For Gunner Mitchell Harmer, the thrill of dropping bombs was a welcome distraction from his nine-to-five in the banking sector.
CAPTION: Soldiers from the 9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, prepare to fire an 81mm mortar during Exercise Waratah Run in Singleton. Story and all photos by Corporal Jacob Joseph.
He was one of about 60 reservists from the 9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA), who spent three days in the field at Singleton from March 24 to 26 on Exercise Waratah Run conducting fire missions and qualifying soldiers as artillery forward observers.
“When you start dropping rounds, your body shakes and you feel the ground move,” Gunner Harmer said.
“It’s quite a surreal feeling and it’s not something you can experience in civilian life.”
But despite the rush of loud explosions, good communication and attention to detail were key.
“Because minor mistakes can lead to major errors,” he said.
Lieutenant Madison Wright learned exactly how important the small details could be on her forward observer course, as she directed mortar rounds onto targets from a hill kilometres away from Gunner Harmer.
She was one of the 9 Regt RAA soldiers and officers who qualified as forward observers after completing formative assessments in the simulator.
“We practised in the simulator first, and the flat-screen trainer really helped,” Lieutenant Wright said.
“My first round was on target so we went straight to fire for effect.”
9 Regt RAA also participated in the 5 Brigade combat team clearance of an urban training facility, before moving into position once the “town” was clear of “enemy”.
CAPTION: Soldiers from the 9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, fire an 81mm mortar for an artillery forward observer course.
Gunners provided ISR support by operating uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) and providing battlefield commentary.
This reflected the regiment’s future role towards surveillance and target acquisition.
Regiment Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Philip Wong said new capabilities were being introduced, including UAS and light-weight radars.
“We are rebalancing our capability suite away from our historical role of offensive support, and more towards surveillance and target acquisition as part of Army’s Artillery Modernisation Plan,” Lieutenant Colonel Wong said.
The regiment provides target acquisition capabilities through joint fires and ISR support teams, and is equipped with various small UAS and the Lightweight Multi-Mode Radar, which can track aircraft, UAS and the trajectory of artillery fire, and generate target location references based on this data.