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Preparing for survival at Exercise Kowari

Preparing for survival at Exercise Kowari
The screeching of hundreds of red-tailed black cockatoos was the wake-up call for Exercise Kowari participants from Australia, the United States and China on the final day of the learning phase.

“They are a good alarm clock,” said Lieutenant Lyndal Day, one of the Australian Army participants in the survival activity.

“They start arriving just before the sun comes up and fly straight over us.”

Lieutenant Day was sitting alone by her group’s fire, undertaking night fire-watching duties while carving a spoon and keeping an eye on the cooking.

“We’re making our own jerky, we’ve got a beef stew going and there’s bread in the oven,” she said.

“We’re putting all the cooking and preservation lessons from yesterday to good use.”

The Australian, Chinese and United States military personnel taking part in Exercise Kowari are undergoing survival training in remote bushland in the Northern Territory. The instructors come from one of the Australian Army’s Regional Force Surveillance Units, the North West Mobile Force (Norforce).

Warrant Officer Class Two David Sudholz is a farmer who has spent 30 years serving with Norforce and is now a senior instructor.

“Some people die within hours of being in a survival situation, while others will endure unbelievable hardships and live for months until rescued,” said Warrant Officer Sudholz.

“It boils down to what is in your head and how you use it.”

He is looking forward to the transition from the learning to the survival phase of the activity.

“They’ll be told what they can take with them, basically boots, socks, underwear, trousers, t-shirt, shirt and hat,” he said.

“We give them a survival kit, but there’ll be no hootchie, no bedroll, no mossie net to hide under, and we will inspect them before they go.

“We have a general rule here - whatever you make, you can take. Anything they’ve made over the past six days - like digging sticks, navigation sticks, spears, traps, snares, and the jerky they’ve dried overnight - they can take with them.”

That will please First Lieutenant Jordan Ritter, one of the participants from the United States Army.

“Yesterday I cut up a bunch of beef strips as thin as I could using my pocketknife, which is really sharp,” he said.

“We put on some seasoning - salt, pepper and some red pepper from our ration boxes and now we’re just leaving them out to dry in the sun, over some smoke to keep the bugs away. I’m looking forward to eating it.”

The 30 soldiers will split into two groups of 15, and spend five days in the field - three days in an inland zone and two days in an unfamiliar coastal zone.

“They will be focusing on the six priorities of survival – water, shelter, warmth, food, rescue and health,” Warrant Officer Sudholz said.

“This time of year in the Northern Territory, with temperatures in the mid-30s and high humidity, the focus is on inner warmth and the will to live.

“All of the skills we have taught them will help, but the crucial thing in a survival situation is to have a positive mental attitude.”

Asked if he had a positive mental attitude, Lieutenant Chen Shang of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army said softly in English “of course I do”.

Then, speaking through an interpreter, he added, “there is no way I will give up in the survival phase”.

“I have spent six days learning many useful skills in the learning phase, and I would like to put them into practice. I am really looking forward to the next five days.”

Last updated
6 September 2016

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