This year was my third and final year as OC of 3/9 LH (SAMR). I am pleased to report that the unit remains in excellent shape, due mostly to the efforts of my command team of ARA cadre and ARes troop leaders. The cadre staff has been well led by the Squadron 2IC, CAPT Robert Jarvie, whose efforts have been noticed as he has been posted to an Operations staff position in a Combat Brigade HQ from January 2017. There were minimal changes in SHQ over the 2015/16 posting cycle, as the Squadron received an ARes WO2 SSM, an ARA SQMS, and a third ARes lieutenant.
This year has seen a quantum improvement in the Squadron’s equipment holding. The Land Rover Regional Force Surveillance Vehicles were withdrawn from the unit, and from Army service, this year. We received the rest of the Squadron’s entitlement of Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles (PMVs), including one command variant, giving 1 Troop a tactically useful protected lift capability. We also received another patrol’s worth of Mercedes Benz G-Wagon Surveillance Reconnaissance Vehicles, to increase 2 Troop’s mounted reconnaissance capability.
The unit slightly increased its posted strength this year. After the recent few years of small recruiting caps, the unit had its recruiting cap quadrupled, so naturally, recruiting has increased its priority in the Squadron. We have two ARes Corporals allocated as Recruiters beside their primary troop responsibilities, to assist the Bn’s ARA Unit Recruiting Liaison Officer. These two Squadron recruiters have been active in keeping in contact with the candidates on our waiting list and assisting them through the modern Defence Recruiting process. Once a month, we invite the candidates to attend a Tuesday parade night, and I continue to be impressed by the standard of people we are attracting to consider part-time service with the cavalry.
The Squadron, as a sub-unit under the full command of the 10th/27th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment, started this year in the Readying phase of the force generation cycle. The main effort was to deliver our two combat capabilities required under Plan BEERSHEBA to the Army’s Exercise HAMEL at Cultana Training Area in July, to be validated as Ready for deployment for the next twelve months. The first capability was providing protected lift, reinforced by vehicles and crews from 4th/19th Prince of Wales’s Light Horse, to the Reinforcing Battle Group (Battle Group JACKA). The second capability was providing the Reconnaissance Squadron of the ARA Armoured Cavalry Regiment with cavalry scout teams. I am pleased to report that both of the Squadron’s capability outputs performed well on Exercise HAMEL and were validated as Ready, as part of the 1st Brigade and its Reinforcing Battle Group. The Squadron is now in the Ready phase, and so must maintain its readiness to deploy its capabilities if called upon by the Government of Australia. In fact, as I write this report, the Squadron’s Army Individual Readiness (a combination of trade qualifications, basic physical fitness, medical status, dental status and weapons competency) is at the highest rate it has been.
However, actions speak louder than my praises as the Squadron’s commander. This year, the Squadron deployed an SNCO on Operation MAZURKA in Egypt and had an officer selected for Operation OKRA in Iraq. The commanders supported by our outputs have been impressed by the capabilities they received, and in particular, the Armoured Cavalry Regiment wants as many Cavalry Scouts as we can provide on its exercises. CAPT Tom Colyer travelled this year on his 2015 Prince of Wales Award, to the USA, during which he spent a fortnight on exercise with a USMC Light Reconnaissance Battalion. CPL Craig Tanti won a 2016 Prince of Wales Award, aiming to travel to the USA in 2017. LT Courtney Griffiths was selected as an ensign in the 10/27 RSAR colour party to travel to France for the centenary of the Battles of Fromelles and Pozieres. CPL Ben Campbell was selected by the Trans-Tasman Scheme, and exercised with the Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles in New Zealand. LT Rob Farrier was selected as the Bn’s best performing subaltern for 2015. Our corporals have progressed well in their promotion courses, setting the scene for fixing the long-standing shortage of sergeants during the next OC’s tenure. And I had joyous duty this year to present ten soldiers with their black beret, to recognise their completion of RAAC Initial Employment Training.
The unit’s immediate future is exciting, as its platforms and equipment have been recently updated and the forthcoming Unit Establishment Review will clarify the Squadron’s role. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve with the soldiers of 3/9 LH (SAMR) this year. SAMRA members should be pleased that our historic unit remains relevant to the Army and the Squadron’s deeds continue to honour the reputation of those who served before us.