In the harsh humidity of far-north Queensland’s jungles, soldiers from the 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (8/9RAR), and the French Armed Forces in New Caledonia (FANC) battled tough conditions.
CAPTION: Australian Army officer, Officer Commanding Alpha Company, Major Jared Slansky of 8th/9th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment emerges from the bear pit tunnel during Exercise True Grit at Tully Training Area, Queensland. Story by Captain Taylor Lynch. Photo by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton.
Exercise True Grit was a test of courage and resolve, using the jungle of Tully training area to test each soldier.
The Australian Army has a history of jungle fighting alongside allied forces.
8/9RAR’s Major Jared Slansky watched his soldiers contend with harsh terrain and arduous conditions, which hardened as their time in Tully continued. He said jungle warfare was complex.
“The jungle is different to other operating environments because of the climatic conditions, be it the humidity, the heat, or the rain,” Major Slansky said.
“It demands more resilience from the soldiers and greater tactical acumen of the commanders to be able to manoeuvre, identify, and close with the enemy.
“We need to understand the impacts of the jungle, particularly non-battle related threats like malaria, dysentery, wildlife, or just the heat.”
Major Slansky said tenets bestowed by the Jungle Training Wing had been used as a framework for operating in the jungle for generations.
“The four tenets to thrive in the jungle are discipline, leadership, teamwork and resilience,” he said.
“You need discipline to do your drills correctly, you need grit to persevere, the smarts to adapt, while understanding the impacts of fatigue and the limitations of your men and women.
“Instilling good practices and being human is important for building teamwork, so you can come together collaboratively.
“With the four-tenet framework, we get out in the hard terrain, learn from our mistakes, continue to adapt, and refine our procedures.
“If you follow the procedures, take the kit you’re supposed to, and do the drills correctly, then the soldiers don’t just survive, but thrive, and can conduct sustained warfighting operations in the jungle.”
8/9RAR were supported by a professional contingent from the FANC, who slotted seamlessly into 8/9RAR’s Alpha Coy.
FANC’s Lieutenant Hervé said the French and Australian soldiers had similar skillsets and character, allowing them to bond quickly and tackle challenges together.
“We have the same skills and drills, so we haven’t had any problems understanding the Australian soldiers in tactical situations; from this point of view we are very close,” Lieutenant Hervé said.
“It’s hard training in the jungle. The fight is very hard, the environment is very hard, and gathering people in a hard environment with a common struggle, and common goal, brought us together.”
Lieutenant Hervé said the experience of training in the Far North Queensland jungle was valuable for his contingent.
He said despite the harsh conditions, his team had come to enjoy Australia.
“Other than three soldiers who have done special jungle training before, this has been the first time training in the jungle for many of my men,” he said.
“The Australian 8th/9th Battalion have really welcomed us; during our breaks at night we speak a lot; they’re a very cool bunch of people.”
With callused hands, feet, and minds, the French and Australian soldiers left Exercise True Grit better prepared for future operations.
Major Slansky stressed the importance of jungle warfare training, and its evolution as urban population centres continued to expand into vegetated terrain.
“An enemy force could transition between urban and jungle terrain, and we need the flexibility to operate in a range of environments,” Major Slansky said.
“We don’t compartmentalise our training into jungle or urban environments, it’s about understanding how to transition seamlessly between both.
“Jungle training will always be relevant as long as there is a jungle.”