The bonds formed between soldiers on deployment have been deepened by a sharing of military history in the Middle East.
CAPTION: The ANZAC Memorial Centre at Beersheba, visited by a contingent of Operation Mazurka personnel during their tour of Israel. Story by Lieutenant Sarah Lucinsky.
Twenty Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed on Operation Mazurka in the Sinai, Egypt, were accompanied by five Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) personnel deployed to the same area on a tour to Israel.
The Australian-led tour at the end of June included visiting sites of historical and military significance in Jerusalem’s Old City, Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa.
The highlight of the tour was a visit to Beersheba, a city of military significance to Australians.
While in Beersheba, personnel visited the Anzac Memorial Centre and Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, where ADF and RFMF personnel learnt about the bravery of Australia’s 4th Light Horse Regiment and New Zealand’s Mounted Rifles Brigade against the Ottoman Army in 1917.
Australian Army Sergeant Ryan Britten is deployed to the Sinai, Egypt from the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) in Brisbane.
Sergeant Britten, working as a battle watch assistant in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), said that as a member of a mounted infantry unit, the trip to Beersheba was extra special because of the key role the Australian 4th Light Horse Regiment played in the Battle of Be’er Sheva.
“I feel extremely honoured to have had the opportunity to both serve in the Sinai and to visit key sites in Israel, particularly as the two First World War regiments that my home unit is named after saw action in Sinai,” Sergeant Britten said.
“I am honoured to serve in the same region of those who formed my unit’s legacy, albeit under different circumstances.
“We were also fortunate to visit Tel es Saba, just outside of Beersheba on the Anzac Trail. Standing on the rocky summit was a surreal experience.
“From the elevation I could visualise how the charge unfolded. The tactics that were used are not entirely dissimilar from those we still use today, which I feel is a testament to the skill, ingenuity and courage that the Light Horsemen were renowned for.”
Commander Australian Contingent in Egypt Lieutenant Colonel Edouard Cousins said the tour deepened understanding of their own service and those who served before them.
“The contingent tour to Jerusalem enhanced our understanding of regional complexities, the reasons for the MFO’s existence and the ADF’s continued deployment to the region under Operations Mazurka and Paladin,” Lieutenant Colonel Cousins said.
“The opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our forebears at Beersheba was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our contingent, made all the more special as we were joined by members of our Pacific family.”
The MFO is a non-UN organisation established in 1981 to oversee longstanding peace agreements between Egypt and Israel. The ADF contingent assists in the peace process by monitoring the border, preparing daily operational briefings and supporting the MFO Headquarters.