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Army April 14, 2011
NDIGENOUS soldiers from B Coy
51FNQR based in Weipa are often
described as the best Defence assets
in northern Australia.
Regional Force Surveillance Units
(RFSU) are equipped with the latest sur-
veillance and reconnaissance capabilities
including image-capturing equipment,
night-fighting equipment and communi-
cations data transfer.
They could also easily add saltwater
crocodile avoidance techniques to the
Section 2IC LCpl Trevor Bramwell
said there were a lot of crocodiles up
his way and a patrol had a close call one
“We were doing a night extraction
from an estuary by boat, the tide was
coming in and we were loading the boat
when a big croc came sliding down the
bank,” he said.
“We were supposed to freeze, but that
didn’t happen; we just ran everywhere.”
51FNQR is different to most units,
as it is on a permanent operational foot-
ing, conducting patrols with real-world
objectives during peacetime.
OC B Coy 51FNQR Maj Jamie
Heron said his company was responsible
for the area from Bamaga on the tip of
Cape York down the east and west coasts
level with Mossman in the south.
“We have two types of patrols – the
first is a community-engagement patrol
A superior understanding of the land make the
guardians of Queensland’s far north invaluable as
LCpl Mark Doran discovered.
The patrols are also trained to operate
with Army, Navy and Air Force assets,
which enables them to be inserted and
extracted by air or water.
Maj Heron said the patrols looked for
points of entry and illegal fishing, and
could be tasked to assist police search-
ing for illegal drug plantations along the
creeks and estuaries of Cape York.
“We have built a strong relationship
with Customs and AQIS and are work-
ing on establishing platforms to assist
Queensland Parks and Wildlife,” Maj
“We would not exist without indig-
enous soldiers – we rely on their local
knowledge as they have their own net-
works and can supply us with vital infor-
mation about things that are out of the
“We take the indigenous soldiers tra-
ditional understanding of the seasons,
weather and terrain and use it to our
“They are exceptionally good in the
boats and their renowned ability to get
things fixed is amazing.
“If an engine breaks and the system’s
way doesn’t fix it immediately, we will
turn to them to get it going so we can
complete the activity.”
LCpl Bramwell has been a member
of 51FNQR for 13 years. He is originally
from Cooktown and is also a ranger for
Queensland Parks and Wildlife.
LCpl Bramwell said his uncle and
cousin influenced him to join the Army
and he really enjoyed patrolling, being
out in the bush and sharing the skills he
“I would really like to see more
young indigenous soldiers from the com-
munities joining the unit,” he said.
Single mother and driver Pte Marta
Pitt said she was thrilled to be a member
of the unit.
“I have been with 51FNQR for nearly
five years and it was good to get some
discipline in my life, as I was a bit of a
wild-child in my younger days,” Pte Pitt
“The misuse of alcohol and especial-
ly drugs in my community was one of
the reasons I was inspired to become a
reservist and I have always encouraged
my friends to join as well.
“I found joining 51FNQR was a great
way to set a good example to the young-
er members of my community.”
A big croc came
sliding down the
bank. We were
supposed to freeze,
but that didn’t
where a team and select local reservists
meet with the local indigenous leaders
and councillors, building a good working
relationship within the community,” Maj
“We visit schools to show them pres-
entations of what we do and how we
go about our business, then spend some
time with the Years 11 and 12 students to
talk to them about recruitment.
“Moving around the area and talking
to the local people is one of the ways we
get our information, because we can’t
always be out there ourselves.”
The second type of patrol is a clan-
destine patrol conducting reconnaissance
or surveillance to ascertain the threat to
There are 45 reservists on the B Coy
books at the moment and the unit runs
three six-man patrols and a command
element when deployed.
As the RFSU contribution to
Operation Resolute, the unit is tasked by
Norcom to conduct force patrols of their
area of responsibility.
The highly mobile patrol members
are cross-trained in specialities includ-
ing command, communications, surveil-
lance, reconnaissance, combat medical
and small-craft tactical operations.
Cape crusaders: Weipa-based 51FNQR reservists LCpl Trevor Bramwell and Pte
Anthony Pascoe requalify at the range during B Coy induction training, while driver Pte
Marta Pitt, inset, provides transport.
Photo by Maj Jamie Heron
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