Exercise Kowari comes to a close
The group completed a survival training activity as part of Exercise Kowari, the first land-based trilateral military exercise involving personnel from the three nations.
They boarded two Australian Army Chinook helicopters and flew to the homestead of a cattle station in the Daly River region.
There they were welcomed by three Major Generals, Steve Smith from Australia, Chen Daoxiang from China, and Jim Pasquarette from the United States.
“Exercise Kowari has been exceptionally successful,” Major General Smith said.
“Any opportunity where nations can come together to work collaboratively builds trust and confidence.
“I’d like to think there will be more activities like this in the future.”
Major General Pasquarette also looked to the future.
“I hope this is a first step and that our three nations can continue to work together,” Major General Pasquarette said.
“We hope to host such an exercise in the future, perhaps in Hawaii and maybe the People’s Liberation Army would like to host one in China.
“Soldiers, regardless of their nation, when they come together there’s a bond, and I’m sure that was enhanced on Exercise Kowari.
“The fact that we have three General Officers from our nations together as a by-product of the exercise has also improved trust at the General Officer level.”
Major General Chen spoke glowingly of Exercise Kowari.
“This is a very important strategic exercise for the Chinese side,” Major General Chen said.
“I believe this exercise is very important for the three sides taking part.
“During the past 20 days, we have learned from each other and drawn on each other’s strength.
“We have stepped up our cooperation and achieved a win-win result.”
Brigadier Peter Clay, director of Exercise Kowari, said the exercise marked an important milestone in defence cooperation between the three nations.
“It fosters regional cooperation and mutual understanding. This small activity might lead to bigger things between our nations down the track,” Brigadier Clay said.
Survival Activity Manager Warrant Officer Class Two Lee Symons was satisfied with the overall result.
“All the participants had an interesting, arduous and safe experience,” said Warrant Officer Symons of Norforce.
“A lot of friendships seem to have been made as well.”
Lieutenant Joseph summed it up, “In the military, soldiers are bound together by suffering, and through our suffering on Exercise Kowari we have all become good mates.
"I know I’ve got a place to crash whenever I’m in Hawaii, Guang Zhou or Okinawa.”
First Lieutenant Romans praised the work ethics of the Chinese participants, “They are an incredibly fit group of soldiers and live by values that are similar to the Marines.
“They like jokes, they like teaching us Chinese and learning English, and they like sitting round the fire at night telling yarns.
“They’re welcome to visit me any time. Maybe one day we’ll get together in Maryville, Tennesee.”
Lieutenant Huang said he hoped to marry his fiancée in the near future, “It would be a privilege to introduce her to my new friends in Australia and America,” he said.
During the five-day survival phase, the soldiers and marines put their newly acquired skills to the test.
“I learned some wilderness survival techniques as a boy scout and as a marine,” First Lieutenant Romans said.
“But it has been a while since I started a fire by rubbing two sticks together.
“What was new was the celestial navigation, catching fish with handlines, and different methods of making potable water.
“If you take those three skills into any wilderness, you are giving yourself every chance of coming out alive.”
All three officers were eager to offer advice to participants in any future Exercise Kowari.
“Eat every meal like it’s your last and don’t skip desserts,” First Lieutenant Romans said.
“Also, adjust your expectations. Training is crucial, but Mother Nature has her rules too and there are elements in nature that you just cannot control.”
Lieutenant Huang said a positive attitude was the secret to survival.
“If you have confidence, courage and a belief in yourself you will survive.”
And finally, Lieutenant Joseph focused on the lessons learned.
“You learn life skills here, not military skills,” , Lieutenant Joseph said.
“You learn about making friends, dealing with stress, developing leadership skills, pushing your own personal boundaries, finding your body’s limitations, and discovering your mind’s ability to push through those limits.
“You learn about real priorities, and I, for one, have learned how lucky I am to live in such an affluent country where we take so much for granted.”
The 30 participants included 10 Australians from various locations, 10 Chinese from Guang Zhou, five US Marines from Okinawa, Japan, and five US Army personnel from Hawaii.
They were originally split into three groups of 10, all with a mix of nationalities, for the week-long learning phase of the activity.
They were then rearranged into two groups of 15 for the survival phase of the activity: three days at an inland location in tropical vine forest; and two days on blacksoil plains by the Daly River.
Instructors from the North West Mobile Force (Norforce) spent the week teaching them how to overcome the challenges of the top end bush, including searing heat, high humidity and saltwater crocodiles. Norforce is a local Reserve unit which contains the Australian Army’s experts in survival training.