Pinned down in a deep creek line in the Townsville Field Training Area, soldiers from the 7th Brigade’s Battle Group Ram drew some deep breaths as the US Marine opposition force from the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin held high ground.
CAPTION: An M1A1 Abrams from Battle Group Heeler in a battle hide during Exercise Southern Jackaroo, part of Exercise Diamond Strike, in the Townsville Field Training Area, Queensland. Story by Major Roger Brennan. All photos by Corporal Nicole Dorrett.
“Crack that 66 and take out the machine gun,” shouted a section commander, as his command echoed down the line.
Rain and cloud covered the training area and, as the soldiers fired and moved, the Combat Training Centre (CTC) mentors and adjudicators watched on with keen interest.
Deputy Commander 7th Brigade Lieutenant Colonel Rory Hale said the investment in education, time, and personnel from CTC and enabling elements had been outstanding during this year’s Exercise Diamond Strike.
“At the tactical level, all facets of the brigade have been tested, right through to command and control, with subordinate and higher headquarters,” Lieutenant Colonel Hale said.
“Contingents from France, Japan, Tonga and Fiji have also integrated and worked alongside us, which is a testament to our respective countries and the value we put on training.”
The battle for the objective – dubbed Western Three Ways – slowed as it grew dark, and the marines withdrew to a secondary defensive position.
CAPTION: An Australian Army 40M truck crosses a medium girder bridge during Exercise Diamond Strike at the Townsville Field Training Area.
“Charlie Company has identified chemical munitions in a cache of explosive ordnance,” said Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Luke Burden in the early hours of the morning.
“The battle group had to relocate after their attack last night, and all indicators and warnings point to a potential chemical strike in the next 24 hours.”
As dawn broke, a loud bang and yellow smoke woke the soldiers from their soaking sleeping bags.
“Gas, gas, gas,” they yelled, and the fatigued soldiers methodically donned boots, gloves, suits and masks.
“The threat’s real,” WO2 Burden said.
“Chemical agents have been employed in theatres around the world over the past two decades and we need to prepare soldiers the best we can.
“These soldiers are tired, but Army is investing in its people and their training – so when time comes, they are as well prepared as they can be to respond to a CBR [chemical, biological or radiological] threat.”
Battle Group Ram decontaminated affected personnel and their vehicles, then “pause exercise” crackled across their radios.
Battle Groups Ram, Heeler, Warhorse and the combat service support teams all moved back to their respective assembly areas.
Then distilling the lessons began, captured before the brigade steps from the line of departure again, this time on Exercise Talisman Sabre.
CAPTION: Members from the Australian Army, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and Republic of Fiji Military Forces during Exercise Diamond Strike 23, at Townsville Field Training Area, Queensland.