By Staff Sgt. Keith AndersonJuly 2, 2018
ROCKHAMPTON, Australia - On the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Hamel, when U.S. and Australian forces first worked together during WWI to take on German forces in Le Hamel, France, in 1918, the long-time partners joined forces again for Exercise Hamel in Shoalwater Bay, central Queensland, Australia, from June 18 - July 1, 2018.
Indiana National Guard Soldiers traveled nearly 9,000 miles to join the Australian Defence Force during Exercise Hamel, an exercise that integrates U.S. forces into the Australian Battle Group, enhancing tactical and sustainment interoperability with allied partners.
"It was truly an honor to be able to integrate into one of our coalition partner's headquarters," said Col. Robert Burke, the commander of the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indiana National Guard. "We were able to conduct a very challenging and worthwhile command post and field training exercise, outside the United States, and achieve a higher level of readiness than I anticipated while creating great relationships with the Australians during an historic time in our shared military history."
More than 6,000 Australian soldiers and nearly 800 U.S. military personnel participated in the training. Hamel is an Australian Army field training exercise that serves as the Army's culminating event in the unit train-up/certification process before transitioning to a ready brigade.
Indiana National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment, 76th IBCT, joined up with Australian soldiers from 7th Brigade in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area and moved through a series of battles and engagements to certify the Australian brigade for deployment and to fulfill the annual training requirement of the Indiana National Guard battalion.
Additional U.S. participation included Soldiers of the 10th Regional Support Group, based out of Okinawa, Japan; U.S. Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Regiment, based in Okinawa, Japan; U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 5th Marine Regiment, based out of Camp Pendleton, California; and exercise support from the U.S. Army Pacific and the 25th Infantry Division, both based in Hawaii.
"We've had a number of great scenarios involved, from non-combatant evacuation operations to an amphibious tactical lodgement (landing), population security operations and also more high-end joint land combat, so on all accounts, it's been a fantastic get-out for our ADF," said Australian Brig. Gen. Ben James, Director General, Training and Doctrine.
Australian soldiers began operations with an amphibious landing before facing a wide variety of challenges, from complex urban operations to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive response and large-scale combined arms battles, with their U.S. counterparts.
U.S. Marines from Company F, 2-4 Marines, assaulted an enemy-held urban complex in predawn darkness, followed by Australian soldiers from the 6th Royal Australian Regiment and U.S. Soldiers from A Company, 1-293rd Inf. Reg.
"They needed to clear a village with a mixture of insurgent forces, conventional forces and a significant number of civilians," said Australian Army Capt. Tom Patterson, who served as an observer/trainer for the battle.
The scenario required infantry, tanks, military police and police dogs, engineers, air support, explosive ordinance disposal and other forces and considerations, said Patterson. It challenged Soldiers in scenarios learned from real-world battles in urban areas where it is often not clear who is a fighter and who is a civilian, who is a friend and who is a foe.
The Soldiers of the 1-293rd Inf. Reg. guarded critical artillery and logistical positions, cleared routes and performed area reconnaissance, secured enemy prisoners of war, and served as the Australian brigade's reserve force as the 7th Brigade pushed westward through the 1,754-square mile Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area,
In the final battle of the exercise, as Australian and U.S. forces took on a near-peer adversary played by the 3 Brigade, Australian Army elements captured a critical airfield in a large-scale combined arms battle with tanks, dismounted infantry, air support, artillery and unmanned aerial vehicles.
"We supported the tango call signs - the tanks - as the infantry attachment clearing the route providing blocks and clearances of vulnerable points," said Australian Cpl. Daniel Petterson, 6th RAR. "We culminated in a large, complex assault and a hybrid attack."
The exercise also allowed Australian military planners to test new equipment and capabilities.
The forces utilized the Australian Air Force's C-27J Spartan, the LAND 121 protected mobility vehicle, three separate digitized logistics common operating picture systems, vehicle camera systems, a fuel distribution and monitoring system, an automated base refueling point, an expeditionary fuel installation system for aviation and a programmable or manual-control precision aerial delivery system.
"Because Hamel simulates a tactical operation it gives us the best test bed to modernize, to refine our tactics, techniques and procedures, and apply the best outcome in our area of operations for the Australian Defense Force," said Australian Maj. Samuel Luke, operations officer, 9th Force Support Battalion, 17th Brigade.
Exercise Hamel was successful in more than just certifying 7th Brigade for deployment and fulfilling the training requirements of the Indiana National Guard.
"We've broken new ground in a whole range of areas," said James. "For the first time, we've had a rotating ground combat element, that is, the land element that's embarked onboard our new Navy amphibious ships, so we've broken new ground there. It's the first time the Army's worked alongside the Air Force's new C-27J Spartan aircraft, which has been fantastic. And also, there are a number of trials on our unmanned aerial systems in the training area as well, so in a whole range of areas - new trials, new capabilities and new doctrine - it's been really exciting."