Taking the Hill
The sun was beating down on the Mt Bundy Training Area when soldiers from the 8th/9th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8/9 RAR), assaulted an enemy vehicle park atop a rocky hilltop, during Exercise Koolendong 19.
Breaching a barbwire obstacle, the soldiers charged the steep embankment; throwing smoke grenades ahead of them, the red dust mixing with the yellow and green mist.
Section commanders shouted orders and safety supervisors followed closely behind; maintaining order amongst bellowed commands, loud cracks of live rounds and booming artillery in the distance.
Major Pat D’Arcy, Officer Commanding Alpha Company 8/9 RAR, said the live fire serial was the culminating activity for the Australian Army, United States Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) and the French Armed Forces of New Caledonia (FANC) had been working up to during Exercise Koolendong 19.
“Today’s activity for Alpha Company 8/9 RAR began with MV22 Ospreys inserting us onto a landing zone, several kilometres from our objective.
“As we manoeuvred to our objective we were supported by direct fires from United States Marines and indirect artillery fire from both Marines and the Australian 8/12 Regiment.
“The French, who are were also attached to my callsign, then manoeuvred to clear another objective. Working together, the Australian and French soldiers were able to achieve the objective and take the hilltop.
“Our team did really well, the environment is harsh but the team kept its momentum and the safety supervisors from 5 RAR maintained order to ensure a safe activity was conducted.”
Marine and anti-tank missileman, Sergeant Joseph Hardin said his team provided support with supressing fire from an M2 Browning heavy machine gun mounted on a Humvee.
“We were in direct support of the Australian Defence Force and the French,” said SGT Hardin.
“It's been a good experience all round.”
Exercise Koolendong ran from 21 to 29 August and was designed to test MRF-D and ADF interoperability and readiness to respond to regional crises.