Souther Jackaroo tests forces ahead of Talisman Sabre

As dawn broke across the Townsville Field Training Area, marines from the US Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) heard distant rumbles as they waited in a small urban outpost for contact.

CAPTIONAustralian Army riflemen from Battle Group Heeler deliver ammunition in a simulated urban assault during Exercise Southern Jackaroo, Townsville Field Training Area. All photos by Corporal Nicole Dorrett

“I can see movement to the north,” shouted a marine.

“It’s a tank,” he shouted again. “Two tanks, moving fast – get over here.”

Marines with anti-armour weapons tried in vain to slow the advance of the tanks, which stopped 50 metres from the outpost and fired their 120mm cannon and 12.5mm machine guns.

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CAPTIONA US Marine from Marine Rotational Force – Darwin plays the role of opposition force during Exercise Southern Jackaroo.

MRF-D Officer Commanding Lima Company Major Matthew Dunlevy said fighting in opposition to a much larger force on Exercise Southern Jackaroo provided valuable insight on the effectiveness of their training and education.

“We focused heavily on applying the brilliance of basic infantry tactics, providing the Australians and Japanese with a tough, realistic enemy,” Major Dunlevy said.

Mechanised Infantry from the 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment followed the tanks in armoured personnel carriers, as did personnel from the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force,  and it didn’t take long for Battle Group Heeler to force the marines’ withdrawal.

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CAPTIONBattle Group Heeler breaks into an enemy position during a simulated urban assault at Townsville Field Training Area.

“We’ve learned a lot from this exchange and we’ll take away lessons to improve on our skills, but importantly we’ve assisted our partners and allies by presenting a difficult target,” Major Dunlevy said.

Watching from a rooftop, Commander of the Australian Army’s Combat Training Centre, Colonel Benjamin McLennan, said the immersive training allowed 7th Brigade to operate in simulated war-like conditions.

“MRF-D are performing the role of a militia who are a very capable, agile and persistent threat,” Colonel McLennan said.

“But the armoured vehicles that moved into the marine defensive position changed the dynamic of this engagement.

“Armour in support of infantry, who cleared the urban facilities, enabled the battle group to rapidly seize their objective.”

As Battle Group Heeler began to consolidate their gains and resupply their ammunition, a simulated multi-launch rocket strike forced exposed soldiers into cover.

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CAPTIONAn Australian Army M1A1 Abrams Tank from Battle Group Heeler charges an enemy position during a simulated urban assault on Exercise Southern Jackaroo.

“This is excellent training for 7th Brigade. Their drills are being tested at section and platoon level, right through to the headquarters nodes,” Colonel McLennan said.

“But, just as importantly, our Pacific partners are working with and alongside them.

“It’s a remarkable training continuum to have military personnel from Japan, France, Tonga, Fiji and the United States working together to improve collective skills, deepen relationships and integrate our security response planning.”

Exercise Southern Jackaroo was part of Exercise Diamond Strike, which was held as a lead-up to Exercise Talisman Sabre.


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