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Serco puts The Ghan, Indian Pacific up for sale
Volume 11, No. 39, March 23, 2006
WHEN The Ghan rolled into Port Augusta from Darwin in early February – loaded with tanks and armoured military equipment – the locals could have been forgiven for thinking they were being invaded.
And they were … but in the friendliest possible way!
Darwin’s 1 Bde was moving its tanks and artillery to the Cultana Training Area so elements of its battle group could continue training away from the annual Top End wet season “footprint” when monsoonal rains bring heavy vehicle movement in the bush to a standstill.
Brig Craig Orme, commander of 1 Bde, was at the railhead to see off the first of the three trains required to transport the military vehicles and equipment to Cultana – situated between the South Australian towns of Port August and Whyalla.
“This is one of our major exercises for the year and the fact we’re now able to use rail facilities to continue the fine tuning of our soldiers and equipment, away from the monsoonal rains, is of great benefit to us,” said the Brigadier. “It allows us to maintain our operational readiness for mechanised operations by conducting collective training outside of the monsoon belt.”
Around 600 personnel were involved in the exercise along with 22 Leopard Main Battle Tanks, two armoured recovery vehicles, 55 M113 variants, eight M198 155mm artillery pieces and 160 support vehicles.
The CO of 1 Armd Regt, Lt-Col John Mackenzie, said the rail deployment, “Further demonstrates our ability to deploy tanks.
“It puts the lie to those who claim tank-based forces cannot be deployed by the ADF,” he said. “In fact, over the past eight months, 1 Armd Regt has deployed force elements by sea to Shoalwater Bay, by road to High Range Training Area and by rail to Cultana.”
During the course of the exercise a number of objectives were achieved, not the least being the practice and refinement of standard operating procedures for rail freight and personnel between Darwin and South Australia.
As well as a number of crew commander and driver courses being successfully completed the tanks and artillery were also able to conduct mobile live-fire practices.
Brig Orme also travelled to Cultana where he joined the commander of 1 Div, Maj-Gen Ash Power, in visiting the troops on exercise and touring parts of the Cultana range. They didn’t, however, get to see all of Cultana as it currently covers 47,000 hectares – and is due to triple in size in 2009.
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