In the harsh humidity of the jungles of Far North Queensland, soldiers from the 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (8/9RAR) and the French Armed Forces in New Caledonia (FANC) faced harsh conditions.
Exercise True Grit was a test of courage and determination, using the jungle of the Tully training area to test every soldier.
The Australian Army has a history of fighting in the jungle alongside Allied forces.
Major Jared Slansky of 8/9RAR saw his soldiers deal with difficult terrain and difficult conditions, which got tougher as their stay in Tully continued. He said jungle warfare was complex.
“The jungle is different from other operating environments due to climatic conditions, be it humidity, heat or rain,” said Major Slansky.
“This requires more resilience from soldiers and greater tactical acumen from commanders to be able to maneuver, identify and close in on the enemy.
“We need to understand the impacts of the jungle, especially non-battle threats like malaria, dysentery, wildlife, or just heat.”
Major Slansky said the principles imparted by the Jungle Training Wing had been used as a framework for operating in the jungle for generations.
“The four principles for thriving in the jungle are discipline, leadership, teamwork and resilience,” he said.
“You need discipline to do your exercises correctly, you need courage to persevere, intelligence to adapt, while understanding the impacts of fatigue and the limitations of your men and women.
“Instilling good practices and being human is important to building teamwork, so you can come together collaboratively.
“With the four-principle framework, we are stepping out onto difficult ground, learning from our mistakes, continuing to adapt and refining our procedures.
“If you follow the procedures, take the kit you’re supposed to take, and do the drills correctly, then soldiers don’t just survive, but thrive and can conduct sustained combat operations in the jungle.”
8/9RAR was supported by a professional AFCN contingent, which integrated seamlessly into 8/9RAR’s Alpha Coy.
FANC Lt. Hervé said French and Australian soldiers had similar skills and character, allowing them to bond quickly and take on challenges together.
“We have the same skills and drills, so we had no problem understanding the Australian soldiers in tactical situations; from this point of view we are very close,” said Lieutenant Hervé.
“It’s hard to train in the jungle. The fight is very tough, the environment is very tough, and bringing people together in a tough environment with a common struggle and a common goal has brought us together.
Lt Hervé said the experience of training in the jungles of Far North Queensland was invaluable to his contingent.
He said that despite the difficult conditions, his team came to enjoy Australia.
“Apart from three soldiers who have already undergone special training in the jungle, this is the first time that many of my men have trained in the jungle,” he said.
“The Australian 8th/9th Battalion made us feel really welcome; during our evening breaks, we talk a lot; it’s a very cool group of people.
Hands, feet and calloused minds, the French and Australian soldiers left Exercise True Grit better prepared for future operations.
Major Slansky highlighted the importance of jungle warfare training and its evolution as urban population centers continued to expand into vegetated terrain.
“An enemy force could move from urban terrain to jungle terrain, and we need the flexibility to operate in a range of environments,” Major Slansky said.
“We don’t compartmentalize our training into jungle or urban environments, it’s about figuring out how to transition seamlessly between the two.
“Jungle training will always be relevant as long as there is a jungle.”
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