Thursday, October 2, 2008

Windswept Aussies soar over JMRC

-- Pfc. Joshua Sizemore

HOHENFELS, Germany – Light infantrymen from Down Under engaged in air mobility insertion operations during Cooperative Spirit 2008 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center near Hohenfels, Germany, September 25.

The training fosters interoperability between the American, British, Canadian, Australia and New Zealand Armies.

Australian Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), commonly known as the “Big Blue One,” are participating in the ABCA Armies Program.

Helicopters were an ideal method of efficiently transporting large numbers of troops to avoid enemy ground hostility as the allied nations began the force-on-force training.

Exposed to the elements, the groups of infantrymen performed an air mobile insertion maneuver via four helicopters. Their doors flung wide-open for the duration of their flight, across enemy territory, only to dismount and begin patrolling their territory as Stryker vehicles provided over-watch to the position. This method enabled Soldiers to minimize potential losses by traveling in a manner less predictable.

“These guys have really eaten up the opportunity that they’ve had out here, operating in a combined arms environment. This is the type of training, we as commanders, dream about,” Australian Capt. Chris Rohan, second in-command of Charlie Company, said.

The mission began when Soldiers from 9 Platoon, Charlie Company, 1RAR, mounted American Stryker vehicles belonging to 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. Infantrymen from Fort Lewis, Wash., gave them a taste of what it’s like to travel in a Stryker so they could provide security over-watch at the landing zone. The real action was yet to come; the air mobile insertion with UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopters, their doors wide open.

The Aussies rehearsed on a bristling thatch that overlooked the brigade’s operating area. The chill of blustery weather muffled their conversations and nipped at their face and hands. Soldiers wedged into helicopters, bundled hip-to-hip. Their mammoth rucksacks weighed down on their laps and towered over their rose-colored veneers. The view of even the tallest lad obstructed, they leaped out into the prone position.

“I’m hopping on aircraft to go out on a few missions to help the locals that live out in the area,” Australian Pvt. Alexander Turner, currently stationed with 9th Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st BN., Royal Australian Regt., said.

These air-mobile operations are designed to allow Soldiers an opportunity to develop their dexterity in a controlled environment before they perform real-life combat missions. The JMRC is situated to prepare Soldiers for all sorts of battlefield scenarios.

“We’ve seen great improvements in their skill levels over a very short period of time,” Rohan said.

“This will be the highlight for a lot of these Soldiers, including myself,” Rohan continued. “This will certainly be something that I’ll remember for the remainder of my military career.”

This event has been a first for many new Soldiers to interact and build camaraderie with foreign units who they might rendezvous with during future coalition missions.

“The Canadians and the New Zealanders have a lot to say, and we have a lot to say back,” Turner said.

“We’re here to get a better understanding of urban tactics and techniques. We are directing all the people who are coming in on the ‘Hueys.’ When we’re out on patrols and stuff, we’re usually up front letting our section partner know what’s going on,” Australian Forward Scout Pvt. Jake Cellars, 8th Platoon, Charlie Company, 1RAR, said.

By defusing differences and standardizing operational procedures between the allied ground forces, future missions, as well as those that are ongoing, will wrap-up more conclusively.

“I think the realism is a large part of it. Having the opportunity to work amongst our coalition partners and the wide variety of vehicles and air frames whilst they’ve been here is certainly something that they’ll take away from this,” Rohan said. “The observer/controllers bring so much experience with them. Whether it be operating in Iraq or Afghanistan, certainly the lessons that they’ve learned, they’ve certainly passed onto us. It’s been great.”

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