Exercise Kowari changes gear
The 30 participants in the survival training activity were split into two groups, located about 200m apart in thick vine forest, about 100m from a creek. They were left without food or water.
First Lieutenant Christopher Jones of the United States Army said Group One’s initial focus was on water, shelter and food.
“First we agreed that Lyndal (Australian Army Lieutenant Lyndal Day) would be our team leader,” Lieutenant Jones said.
“Then we began distilling creek water and putting transpiration bags over leafy branches.
“We made a frame for our shelter and cut palm fronds for the roof.
“We cut off the heart of the palm for food and we also found some figs.
“Hando and Ritz then caught 11 fish down at the creek,” he said, referring to Australian Army Lieutenant Kyle Handreck and United States Army First Lieutenant Jordan Ritter.
“It sounds a lot, but those fish are small and they don’t go a long way when there are 15 people to feed.”
Exercise Kowari is the first land-based trilateral military exercise involving Australian, Chinese and United States personnel.
The participants completed six days of instruction from the North West Mobile Force (Norforce), home to the Australian Army’s experts in survival training.
The participants were split into three groups of 10, each containing a mix of nationalities, and then merged into two groups of 15, which altered the group dynamic and forced the teams to form new relationships.
“It was a little different, because they already had their roles and we were the new people,” said Lieutenant Jones, one of five Group Three members to have joined Group One.
“We were able to get through that issue pretty quickly. We all slept in one big shelter last night, so we’re already a family.”
Fellow US Army Officer Second Lieutenant Daniel Strickland was in Group Three but is now a part of Group Two.
“We were sad to be split up, especially losing our cook Gao (Australian Army Corporal Andrew Gao),” Second Lieutenant Strickland said.
A slight New Zealand accent betrays Strickland’s origins.
“Dad is from the Cook Islands and Mum is from Missouri. They met at Bible College in Ohio and I was born in Auckland,” Second Lieutenant Strickland said.
“We moved to Hawaii in 2006 and I joined the military after finishing my university degree.”
Chinese People’s Liberation Army Lieutenant Xian Jun Cheng shrugged off the change in group dynamics.
“The change doesn’t matter to me … it’s just a test,” the new Group Two member said.
“But I will remember the other five teammates.
“Synno (Australian Army Private Chris Synnott) had a lot of skills, Jonesie (First Lieutenant Jones) was always laughing and smiling and Gao always cooked our dinner.”
Over at Group One’s camp, Corporal Gao, a chef in the Australian Army Catering Corps, was resting under the group’s shelter.
“It’s not much use being a chef as there isn’t any food to cook,” he said.