It’s rehearsal day for the Talisman Sabre 21 show of force demonstration, and Australian and US batteries have mixed their gunner teams for a fire mission. In a tradition born out of respect for a gun commander’s responsibility, Unites States Marines announce themselves with a “knock, knock” before entering 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, 109 Battery, Alpha detachment. While waiting, the soldiers talk about the North Queensland weather, their ribbons and medals, near death experiences and injured friends.
Detachment commander Bombardier Daniel Mitchell shows American gunners the ropes after inviting them into the position where his crew, eats, sleeps, and houses munitions. He talks about small differences between how Australian and US crews operate the M777A2 Howitzer, but exercises like Talisman Sabre 21 (TS21) are key to working those out. “We call ‘ready, lower’. If you say, ‘ready, drop’, we’ll get what’s going on. The number 5 will read the charge. We say three ‘high’, you say ‘hotel’. I don’t care, but make sure I say ‘correct’ before you load it into the barrel,” Bombardier Mitchell told the Marines.
Corporal Brett Petri, a US Marine with Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, worked on the Australian position and said the detachment commander’s role was the biggest difference between how the two militaries operate their guns. “Normally the chief would grab the round, verify it himself and say it out loud. Each Australian number will call out their own stuff for the chief to verify,” Corporal Petri said.
For Australian Gunner Braydon Lambert, who swapped with Corporal Petri, the exchange helped dispel some myths. “There were rumours that US Marines were only trained on one number, but they’re actually like us, they operate every position. We should be working with the Marines and US Army more, integrating with the US will be so much better for Army.,” Gunner Lambert said.
The mixed crews each fire 13 high explosive rounds downrange, before returning to their regular gun positions for the main firepower demo. TS21 is the largest bilateral combined training activity between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and United States (US) military. It is designed to test our respective forces in planning and conducting Combined and Joint Task Force operations and improve the combat readiness and interoperability between Australian and US forces. TS21 is the ninth iteration of the exercise and consists of a Field Training Exercise incorporating force preparation (logistic) activities, amphibious landings, ground force manoeuvre, urban operations, air combat and maritime operations.