|June 29th, 2008|
A bit of life in the Australian Infantry info
If I keep swapping Combat Team, Company and Coy please forgive me, they mean the same thing.
9 Brigade CATA (Combat Arms Training Activity) and Mission Rehearsal Ex for the SOTG (Special Operations Task Group) to Afghanistan.
The activity itself was a Brigade size ex so I can only write about what I did and saw, and I was part of an infantry combat team. I was the Combat Team LO (Liaison officer) and OPSO (Operations officer). Combat team Rhino as it was named was a combined group of 2 infantry platoons and a combat engineer troop (Combining elements of 10/27 RSAR, 12/40 RTR and 9 CER). Also out there on the ground, somewhere, there were more grunts, light cav, arty, more engineers, plenty of Combat Support, Sigs, SF, JTAC and CAIRS from Hornets and Orions from RAAF Edinburgh.
To cut this down a bit the first 5 days were spent at Murray Bridge range completing build up training. Starting with the most basic weapons refreshers up to company harbours and break contact drills. Plenty of shooting and walk through talk through by commanders. It was also a chance for the brass to come and bother us while they wouldn't cause to much interference and they didn't have to be to far from the nearest warm brew. Weather was cool and wet, but nothing bad.
2nd phase started with a road move to Cultana, which took approx 6 hours and resulted in us being on the ground and live at approx 0100. It was bitterly cold upon arrival. The combat team loaded up at the Brigade HQ under white light with ammo, rations, radios, more ammo, more rations and plenty of water. As LO I carried a VHF radio (joy!). We were on a pretty aggressive rules of engagement which is always good. From there we moved as a company by TCV to a hill, which we were to occupy and dominate the surrounding area. We were in place by approx 0230 and had the company on the ground and secure by about 0330. For me this was a fairly dull affair as I was in CHQ leaning against my pack getting cold for most of it apart from getting a warning order that I was going to run an ambush the next night. It wasn't until the company was tied in that I went to work and did a bit of a run around the perimeter liaising with my brethren LT's squaring away any oddities before the boss or CSM picked them up. Guns were manned and we bedded down for the night.
Day 6 started bright and early with company clearing patrols. From there we were tasked. As soon as possible I grabbed up a protection party of 3 diggers and went for a recon of my ambush site (Approx 3 Km away). During this time the other Inf Lt's did their own ambush site recon, the engineers completed a route recon task and the diggers left in the position manned the guns and developed the position. The scenario called for us to secure 3 access roads into a meeting point for an identified insurgent leader meeting. I only had a platoon minus to deal with (made it a bit hard) so I had approx 20 men. The road I had to ambush was rather difficult due to the lay of the land and lack of vegetation. I ended up running a bit of an unconventional 2 Up linear ambush strung out on either side of a re-entrant which gave us a frontage of approx 400m (normally way bigger than I'd like - but it worked in this scenario). During the recon we observed some movement near the area and further north and avoided contact. The terrain of Cultana means you can see for miles. We hoofed it back to the Coy harbour and as soon as we got back I gave the corporals I'd been given for the task a warning order. From there things got mundane - I devised my plan, wrote my orders, gave my orders to the PL, did rehearsals of as much as possible from occupation of the site to searching dead bodies to break contact if early warning was detected. Diggers did there battle prep and then I had to give some of them a bollocking because there personal cam wasn't up to scratch, but they weren't too bad. Most were good hands with some time up and some deployments, but there were a couple of newbies. I took out the patrol at about 1630 pushing deep into a re-entrant then through a valley floor that provided good cover in a 1 up 2 back formation. Reached my RV point and put them into all round defence as I did a final recon with 1 of the scouts. I put the platoon into place and we were locked in around dusk. There was some vehicle movement through the ambush site but it didn't match our intel or the ROE. At approx 0100 five armed men walked through the killing ground. I initiated the ambush with an automatic burst, then reinitiated when I observed a man still moving under NVG. We tossed the bodies and left them in place and withdrew. I took the PL deep into the valley floor and lay up for a bit watching our back trail then made for the Coy harbour. Got back in and handed the lads back to their platoon commanders. Usual scenarios after an ambush, pouring with sweat but cold, no food, no smokes, no light, no warmth. Just a cold sleeping bag.
Day 7 - Turns out all ambushes went off well with a couple of good learning points. Intel gained from the dead indicated En intent and vague locations. We kicked off by gearing up for a Company patrol, and broke the harbour at approx 0730. Enjoyed a hot brew and a feed from a ration pack (no fresh food for next 9 days). Kicked off the patrol heading NE. I was located in Combat Team HQ. We patrolled with 2 platoons up and 1 back. We weren't out for too long before we were in contact. The right hand platoon got in contact on the north side of a track, the left platoon then pushed along the south side to provide flanking fire but got caught up under MG fire. I spent most of the contact face down in salt bush and red dust crawling to get up to the fire fight. The terrain we were in was very flat and provided no cover, just concealment to about knee height from salt bush. The boss did his appreciation and got his orders out and a quick company attack was performed. It was made a bit harder but the track and the MG's. The lack of key terrain resulted in a good old fashioned balls out attack with loads of aggression and up the guts with lots of smoke. End result 15 En KIA, 4 En WIA, 4 Fr KIA. Did the battlefield clearance, which took bloody ages due to the large area we had fought over. The Company patrolled NE for what seemed like forever with no more contact, some of the scouts picked up a bit of sign but that was about it. We brought the combat team into a night loc on a track. We created a very aggressive track squat (track running through the Coy position with F89's facing up the track each way. Basically anybody coming along the track would get 3 streams of automatic tracer in the chest then a section punching out after them in sharp order. Contact occured at approx 0430. Resulted in another 10 KIA. I went out with the QRF secco and checked the bodies. We hauled them off the road but didn't do anything more with them (shortly after the En party lads picked up and headed on their mary way).
Day 8 through 11 was occupied by us acting in support to 4 RAR Commandos and the SAS. The only time it rained, got really f***ing muddy and cold.
Day 12 we moved by TCV as a combat team approx 40 Km north to the DFSW (Direct fire support weapons) range (We had changed tempo back to range shooting). Fired all natures of HE weapons from 40mm to 84mm. An easy 24 hours for me, mostly spent lounging around munching on rations and waiting to shoot. Not much for a combat team LO to do on the range but enjoy himself. Took the chance to get cleaned up a bit, which is hard to do with minimal water, fine red dust and a strong wind.
Day 13 another long TCV move back to the southern end of the range (approx 2.5 hours on the road). Began conducting live fire attacks, starting with sections. During this time I took the chance to bugger off from the Combat Team for a bit and went to 48 Field Battery who was firing 105mm. We had pre-arranged for me to call a live fire mission (along with 2 other LT's from the combat team). All good fun, sat on a hill with the Battery FO party and called a mission each. RV'd with the Coy at the night Loc which was also the live fire defence.
Day 14 Live fire defence day and night. Bulk ammo expended here. We only completed it by platoons though. Had a M2HB .50 Cal on the flank along with an 84mm firing HE RAP for both day and night, and by night had a 2nd 84mm firing Illum.
Day 15 we marched off the range. Nothing got the lads morale up like pack marching past the pogues (transport, MPís, Sigs etc) at Brigade HQ who were all clean and shiny with hot food and showers, with the grunts stinking of cordite and grime and covered in 15 days worth of ingrained cam cream and red dust with every worldly possession on our backs. Essentially from there it was on wind down. Moved non-tac to range control, cleaned weapons, cleaned controlled stores, cleaned ourselves, and had a BBQ. Nothing like the first hot food in 10 days to put a smile on your face.
|June 30th, 2008|