Readying 7th Brigade at Ex Diamond Strike 2015
"Chief of Army told me to get the brigade ready by July 1. Well, they’re ready and, trust me, they have been tested".
These were Commander 7th Brigade (7 Bde), Brigadier Adam Findlay’s words of assurance as his brigade’s Combined Arms Training Activity (CATA), Exercise Diamond Strike 2015, held from June 20-10, wrapped up at the Shoalwater Bay training area in Queensland.
The brigade has now started exercises Talisman Sabre and Hamel as Army’s ready brigade.
More than 3000 personnel took part in Exercise Diamond Strike, with soldiers from 7 Bde supported by detachments from 6th Brigade, 16th Aviation Brigade and 17th Combat Service Support Brigade and about 500 soldiers from the New Zealand Army’s 1st Brigade.
The exercise included three battlegroups – Heeler, Ram and Waratah – and was the culmination of a 12-month training continuum that began with CATA 2014.
Certification as the ready brigade means 7 Bde now possesses the skills necessary to deploy at short notice to any region to conduct any type of operation, such as combat, stability and humanitarian assistance, with joint or interagency partners if required.
“What is interesting for the brigade is we have practised other skills and tactics that haven’t been used for a while,” Brig Findlay said.
“First, we proved RAAF Base Amberley as a mounting air base to strategically deploy here. Our Ready Battalion Group, 6RAR, deployed from there to Shoalwater Bay and did a joint force entry operation and force build-up at Sam Hill. Then the rest of the brigade came in and we consolidated just as we would if we were overseas.
“For the first time in a long time we did a live-fire brigade obstacle breach, immediately followed by an assault river crossing.
The enemy built a big obstacle belt and the engineers came in and had to blow lanes for us to attack through. That was quite a complex military operation.
“Engineers who did good work in Afghanistan with IEDs had to draw on more conventional engineer skills, such as boating and rafting, in turn getting the brigade over a river.”
He said the combined efforts of 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) and a squadron of M1A1 Abrams tanks from 1st Armoured Regiment exposed the brigade to the mobility and firepower of combined arms action. When 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment – with more 700 soldiers – performed a battalion air mobile operation, Brig Findlay wanted to make this more realistic.
“As they were landing we had live-fire suppression of enemy air defence at the landing zone, so that was a great experience for them,” he said.
“The final combat exercise saw us positioned to secure Raspberry Creek at the urban operations training facility, which allowed me to combine all the elements of the brigade into a coordinated attack, which is a complex activity.
“The Kiwis played the role of the enemy in that attack in order to provide some resistance to the brigade. After it was over we joined forces and conducted a tactical retrograde operation into a brigade force concentration area, before beginning planning for the next exercises – Talisman Sabre and Hamel.”
Brig Findlay said there were a couple other noteworthy items about this exercise.
“For the first time in a long time we used a heavy drop parachute capability from 176 Air Dispatch Squadron,” he said.
“We haven’t done a conventional drop for a long time on exercise and the air mobile group who went in by helicopter needed supplies, so that was a good time to test the capability.
“We also, for the first time, used our UAV, Shadow, to designate a target and an ARH Tiger was able to prosecute that target. This is something we did routinely with American assets in Afghanistan and now we’ve achieved it with our own assets. It worked very well.”
Brig Findlay said there were many highlights from a commander’s perspective.
“Bringing a good combat brigade HQ to high readiness and focused on warfighting is professionally satisfying,” he said.
“There has been a real drive and commitment from the organisation to improve. It has good morale and it wants to get better. It’s really hungry for excellence – this is really pleasing.
“There is also the reinvigoration of all the conventional things we used to do well in the 1990s, which were put on the back burner during the last 25 years of desert-based theatres in the Middle East.
“I must also acknowledge the terrific work done by my predecessor, Brig Greg Bilton, who brought the brigade into the readying phase this time last year, as well as those who supported him and continue to support me.”