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Army June 20, 2013
18Beach recon crucial
Recon, snipers and boating specialists from 2RAR join commandos
and Navy clearance divers to develop tactics for pre-landing force
operations, Cpl Max Bree reports.
BEFORE landing craft
deliver the main force
of soldiers from an
Amphibious Task Group,
a pre-landing force needs to move
in silently and secure the beach.
Navy clearance divers checked
approaches before a force of
recon, snipers, signallers and engi-
neers arrived to secure a beach at
Shoalwater Bay as part of Ex Busu
Landing from April 10-24.
Maj Alex Rubin, OC of 2RAR's
Support Coy, said soldiers were
extremely vulnerable during the
first part of an amphibious landing
"The clearance divers are okay;
they're always invisible," he said.
"The most dangerous part for the
soldiers is moving from the ship
IN A bid to capture the heav-
ily fortified Tarawa Atoll from
the Japanese in 1943, the US
Marine 2nd Division launched a
massive amphibious attack.
But Lt-Col Jim Hammett,
HQ 1 Div's SO1 Amphibious
Development, said the US plan-
ners had overlooked something.
"Despite having a good pic-
ture of the Japanese disposition
and order of battle deployed
on the ground, there was poor
awareness of the approaches to
the designated landing beaches,"
Multiple landing craft became
stuck on a coral reef and many
marines were forced to wade
more than 450m under heavy
fire in chest deep water.
"If you don't have a pre-
landing force operation, then
you don't know the beach is
going to work," Lt-Col Hammett
said. "If there was a pre-landing
force operation before Tarawa,
the clearance divers would have
said 'no can do'.
"It's the joint amphibious
equivalent of what Army would
term the preparatory stage of an
Although the island was
eventually secured, of about
12,000 Marines, 3166 were
killed or wounded.
Busu Landing -- they moved up the
beach and into a swamp.
Once the recon and sniper
teams hit the beach, they made
sure there was no evidence left
"It's no good if a fisherman
comes along and sees six sets of
footprints going up the beach," Cpl
Woodman said. "So the guys in
normal boots brushed their prints
away with a tree branch and the
guys wearing booties (wetsuit
boots) didn't leave any prints at
all."After getting off the beach the
recon patrols took up position
while the snipers sat in overwatch
to look out for enemy wanting to
interfere with the landing site.
Sappers in the pre-landing force
got the beach ready for vehicles,
signallers set-up comms while
officers conducted landing sight
handovers with special forces.
From start to finish the soldiers
and divers secured the landing site
in two to three hours.
While the exercise finished
with a 48-hour pre-landing force
operation by night, soldiers spent
the first 12 days working on their
amphibious standard operating
"The exercise was a lot less
regimented," Cpl Woodman said.
"It wasn't really about how good
or how fast the guys are at doing
their job, this was more about see-
ing what works and how we can
develop new training.
"If one person had an idea, we
would try it and if it didn't work,
we'd try another idea."
The 2RAR soldiers also found
time to teach the clearance divers
break-contact drills while the
divers taught soldiers their beach-
"We don't get to do a good deal
of integration with the other servic-
es," Cpl Woodman said. "To actu-
ally operate with clearance divers,
to get some experience of training
with them, that was the best thing I
got out of it."
TARAWA TRAGEDY PROVES
Disaster: The WWII US Marine landings at Tarawa provide a
tragic example of the importance of pre-landing force operations.
Photo provided by the Australian War Memorial
to the shore and going across the
shore, but after we reach the tree-
line we disappear and recon go and
do their thing."
The pre-landing force of about
170 soldiers moved at night from
a hypothetical ship by LCM8s then
transferred into Zodiacs for the
final 6km run the beach.
Here Maj Rubin discovered
there was an art to keeping the
boats quiet on the final leg.
"I didn't realise how challeng-
ing it would be, from the revving
of the motors, so their revs are all
synchronised, the direction of the
boats and the harmonics of the
motors so the sound disappears
into the noise of the surf," he said.
Waves crashing over the
Zodiacs left most soldiers soaked
in salt water, meaning they might
need to carry spare cams, socks
and boots to change into after they
hit the beach, according to Maj
"If you're walking over 20km
a day like recon do with your
cams covered in salt water, they'll
starch-up and you'll quickly get
chaffed," he said.
Sniper team leader Cpl Kalan
Woodman had other ideas about
what they could be wearing.
"As we were coming in on the
Zodiacs it was probably sea-state
one or two ... you're just getting
these constant waves over the back
and sides," he said. "Everyone was
absolutely drenched. I think we
would have been better suited in
Wet boots and cams were una-
voidable for Cpl Woodman and
the two recon/sniper teams on Ex
It wasn't really
about how good
or how fast the
guys are at doing
their job, this
was more about
works and how
we can develop
-- Cpl Kalan Woodman,
2RAR sniper team leader
Surf's up: Support Coy soldiers from 2RAR carry boats back to the surf during
Ex Busu Landing.
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