Home' Army News : February 3rd 2011 Contents Supporting Australia's veterans,
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Clearing the way
'WE HAVE a tough
job ahead of us and
there is a substantial
and complex obsta-
cle belt that can't be bypassed,"
CO 3CER Lt-Col Rupert
Hoskin told the troops of Battle
Group Dingo as the sun set on
Townsville Field Training Area.
The plan of attack in one of the
largest live-fire exercises of recent
years required the sappers to clear
all the obstacles and build four
lanes over an anti-tank ditch on
the approach to the enemy strong-
hold by dawn the next day.
Battle Group Dingo consisted
of engineers from 1CER and
3CER, infantry from C Coy,
2RAR, military police from 1 MP
Coy and joint fire teams from
4 Fd Regt.
Exercise Hamel was in full
swing and all the planning, coor-
dination and logistics had led to
It was just before dusk when
the engineers arrived at their
forming-up point under a constant
drizzle with low cloud cover.
Final orders and tasks were given,
any doubtful points were made
clear, and the demolition charges
and the explosive mixture for the
ammonium nitrate/fuel oil (AN/
FO) were prepared.
The sappers faced many
obstacles -- there were improvised
explosive devices, minefields,
barbed wire, road blocks and -- the
main concern for the M1 Abrams
-- an anti-tank ditch. Their first
visible obstacle was a creative
structure of logs, concrete and
steel in the middle of the road.
It was now dark and the rain's
intensity was increasing. The
sappers cleared the route and set
up the charges at the road block
to the wire obstacles and the
minefield with their improvised
Bangalore torpedoes -- made by
strapping two star pickets together
and filling the gap with explo-
Because of the low cloud cover
and the rain, night vision had
its limitations, but the engineers
worked by touch.
The first charges were blown
during an artillery mission to dis-
guise the sappers' explosion. The
artillery fire then switched to the
objectives, joined by tanks and
direct-fire support weapons from
It was then time to face the
anti-tank ditch -- 3m deep and 4m
wide, impossible for armour to
cross and difficult even for sol-
diers on foot.
Rainfall and darkness had
slowed the engineers down and
time was not on their side. The
breach had to happen as the bat-
tle needed tanks and APCs, but
would the plan survive with only
two lanes instead of four? Or
could the sappers have more time?
Lt-Col Hoskin came forward to
inspect the area and the decision
was made -- two lanes it was, with
no more time allowed.
The area was cleared of IEDs
before the main charges were set
to clear the last 50m of the anti-
tank minefield. The 125kg of AN/
FO caused a massive blast and lit
up the pre-dawn sky. Plant equip-
ment then moved forward and
reduced the anti-tank ditch. The
job was done.
Battle Group Leopard was the
first to assault through, crossing
the line of departure under cover
of suppressing fire from Tiger hel-
icopters. Battle Groups Samichon
(2RAR) and Kapyong (3RAR)
then went through to fight their
own battles in one of the biggest
live-fire attacks seen by 3 Bde for
many years. It was dawn, the sun
was struggling to shine though the
clouds, but the engineers' mission
was a tremendous success.
Determined: Infantry and engineers from Battle
Group Dingo ferry supplies across creeks in
persistent light rain (top) and link explosive
charges for simultaneous detonation (inset).
Photos by LCpl Mark Doran
It was the battle
before the battle.
LCpl Mark Doran
looks back at the
role in last year's
Army February 3, 2011
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