Creativity prevails

Exercise Carabaroo in August and September saw more than 100 soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines collaborating with soldiers from Australia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and the United States Marine Corps in Darwin.

This exercise coincided with Indonesia’s Exercise Wirra Jaya and the 1st Brigade’s annual capstone training event, Exercise Predator’s Run. For the participants, it felt like a single large exercise, with soldiers from five different nations working closely together at various locations in Darwin, Mount Bundey, and the Tiwi Islands.

During Exercise Predator’s Run, the 1st Brigade was split into two distinct battle groups: Tiger and Goanna. Battle Group Goanna, led by the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, consisted of Australian, Filipino, and Timorese soldiers. Goanna Commander Lieutenant Colonel Travis Day was highly impressed by the professionalism and skills of the integrated partner forces. He praised the collaboration, especially highlighting the expertise of the Filipino small-boat specialists and the successful integration of Australian and Filipino soldiers down to the section-level.

The exercise culminated in a dramatic assault on the Channel Island power facility, located just southeast of the Darwin CBD. The assault began with a Philippine-led mechanized force executing a feint across the island’s sole bridge, clearing it of mines and obstacles before advancing further. This distraction allowed a flotilla of small boats to infiltrate the island from the west simultaneously.

Earlier that morning, around two dozen small craft had set out for the island under the cover of pre-dawn darkness. When the Zodiacs and assault boats landed, the enemy force on the island found themselves under pressure from both sides.

To support the successful assault on Channel Island, Battle Group Goanna had to suppress the enemy from the water. However, due to the absence of littoral support vessels specified in the Defence Strategic Review, Goanna had 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. This makeshift platform, embarked on an improved ribbon bridge (a floating engineer raft), not only resembled an old destroyer on the horizon but also provided substantial firepower to support the attack.

By the end of the morning, a diverse mix of uniforms celebrated their victory on the objective. As the 1st Brigade shifts its focus to littoral operations, the ability to work seamlessly with partner nations is just as crucial as flexibility and resourcefulness. Fortunately, the successful assault on Channel Island demonstrated that ingenuity is abundant in the Top End.

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