Hundreds of kilometres from Perth, deep in the heart of Western Australia’s outback, soldiers from the Pilbara Regiment’s 3rd Squadron have learned new survival skills and put them to the test.
CAPTION: Corporal Andrew Ball demonstrates lighting a fire with a fero rod on Exercise Emu Walk. Story by Captain Sandra Seman-Bourke.
The recently held Exercise Emu Walk aimed to enhance the core environmental survival and visual tracking skills that support survivability and intelligence gathering while on long-range surveillance tasks in remote areas.
Officer Commanding 3rd Squadron Major Blake Bishell said the survival training began in the Burringurrah community, in the heart of the remote Gascoyne region.
“We started the week-long survival and tracking exercise with a 51-kilometre dismounted foot patrol, where the participants needed to find their own resources to continue on the trek,” Major Bishell said.
The final destination for the participants was Mt Augustus, known as Burringurrah in the local Wajarri language, which is twice the size of Uluru, making it the largest rock in the world.
The exercise was supported by Special Air Service Regiment personnel and Burringurrah Rangers, who provided additional expertise and experience in the areas of counter-tracking and deception, judging the age of various animal and human disturbances in the field, and the mental approach to surveillance.
CAPTION: Burringurrah Ranger, Charles Snowball, discusses traditional Aboriginal tracking techniques with 3 Squadron members.
Other skills taught included techniques for procuring water, building shelters, lighting fires, improvised first-aid techniques, finding bush tucker, and celestial navigation.
“The Burringurrah Rangers spoke about the importance of tracking, its use for reading the ground and identifying what animals had passed through the area, as well as teaching 3rd Squadron soldiers the traditional names and uses of various medicinal plants,” Major Bishell said.
The patrols completed lessons on survival before tracking each other through the outback, putting their newly acquired skills to the test in a challenging environment.
Major Bishell said these skill-sets were essential for soldiers of the Pilbara Regiment, who specialised in reconnaissance and surveillance.
“By understanding environmental survival, the soldiers are able to be comfortable in a harsh, unforgiving terrain and, if required due to circumstance, they may easily extend the duration of their task without resupply, knowing they are capable of maintaining their position while using local resources,” he said.
“It also gives the individual a sense of self confidence, knowing if they are separated from their patrol, they have the ability to keep themselves alive until rescue arrives.”
Major Bishell said Pilbara Regiment’s reconnaissance and surveillance activities occur in the most remote parts of the country, and their most important learning comes from collaborating with local communities to share knowledge and information.
CAPTION: Pilbara Regiment 3 Squadron recently completed a gruelling survival course in the heart of Western Australia.