. In the field, water is in 1000lt pods and we use gas burners to heat it.” Cpl Jessica Moore said working in the field was one of the most challenging parts of the exercise. “It was dusty, windy and the set-up and pack-down was pretty hectic. We were cooking non-stop,” she said. “It was pretty tough.
We had both good and bad days, but I think we’ve done pretty well throughout the exercise. “It was definitely a good experience for the new cooks who haven’t worked in a field kitchen before.” As the 1 Bde catering manager, WO2 Carlton is responsible for liaising with the brigade’s units and then developing a feeding plan to be delivered to the 10FSB caterers. “My biggest challenge is getting our units to provide correct numbers.
With sub-units converging into battle groups and then back into their parent unit, people are moving around so much it can be difficult to track,” he said. “WO2 Carne has been excellent in command and control of the kitchen on the exercise, and the whole team is excellent.
“They’ve been working very professionally throughout the exercise. “They gave me the opportunity to get on the tools again and work with them in the kitchen. It was great to work with the soldiers and earn their respect with a bit of camaraderie.”
Keeping a finger on the pulse
WITH more than 800 presentations, the medics from 1CHB’s 8CHC were kept on their toes during Exercise Predators Gallop. Added into the mix were a few specialities that are rarely seen on combat brigade-level exercises these days – an environmental health team from 2GHB and 1CHB’s integral physio.
Lt Kelsey Hamsey, of 8CHC, said the exercise was a learning experience for everyone involved. “Coordination of our health teams over such a large exercise area presented some interesting challenges,” she said.
“With all of the different forms of communication, from the battle management system to mobile phones, it’s been quite a challenge to speak to and manoeuvre people throughout the exercise. “We had great feedback from all our integral teams who were on the ground with the 1 Bde units. They were used to the best of their abilities and they all had a great time.”
One of the medics attached to a battle group was Pte Jess Edwards, who was operating in the integral role for the first time. “I was nervous at first, being a new-ish medic with a bit of experience, but I enjoyed the opportunity and it helped me build confidence in my skills,” she said. “I was working out of an ASLAV and had my own hatch in the rear, soIgottoseesomeofthecool things 1 Armd Regt were doing up close.
Lt Hamsey said communications were very important during the exercise.
“Because our doctor was centralised and can’t see the patient, whoever is on the ground needs to be very accurate with what they are reporting. The doctor is making a decision based on what they hear over the radio,” she said. “The doctor has to really trust the medic’s ability so they can make the best clinical decision for the patient.”
Senior health officer 1 Bde, Lt-Col Dianne Elson said she was very happy with the health services 8CHC provided during the exercise.
“We’ve learnt some great lessons about health-care delivery in the Cultana environment, which will stand everyone in good stead for Exercise Hamel. “The young clinicians and their leaders from 8CHC worked really well over the course of the exercise.
“As 8CHC can confirm, we cannot under estimate the importance of regular free-from-infection inspections and soldiers packing their own first-aid kit for their personal requirements.
“The environmental health team attached to us was also a great asset.
“From a combat brigade perspective, they are a critical enabler as part of our disease and illness planning and prevention.” Predators Gallop was Pte Corey Finley’s first opportunity to lead an environmental health team deployed into the field. “It was a bit daunting being a digger and having to advise the brigade headquarters staff, including the brigade commander, but I had a good crew down there to help,” he said.
“We’re usually used in tropical environments, such as Shoalwater Bay and High Range, which are completely different settings to Cultana.
“We focused more on advising on and minimising communicable diseases and acting in a riskadvisory role, rather than fogging for pests like up north.”
Military police keep wheels in motion
SOLDIERS of B Coy, 1 MP Bn, played a critical role at the Cultana Training Area during Exercise Predators Gallop.
2IC B Coy, 1 MP Bn, Capt Will Taylor said the company had a strong habitual relationship with 1 Bde, particularly the new commander. “Brig Ben James has worked hard to integrate us into the team,” he said. Usually employed as a dog handler, Cpl Reg Ramage said getting back into the core business of being an MP for both himself, and the new members of his section, was the best part of Predators Gallop. “We’ve gone back to the fundamentals of military policing in support of the combat brigade, which we haven’t done in a very long time,” he said.
“This exercise has really assisted us with redeveloping those skills. My section took up all of the challenges presented to them and they ran with it. “Errors were made along the way, but we corrected them on the fly and between the start of the exercise and the end, they improved dramatically. “The exercise really helped the senior members demonstrate the correct way of doing things to the new soldiers.”
One of the new MPs deployed to Predators Gallop was Pte Jacqueline Brown, who said the learning curve was both consistent and good. “We’ve put all of our skills to practise out here,” she said.
“It was a great opportunity to get up close with the units and understand how everyone worked together. “I never realised how much impact certain units had on other units.” Pte Brown was attached to 1CER for the duration of the exercise and said she didn’t realise just how much work they actually did. “From miniscule things, to the giant bridge and road crossings, it was pretty cool seeing it all,” she said. Capt Brendan Thomas, of HQ 1 Bde, said the MPs were “fantastic”. “The MPs have been tireless on Predators Gallop, supporting movement and control,” he said. “It may sound silly, but signposting was a massive thing during the exercise.
“Having a group of more than 2000 people moving to their individual locations, with no-one getting lost, is testament to the work they have done for us.”