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Category: Indigenous

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Island warriors of 51FNQR

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The island warriors of Cape York and the Torres Strait are as rugged as the terrain they patrol

By Cpl Belinda Mepham of ARMY News

THE patrols sit together in circles on the ground and talk in native dialect about who-knows-what giving a rugged and real impression of the work they do at 51FNQR.

This month, after a lot of planning, the unit formed up in Townsville for a week of weapons, surveillance equipment and patrol procedures practise and qualifying.

Simply qualifying and having time on the range as a unit is a geographical near- impossibility for 51FNQR.

CO 51FNQR Lt-Col Paddy Hallinan said the battalion had brought together members from BHQ, Admin and Training Coy in Cairns with most of the patrols from the four surveillance companies at Weipa, Thursday Island, and Mt Isa.

“Many of our GRes members are drawn from the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities as well as a range of other locals in the far north and gulf region, giving the battalion its unique character and great strengths,” he said.

“There are 500 personnel in the battalion. Seventy of those are ARA members and we rely on them to conduct up-to-date training, they are critical for conducting the cradle-to-grave element of the training.”

Lt-Col Hallinan said it was common for the part-time soldiers to spend their entire Army career in 51FNQR, conducting all courses and patrols in their local and neighbouring areas.

Specialist six-man patrols are the core of the battalion’s operations.

“Our main capability lies in its patrols, which in just about all cases are manned by highly trained and motivated GRes soldiers,” he said.

“Each member is cross-trained in a number of specialities including command, communications, surveillance, reconnaissance, combat medical, combat vehicle and small craft tactical operations.”

“The patrols are all highly mobile and interoperable, trained to operate in a combined and joint environment with RAN, RAAF assets and other Army components.”

Each patrol is also capable of self-deploying by tactical vehicle and small craft.

Riding in fully modified RFSVs, GS Land Rover 110, the patrols are equipped with the latest surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities available in the ADF.

At Mt Stuart and High Range Training Areas near Townsville, the battalion trained in the use of some of the newest additions to the patrol’s equipment.

Lt-Col Hallinan said a bullring of activities gave each company an opportunity to monitor the training on laser range-finding equipment, GPS, the early warning device, Classic.

There were also lessons on the technical nature of some specialist optical equipment.

“Already each patrol are equipped with image capturing equipment, Ninox, communications data transfer – these are the latest surveillance and reconnaissance devices.

“To be effective in the AR we must all be trained and practised to a high standard. This week in Townsville will bring everybody to the same standard and give us a benchmark for future training.”

51FNQR achieves its mission through a consistent schedule of training and courses.

Lt-Col Hallinan said the real time role of the battalion was what made service in 51FNQR so challenging and rewarding for both ARA and GRes members.

“Ask any member of 51FNQR and they will probably tell you they are the eyes and ears of the north.”

On November 9, 2002, 51FNQR has invited all past members of the battalion to return to Cairns for a ‘Bolds and Olds’ Day.

The day is designed to inform, entertain, and update members on 51FNQR’s capabilities and role.


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces