Thunder strikes over Townsville beaches

Sappers from the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment’s, 18th Combat Engineer Squadron, stormed Pallarenda beach, Townsville, during Exercise Thunder Strike, achieving their small-boat certification in the process.

CAPTION: Australian Army soldiers from the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment deploy a Zodiac rigid inflatable boat during Exercise Thunder Strike in Townsville, Queensland on 20 May 2021. Story by Captain Diana Jennings. Photo by Corporal Sagi Biderman.

Integrating with the 35th Water Transport Squadron, the engineers conducted assembly and maintenance tasks on the Zodiac fleet before hitting the water to complete man-overboard drills, tactical formations and beach landings.

Second-in-command of 18th Combat Engineer Squadron, Captain Callum Griffiths, said exercises such as Thunder Strike highlighted the versatility and niche contribution the squadron provided to the 3rd Brigade.

“As the mechanised squadron within 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment, we’re typically mounted in armoured personnel carriers, but we also hold and maintain the medium girder bridge capability and the small boats fleet,” Captain Griffiths said.

“Completing this training means we are able to rapidly deploy in tactical environments and on disaster relief operations, which provides a vital watermanship capability to the 3rd Brigade.”

Thunder Strike, held last month, was the first opportunity for many sappers within the squadron to exercise their small-boats skills, and Lance Corporal Brendon Bagwill said it also gave the more senior soldiers the chance to mentor and guide their sections through the activities to build trust and cohesion.

“We have quite a few new members so it was really challenging for some as the conditions were rough and windy, but I’m really happy with how well the team pulled together,” Lance Corporal Bagwill said.

“Being the person overboard is a bit nerve wracking the first couple of times, but once you’re waiting in the water and you hear the guys shout that they’ve got eyes on you, seeing the boat turn around and knowing they’re coming to get you is a great feeling.

“Everyone put in a really good effort; we executed the commanders’ intent and I’m really proud of the team.”

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