More than 100 soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines participated in Exercise Carabaroo in Darwin alongside soldiers from Australia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the United States Marine Corps in August and September.
CAPTION: Australian Army soldiers from the 1st Brigade and the Armed Forces of the Philippines travel by Zodiac small craft from Darwin to Channel Island, NT, to conduct an assault as part of Exercise Predator’s Run. Story by Major Dan Mazurek. Photos by Corporal Tenikah Mills.
Exercise Carabaroo took place parallel to the Indonesian Exercise Wirra Jaya and the 1st Brigade’s own annual capstone training event Exercise Predator’s Run.
To the personnel, it might have seemed like one big exercise as soldiers from five different nations worked shoulder to shoulder across sites in Darwin, Mount Bundey and the Tiwi Islands.
Under Exercise Predator’s Run, the 1st Brigade was divided into two distinct battle groups: Tiger and Goanna.
Battle Group Goanna, led by 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, comprised Australian, Filipino and Timorese soldiers, and Goanna Commander Lieutenant Colonel Travis Day couldn’t have been more impressed by the professionalism and skill of the integrated partner forces.
“Working with the Philippines soldiers has been fantastic,” Lieutenant Colonel Day said.
“We’ve really benefited from the expertise of our Filipino small-boat specialists, and we’ve been able to integrate Australian and Filipino soldiers down to section-level to all learn from each other.”
CAPTION: Personnel from the Australian Army’s 1st Combat Engineer Regiment and the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Gunn Point, NT, during Exercise Predator’s Run.
The exercise concluded with a dramatic assault on the Channel Island power facility, just south-east of the Darwin CBD.
“The assault commenced with a Philippine-commanded mechanised force conducting a feint across the only bridge leading onto the island, clearing it of mines and obstacles before proceeding across,” Lieutenant Colonel Day said.
“Their feint was successful, distracting the enemy from the flotilla of small boats simultaneously infiltrating the island from the west.”
CAPTION: Soldiers from the Australian Army’s 1st Combat Engineer Regiment and the Armed Forces of the Philippines conduct Zodiac small-craft training at Gunn Point, NT, during Exercise Predator’s Run.
Indeed, earlier that morning, about two dozen small craft departed for the island under cover of the pre-dawn darkness. By the time the Zodiacs and assault boats made landfall, the enemy force on the island found themselves pressed from both sides.
The successful assault on Channel Island also required Battle Group Goanna to suppress the enemy from the water, but until the littoral support vessels specified in the Defence Strategic Review are delivered, Goanna needed to improvise.
They adapted a weapons platform using M113s and a direct-fire weapons support machine gun section from the 5th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, embarked on an improved ribbon bridge – a floating engineer raft.
The tugged platform not only looked like an old destroyer on the horizon, but laid down a barrage of firepower to support the attack.
By the end of the morning, there was a satisfying mix of uniforms celebrating atop the objective.
As the 1st Brigade transitions to littoral operations, working seamlessly with partner nations will be just as critical as flexibility and resourcefulness.
Fortunately, the assault on Channel Island proved that ingenuity is in ample supply in the Top End.