Engineers ‘bumped off’ then retake hill in challenging exercise

Despite building a series of pits and firing positions on a hill, sappers from 22 Engineer Regiment (22ER), 4th Brigade,  were unexpectedly pushed off, leaving them to retake the position by breaching obstacles with simulated mortar support.

CAPTIONA soldier from the 22nd Engineer Regiment guards an “enemy” combatant during Exercise Platypus Survives at Puckapunyal Military Training Area. Story by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton. Photos by Corporal Michael Currie.

This was all part of Exercise Platypus Survives, the regiment’s nine-day foundational skills exercise held in Puckapunyal in late October.

Soldiers first occupied a defensive position, dug pits, set up protective and tactical obstacles, to then get “bumped off” the position by “enemy” forces.

Lieutenant Michael Plant, of 22ER, said retaking the position was challenging.

“Conducting recces, returning, planning, going through rehearsals, then executing the breach through obstacles is tough and a complex movement,” he said.

CAPTIONA soldier from the 22nd Engineer Regiment takes a shot during Exercise Platypus Survives

They added an element of realism with battle noise simulation for 81mm mortars and enemy rocket fire.

The exercise marked a milestone in rebuilding their capabilities, which had been affected because of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions in Victoria.

“In the time since then, we’ve focused on individual courses, section and troop training and building the stamina back up to do an exercise like this,” Lieutenant Plant said.

The extended exercise gave soldiers an opportunity to not only hone their combat and engineering skills but also refine fundamental skills, such as morning routines and complete harbour routines, a rhythm that Lieutenant Plant said was harder to establish during weekend exercises.

CAPTIONSoldiers from the 22nd Engineer Regiment practise casualty evacuations during Exercise Platypus Survives.

Many of the soldiers on exercise had either recently finished their IETs or were still completing the second phase.

“The biggest learning point for these junior soldiers was that engineer operations aren’t in reality a 24- or 36-hour thing. They go on, and it’s exhausting, and you have to be switched on the whole time,” Lieutenant plant said.

“It was a big eye-opener for the diggers who appreciated the challenge.”


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