Author Topic: Home guard in Australia's outback  (Read 6689 times)

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Offline PikaChe

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Home guard in Australia's outback
« on: June 11, 2005, 15:52:05 »
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/4080666.stm

By Nick Squires
BBC, Australia

Australia's armed forces are scattered far and wide, from Iraq to the South Pacific. But there is one regiment which specialises in protecting the vast wilderness regions found much closer to home, in the Northern Territory.

L/Cpl Shaun Evans. Photo: Nick Squires
Norforce specialises in small-group, long-range surveillance patrols

It is another sweltering day in the savannah woodland of northern Australia and I am sitting in the back of a dusty Land Rover waiting to meet members of one of the country's most unusual military units.

I hear them before I see them, their presence betrayed by the faint crackle of dry leaves which carpet the forest floor.

A six-man patrol emerges quietly from the bush. They are carrying rifles and enormous packs.

Their faces are smeared in camouflage cream and they are drenched in sweat. But they are surprisingly cheerful.

"I joined up because I wanted to learn navigation and leadership skills," said Lance Corporal Shaun Evans, smiling through the fatigue. "Plus, I like being in the bush."

Red desert

L/Cpl Evans is a soldier in Norforce, a reservist unit whose job it is to patrol northern Australia looking out for poachers, gun runners, illegal fishermen and, potentially, terrorists.

Map of Australia

What makes the regiment unusual is that about two-thirds of its 600 soldiers are Aborigines, a stark contrast to the regular Australian army, which has very few indigenous troops.

Unlike the weekend warriors of other reservist units, Norforce soldiers can serve for up to 150 days a year, and many do.

They use Landrovers, planes and inflatable boats to patrol a massive area of desert, scrub and coastline. It stretches more than 1,200 miles (1,931km) from Western Australia to Queensland, and reaches deep into the red desert around Alice Springs.

"It's a fair patch of dirt," concedes the regiment's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dick Parker, with typical Australian understatement.

Bushcraft

Aboriginal troops are held in high esteem for their tracking abilities, their stealth and their instinctive knowledge of the land.

L/Cpl Clinton Barker (l) and L/Cpl Shaun Evans (r). Photo credit: Nick Squires
Norforce soldiers learn most of their skills from each other

"You won't get a better set of eyes than an Aboriginal soldier in the north," says Captain Jack Olchowik, a white Norforce officer in charge of training the unit.

"Their bushcraft and their foraging skills are second to none."

Those foraging skills include looking for bush tucker whenever there is an opportunity.

Corporal Tommy Munyarryun is a Norforce veteran of 15 years and a respected elder in the Wanguri tribe. He grins as he lists the food which can supplement his normal army issue rations: wallabies, turtles, witchetty grubs, wild oysters and a type of crustacean known as "long bum" for its unusual shape.

Dugong, or sea cow, is also something of a delicacy.

"The white fellas teach us army stuff and we teach them what bush tucker they can eat when we're out on patrol," Tommy told me.

'Nackeroos'

The origins of Norforce go back to World War II, when a rag-tag group of jackeroos (cattle-hands), gold prospectors and adventurers teamed up with Aboriginal trackers in what was known as the North Australia Observer Unit.

   
The crocs can grow up to six metres long... bigger than our Zodiac inflatable boats
Norforce soldier

The "Nackeroos" as they called themselves, took to the bush on horses and camels and in dugout canoes, keeping watch for the anticipated invasion of Australia by Japanese troops.

The unit was disbanded after the war but its legacy of small, self-sufficient patrols carrying out covert surveillance was revived with the formation of Norforce in 1981.

The regiment's most recent success was in February, when they came across nine Indonesian fishermen and their grounded boat on an isolated beach in the Northern Territory.

The vessel was one of dozens intercepted in recent months suspected of fishing illegally for shark fins, which command high prices in Asian restaurants.

Overcoming obstacles

The soldiers' most challenging adversaries, however, are northern Australia's stifling heat and its dangerous wildlife, from giant crocodiles and fearsome feral pigs, to dingoes and poisonous snakes.

"The crocs can grow up to six metres long, which is bigger than our Zodiac inflatable boats," one soldier told me.

L/Cpl Ronald Roe. Photo credit: Nick Squires
Norforce soldiers often double up as signallers, medics, drivers or small craft handlers

"But the worst things out here are the dingoes and the wild pigs - we have to fire live rounds to scare them off at night."

Despite such hardships, there is no lack of recruits. Aboriginal elders recognise the benefit of military service for young men who might otherwise find themselves struggling with unemployment, alcoholism and welfare dependency.

It is also hoped that the example of Norforce will dispel some of the negative views of Aborigines still held by many white Australians.

Norforce's area of operations encompasses more than 100 Aboriginal languages, and many of its soldiers speak English as their third or even fourth tongue.

The regiment's white officers have to be sensitive to a whole range of cultural differences among their soldiers. Lt Col Parker recalls the example of one Aboriginal soldier who simply disappeared one day, without explanation.

A year and a half later, just as officers were despairing of ever hearing of him again, he reappeared on parade.

"He'd just gone off into the bush," said the colonel. "We call it going walkabout."

Not exactly the sort of conduct you would expect in a regular army, perhaps, but then Norforce is no ordinary regiment.

Offline Infanteer

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2005, 19:50:03 »
Maybe we can get an exchange program between these chaps and the Canadian Rangers.... :D
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Offline PikaChe

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2005, 12:37:50 »
Hmmm... Frozen Aboriginals and sauteed Inuit. Sounds interesting. :D

Seriously, I am very curious about the idea of... semi permanent res force that the article states that can serve up to 150 days per year. Could such idea work in Canada, providing that there is a tasking that does require such manhours?

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2005, 22:34:09 »
hmm, Maybe take the ranger patrols and build some units up in places like White Horse, Ft. McMurray and Churchill; lump them together and have them preform our sovereingty patrols. 

Offline downinOZ

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2005, 10:09:27 »
NorForce is used to in addition with another group of watchers plus border security and the Navy to protect the soverigntity of Australia from: Indonesians, Malaysians, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, groups from the southern Indian Ocean and groups from the South Pacific.  Australia has immigration and detention policies very similar to the US, and much less lenient than Canadian refugee/boat people policies.  While there are very good comparisons between the Canadian Rangers and Norforce's abilities to operate and survive in their respective AORs, the Rangers don't have the same level/amount of responsibility as NorForce.  NorForce operates under the SF umbrella in Australia, and personally witnessing the size of the crocs and snakes, there is a DAMN good reason they're special. 

Chimo.

Offline Spr.Earl

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2005, 06:00:06 »
Ah they don't have to worry they have Nige.
Right Wes,if you don't believe Wes just ask bloody Kev.
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Offline bclinehand

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2015, 17:19:58 »
Maybe we can get an exchange program between these chaps and the Canadian Rangers.... :D

I know OLD post........but this exchange has happened with the second group from 4CRPG headed down there this August........

Offline OTR1

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2015, 19:43:29 »
As the ADF now has an (ice) hockey team - I am not making this up - perhaps they can swap the desert for the ice at some stage.

Offline Dimsum

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2015, 22:45:30 »
As the ADF now has an (ice) hockey team - I am not making this up - perhaps they can swap the desert for the ice at some stage.

I know one of the guys who started the ADF hockey team.  I too thought it was a joke until he turned serious.
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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2015, 05:02:36 »
Bumped with the latest - Canadian Rangers visit NORFORCE:
Quote
Members of the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group recently participated in an exchange with some of their Australian counterparts in the North West Mobile Force (NORFORCE), an Army Reserve infantry regiment of the Australian Army, and visited the remote Northern Territory. This is the journey as experienced by Ranger Lawrence Charnell.

Have you ever wanted to go to a place where no tourists have been before? Walking on unspoiled beaches, living under the sun during the day and the stars at night, catching and eating local food cooked the way the locals do? These are the experiences Canadian Rangers and staff of 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group experienced in Australia in August 2015 while participating in Exercise SOUTHERN CROSS II (Ex SCII).

The Canadian Rangers were led on the journey by members of the Australian Army’s NORFORCE, one of three surveillance units that, like the Canadian Rangers, patrol remote areas. Aboriginal soldiers make up 60 per cent of NORFORCE’s personnel ....
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Offline OTR1

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Re: Home guard in Australia's outback
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2015, 17:36:45 »
Behold the horror of khaki Australians trying to play hockey......

http://video.defence.gov.au/play/kwOGd3eDpokvt50GRIc8wMImq9V-MtZR#

They somehow scored a trip to Vegas last month.

Go figure!  ???