Testing urban operations on Ex Bersama Lima

5 December 2016

While deployed to Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth, they were integrated into Exercise Bersama Lima from October 3-21, working in Malaysia and Singapore.

Bersama Lima is a biennial exercise conducted under the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) with soldiers, sailors and airmen and women from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore participating to build stronger bonds between their countries’ armed forces.

Commander of the Singapore-based contingent Captain (Capt) Nick Woodley, RAN, said the Australian forces achieved all they set out to on the exercise.

“We had the opportunity to improve our professional mastery, as well as better understand how our friends work so we can better work together into the future,” he said.

“That has been a highlight of Bersama Lima – working with our partner FPDA nations.

“From a coalition perspective, we can then improve how we exercise and deploy together. We improved that across the board in the land, sea and air environments.”

The RCB was formed mainly of soldiers from 7RAR who participated in a number of events, including the FPDA Cup, a sporting competition involving dodgeball, volleyball and tug-of-war, and Banyan, a cultural exchange between the nations.

The soldiers provided a team for the tug-of-war component of the FPDA Cup and, while they managed to beat most of the opposing teams, the New Zealand contingent was undefeated and managed to take home the cup.

For the soldiers involved, the exercise culminated in an urban operations serial held at the Neo Tiew training area in Singapore. The abandoned apartment complex simulated the administration blocks of an oil refinery, which the combined FPDA forces had to reclaim from hostile forces.

Lieutenant (Lt) Matt Schumacher led his soldiers from the initial break in to the complex to the handover to the Malaysian Army forces.

“Across the board, our tactics have been similar to the other nations participating, particularly the New Zealanders, British and Malaysians,” he said.

“The Singaporean Army uses similar techniques and their equipment is similar to ours, too.

“We found a few differences in the way we used our equipment, but mostly we were able to form a cohesive plan for the activity.

“For us, a lot of the exercise has been about building up and making sure all of our training has been synchronised so we could conduct this attack together and working out how each other fights.

“We have been doing a lot of team building – obstacle courses and battle PT – to see how each nation conditions their soldiers for the fight, so seeing those differences has been great.”

While each army may train their soldiers differently and use different equipment, there is a common bond between all of the soldiers who 
participated.

“The best part has been identifying and seeing how similar our experiences are across the board,” Lt Schumacher said.

For Trooper (Tpr) Mitchell Britton, the exposure to a different type of training was a refreshing experience.

“RCB has had its hard parts, but the urban operations have definitely been one of the highlights,” he said.

“Given I’m from Armoured Corps, it was a good experience getting in there and working with 7RAR and the British. I’ve learned heaps from the infantry. I hadn’t done much urban work before attending the exercise, so being here and learning from the 7RAR soldiers was great.”

One Army officer had a completely different experience to the soldiers deployed on RCB.

Captain (Capt) Jihan Rome was deployed to the land component command, based at Changi Naval Base in Singapore.

As the only Australian in the signals branch of the headquarters, she experienced the differences in the operating procedures of each nation.

“Working with the other nations was a really good experience. By the end of the exercise, I felt like we had achieved a lot. We regularly got together and helped each other through things the others may not have understood.”

The next exercise in the FPDA calendar is Exercise Suman Protector, to be hosted by Malaysia in mid-2017.

Last updated
5 December 2016