|SCOUTS IN THE TREES|
RIFLE COMPANY BUTTERWORTH 90
"SCOUTS IN THE TREES"
On the 1st of May 2010 A Squadron 2 CAV combined with 1 and 3 Platoon 7 RAR to form the 90th rotation of Rifle Company Butterworth, in the Malaysian peninsula. This invaluable exercise gave the soldiers an opportunity to work on many of the core skills that make a professional soldier, including leadership, versatility, endurance and also the chance to enhance on the ever useful infantry skill set.
We arrived by C-17 in the mid-afternoon to hot and humid Malaysia. This was now the second tour of RCB for many of the members, after having been on RCB 85 the previous year. Yet to some it was the first time off Australian soil and an exciting, if not foreign change of location. Australia's military involvement goes back to the battle of Malaya on the 8th of December 1941, where the 25th Japanese army landed at Kota Bharu and faced the British Indian army; including the 22nd and 27th brigades of the 8th division 2nd AIF.
A week of familiarisations began to prepare the company on the culture and religious differences of the Malaysian people. During this induction period the company also got its first chance to explore Penang, including the infamous George Town, home to such popular destinations as the SoHo's and Slippery Senioritas. Another hot spot, the Hong Kong bar, is a must stop destination for all ADF personal; with an incredibly long lasting tradition of ADF patronage and memorabilia. Tip: Try out one of the famous Hong Kong bar brain teasers. It’s a free drink if you can solve it, though it may take ten before you do.
Now that the company had settled in it was time to get serious. The company deployed to Guran Range for 5 days of range firing and qualifications. For many of the soldiers, such an extensive amount of time with live fire allowed for the opportunity to hone individual weapon skills, including live fire serials on both the F88 Steyr and the F89 Minimi LSW. The range week also allowed for members to practise on the DFSW weapon systems employed by infantry and cavalry soldiers alike. This ranged from the M203 40mm GLA to the 66mm and 84mm Carl Gustav. Another training opportunity came at night, where the company shook out into local jungle and experienced first hand what they would soon be operating in.
After a short break back at barracks the company then moved onto Kulim National Park for the first phase of jungle training. Unlike the relatively more open Guran Range, Kulim proved to be an interesting challenge for the company with jungle life. With steep, muddy hills, dense and difficult vegetation and rivers thick with leeches, RCB 90 was forced to adapt and overcome to conquer Kulim. With a weekend of jungle navigation, a particularly more difficult then normal task, and jungle patrolling; the soldiers learnt quickly the importance of hydration. The saying, "hydrate or die" began to circulate as the heat set in and litres upon litres were consumed. However with individual and team discipline, the weekend was defeated with minimal CASEVACs, and the company returned to a much awaited break.
By now the company had become well acquainted with two by-products of Australian digger’s presence; "Scorpo" and "Spider", the bases residential go to men. Scorpo's fast food shop became a convenient escape from both mess food and the regular occurrences of army life. His famous roti for 2 ringet (about 60 cents) and "fishing videos" are a must buy. Then there was the infamous Spider, who was a little more conspicuous, but generally out to help the soldiers for the right price. His inside knowledge to the backpacker and party hot spots of Malaysia was invaluable when planning for the leave break. Batu Ferinngi, the night markets, also became a must-see, with ‘amazingly genuine fakes’ and ‘not-so-true copies’ up for grabs at a cheap price.
However the break only lasted long enough to line our pockets with DVDs and assorted contra and before it was time to break for the first half of the main jungle exercise, at ‘39 Mile’. A LONG day of driving later, the Company arrived at Pulada barracks, Johor Bharu, and settled into the "Camp Burma" Australian lines. Once again the history of previous RCB tours was present on both the unit ‘mascot-mural’ wall and the sports score board (written on the support beams). After getting cosy and visiting Mr. Go, Camp Burma's own mini-frontline, for 'Monkey' (chicken) Burgers and Goffa's, the Company readied themselves for the Jungle. There would be 3 TAOR's within the dense jungle, each Platoon spending about 2 days in each one, before deploying round-robin style to another for alternate tasks. The soldiers were pushed to the limit with the heat, exhaustion and the difficulty in patrolling thick South-East Asian jungle, however came out on top, successfully completing active patrolling, OP's, Ambush's and replens.
Sections now formed and developing strong team bonds and skills, we returned to Butterworth to prepare for an introduction to urban fighting prior to our leave. It was at this time RCB 90 also had the opportunity to qualify on the Remington 870 Shotgun. The soldiers learnt some of the primary techniques to urban combat, and concluded the phase with a quick attack on an "enemy complex" and a live fire shoot at Guran range incorporating the urban stance we had just learnt for all weapons, including the shotgun and pistol.
The much awaited leave period then kicked off and the boys got the opportunity to kick back, relax and enjoy some much needed beach time. Langkowi, Perhentian Islands and Kuala Lumpur were just a few of the havens the Company flocked to, with much shopping and socialising. A week later, sore and sorry with heavy heads and broken hearts, the Company re-orged and moved to Pulada for the final phase of jungle training. Before the next exercise the soldiers got the opportunity at Pulada Range, to familiarise with a few more advanced infantry skills. There was the assault grenade range, live fire section defence, practised in both day and night with illumination rounds and live fire section attacks.
When RCB 90 returned to the jungle we had the opportunity to revise the skills we had learnt on our first exercise and focus on some of the short-comings identified previously. Each platoon had the opportunity over a 2 day period to play Masurian Enemy Party and with a determined and active enemy presence, the Company had to work harder yet ultimately a lot more fun was had, even though at times it may have seemed a little stormy. Literally.
Moving away from Malaysian shores now, RCB 90 travelled to Singapore, where we were to finalise our tour with a 2 week urban phase. We started with an introduction to the Singaporean version of WTSS, which allowed the Australian troops a chance to mingle, if only virtually, with some of the weapon systems used by the Singaporeans. It was at this time the RSM and CO 2 CAV visited to congratulate the Company on a successful trip to date and to fill us in on the truths or lies behind some of the many wild rumours abroad. With a bit of adventure training at the abseiling tower, where the CO stepped up and even he found his feet and a few days leave; it was time to wrap up RCB with an urban assault. Two days were spent at a nearby Urban training ground to finalise skills we had learnt mid-way through the tour, before a three day exercise at ## ## began.
The ## ## was an urban assault training ground built upon a typical suburban sprawl. The illusion of having actual shops and homes to move through made it seem even more realistic as 1 and 2 Platoon took on 3 Platoon "enemy party". The assault commenced early morning on an abandoned school through an industrial zone. Night patrolling through streets saw soldiers cautious of every shadowy window and on the second day a large Town centre building which was heavily dug in became the target. Co-ordinated attacks and perimeter defence saw the 3 story fortress taken down before lunch.
With a quick hi-5 change teams for enemy party, 1 and 3 platoons then assaulted the remaining Masurian forces and drove them out of town in a hail of brass and aggressive advancement. All in all it proved to be a very successful and invaluable experience for the Soldiers and a great opportunity to develop skills not practised often as a cavalry scout. The Urban phase was then finished off with a one day history tour, where the soldiers had the opportunity to learn about what really had happened during the battle for Malaya and the Singapore disaster and even get to visit some of the actual battle sites and the war cemetery and museum.
Spending the next week cleaning and scrubbing to pass the very in-depth inspections of AQIS, the Company reflected on the 3 months they had just spent in Malaysia. A lot of valuable lessons were learnt and strong mateship’s born. For some it had been the first real opportunity to work with many of their section members and the bonds and trust in each others abilities forged in the harsh South-East Asian jungle will last for many years to come. It was an eye-opening tour giving soldiers of today to experience a type of warfare of the past. Every member came out with a reinforced set of skills and strong sense of pride at what they had achieved during RCB 90.
Written: Trp B.D. Woodford
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