Is 2RAR kidding themselves?
I would like to submit a response to the “2RAR Amphibious” article [in the latest issue of CONTACT magazine]. While I fully acknowledge that the Battalion has gone through a transitional period, and developed a capability to suit the new suite of ships for task, the writer of the article needs to be enlightened and it seems Army PR before him, about a few things. Its all very well to think of yourself as better than others, but blowing a trumpet, can be exactly that.
2RAR did not recently conduct the largest amphibious landing by Australians since WW2! 1RAR landed in SVN via the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney, on helos and landing craft, with vehicles, it was not opposed. Several RAR BNs did this. 6RAR conducted a Battalion amphib landing in Hawaii from US ships with the USMC when they were preparing to become the “Amphib specialists of the Regiment” in 89. 2RAR conducted a amphib landing in Battalion supported strength, from USS Germantown and other craft with the USMC. There is no doubt more examples if one was to dig a wee bit deeper. I think anyone submitting in defense publications or the like should contact Army History Unit or Google first, there have been too many reported “firsts” by the ADF in recent years that are not really accurate.
2RAR cannot operate as a standard infantry battalion, which as we know fields usually three rifle companies, Support company, Admin company and BHQ. Fielding only one Rifle company, and a Recon Company limits you, such as in the 6RAR “Army 21” Trials. This means with enemy defense frontages and ratios, 2RAR like 6RAR in that trial, will only likely be tasked with missions in the 3:1 ratio, against an estimated enemy platoon or slightly larger if you get Recon company to act as rifle platoons. That does not sound like a standard Infantry Battalion, does it? Its more likely that it will be used as reserve or depth for 3BDE. The reserve Rifle Company, does not work, not in modern Australia. Again, 6RAR Army 21, A Coy was the GRES Company and one patrol in both Recon and Surv Platoons. A Company generally went field with a platoon or less, if at all, and the reserve patrols seldom turned up. You would have to task a GRES BDE in order to develop the task and the bean counters wont condone it, so good luck with that!. Would have been much better, to look at the results of expensive trials previously conducted, and retain two rifle companies. They would all turn up, and 2RAR could indeed be used as a small SIB! not a heavily supported Rifle Company with likely more officers than soldiers. I think you need to look at who you are trying to fool, parliament, the RAR Association or the future enemy, who really wont give a toss. Its not to late to undo it!!
I do also wonder at the “Recon Gap” between SOCOMD Recon and RAR BN Recon platoons, that you feel only 2RAR can fill? I’d say you just pissed a few people off there, like all of the RAR Recon platoons. You may be able to insert up rivers and by helo, Which is what they can do, with the aid of Pioneer Platoon, as is one of their roles, or Air, but you certainly cant do anything more. Your still susceptible to riverine ambush, your still susceptible to SAMs and enemy action. If a JTAC goes with them, then they have the same capability, and your blowing a trumpet. I would dare say, hunter killer anti tank teams, sniper pairs, Small boat handlers, Dems operators, Mortarmen and NCOs and officers trained in call for fire techniques are present, skilled and ready in every Battalion of the Regiment.
At the end of the day, good on you 2RAR for training and adapting to this role. I served in 2RAR, and am still proud of the Battalion, and would have loved to work in this environment, I did with the Brit Army when in 3RAR. Yep, Paratroopers in landing craft, there was vomit, but it was loads easier than having to jump, rally then get into it. But I wonder if perhaps the government and the brass has slightly hamstrung this. Perhaps fixing the deployment of Tanks off the ships issue, (purchase a squadron of lighter tanks like Leopard 2 if you need too) and raising 2 RAR to at least two rifle companies, and keep politicians and defense procurement with public servants in that process not able to exercise rank in decision!. And time for the bear in the closet! Rerolling a Battalion in the Para role to secure the beachhead or LZ (not import Allies to do it), we killed a national capability when we killed 3RAR’s Para role, over less funding annually than retired politicians travel and pensions!!. Without the surprise of air delivered, take and hold troops, to block access on roads or ground you will not be conducting an Amphib landing into opposed territory. You don’t have to use them, but if you need to they are there.(remember our small sized SASR and CDOs will be otherwise employed).
Hi Erik. Thank you for contributing to this debate. I agree with many of your points, and disagree with a few.
That said, though, I wholeheartedly commend the author of that piece, and 2RAR head shed who cleared it, for their enthusiasm and obvious pride in their unit and in their work.
This piece came about because 2RAR were a bit miffed about an earlier opinion piece I published – “2RAR will cease to exist as a light infantry battalion” – which I still stand behind, and which I feel your argument supports in the main.
This is a big topic and I hope it is debated, especially here on CONTACT (I invite comments below or by email to email@example.com) – and especially in a sensible, considered, considerate (especially to 2RAR) and respectful manner (and I will delete any comments that aren’t).
PHOTO CAPTION: 2RAR soldiers depart the well deck of USS Green Bay in combat rubber raiding craft during Talisman Saber 17. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sarah Myers.