The Pilbara is a busy place, in amongst the iron ore, lithium, gold and nickel mines, largest ports and wide open pastoral lands operates the Pilbara Regiment.
CAPTION: Pilbara Regiment Colour Ensigns present the Colours for the first time. Story by Lieutenant David Trench. Photos by Sergeant Gary Dixon.
This year the Regiment has supported COVID Assist, by way of check points, quarantine management, recovery from Severe Tropical Cyclone Seroja and the massive effort required to preserve and protect the population of that devastated region – as well as border-protection operations, OP Resolute, search and recovery efforts and members of the Regiment have undertaken clandestine surveillance missions, as part of JTF639, at undisclosed locations during recent weeks.
Among these day-to-day tasks, the Regiment prepares for long-range reconnaissance and surveillance missions by training its soldiers in tactical operations of the six-wheel SRV, establishment of clandestine OP’s, use and operations of unmanned aerial platforms, water-based operations in the littoral space with Zodiacs, dinghy’s and jet-powered regional patrol craft.
A week ago they were also in the midst of a demanding survival activity through the West Australian desert.
The Area of Operations for the Regiment covers more than 1.3 million square kilometres of ancient lands and 1200km of coastline and water ways.
Harsh yet beautiful, it is a place full of culture and tradition.
In mid November the Regiment came together from all corners of its AO – Karratha, Port Hedland, Carnarvon, Onslow, Geraldton, Newman, Tom Price and Perth – driving, in some cases, more than six hours or flying for two hours to meet on the parade ground for an historic event – the presentation and consecration of the Queen’s and Regimental Colours.
The Pilbara Regiment is proud of its connection to the people of these lands by being the first ADF unit to adopt a Western Desert Aboriginal dialect as its motto – “Mintu Wanta” can mean many things to many people, but, to the Pilbara Regiment “Always Alert” as it fulfils its mission in protecting Australia’s northern borders.
The Pilbara Regiment was raised on 26 January 1982, its history well documented in the book Desert Diggers, is one of three Regiments that make up the Regional Force Surveillance group, with Norforce and 51st Far North Queensland Regiment.
Units that are tasked with long-range surveillance and reconnaissance across the northern frontier.
The Pilbara Regiment is approaching its 40th birthday, so the timing of this historic event, the presentation and consecration is perfect as the last unit in the ADF to receive their colours.
The parade led by Lieutenant Colonel Damien Geary, formed up around the hollow double diamonds of the Regiment’s UCP, presented arms to the dignitaries – Governor of Western Australia Kim Beazley, Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price, Senior ADF Officer in WA Air Commodore Fiona Dowse, and Commander 13 Brigade Brigadier Brett Chaloner.
The Army Band set the beat as the ceremony advanced to the presentation and consecration elements of the parade, as four six-wheeled, armed SRVs took up guard positions on each corner of the parade ground.
In setting new traditions and embracing much older cultural ways, two EF88 Austeyr rifles from the colour party sentries were replaced with two traditional ‘punishment spears’ as protection for the colours.
This symbolised the RFSG’s and the Regiment’s acknowledgement of lands and culture towards the custodians of the land in which we live and operate.
The two punishment spears – Margurndu – were made from the mulga tree – Wirndamarra or Acacia aneura, by Marshall Smith, a Milyarranypa Banjima/Burnugurndi Gurruma man.
The spears are a deterrent to behaviours that create conflict and highlight our shared goal to protect country – and will henceforth protect the Pilbara Regiment’s Colours.
The backdrop to the entire parade came into full effect, the Colours presented and consecrated were raised to become a part of a spectacular Pilbara sunset.
Lieutenant Colonel Geary said after the parade, “the unique symbolism of using the Margurndu strengthens our connection to country of its people, and being the first Australian Army unit to adopt a traditional-language motto, Mintu Wanta, reflects further our respect towards the culture of this place”.
“The Regiment is extremely proud and honoured to have received the Queens and Regimental Colours and we thank all those who participated in and attended this historic occasion.”