The Integrated Sea and Land Series (ISLS) exercise of 2018 saw the emerging capability of the Australian Army’s logistics force across multiple platforms. As a component of this, Exercise (Ex) DIAMOND STRIKE provided an insight into the capabilities today’s logistics elements are employing to take the move, shoot, communicate concept to a new level.
The commencement of ISLS 2018 saw 7th Combat Service Support Battalion (7 CSSB) split into an embarked combat service support team (CSST), an additional brigade support group (BSG), and an alternate CSST. The new capability of the Land 121 fleet enabled flexibility in planning and movement around the battlespace. The terrain in which the logistics assets were based provided the challenge of developing new tactics in order to support the momentum of the brigade. Having elements separated on the ground meant lines of communication were reduced, which enabled the combat elements to conduct their tasks with increased momentum; a key factor in winning the land battle.
Ex DIAMOND STRIKE also saw 7 CSSB conduct self-protection training, culminating in a live mounted anti-ambush drill that incorporated the new HX-77 and HX-40M platforms with live fire from F89 and MAG 58 machine guns. The section commanders, drivers and co-drivers were able to conduct live firing onto an enemy threat, with junior soldiers and commanders calling in live artillery fire, with support from artillery and infantry call signs. This activity was the first of its kind, and a benchmark for future logistics commanders. The logistics element, in proving the ability to protect itself, not only increased space and time for the commander, but also enabled the combat elements to fully focus on the main effort of securing objectives. This culmination of combined arms, new platforms, and a joint effort between corps, has advanced the move, shoot, communicate ability for logistics elements.
The leadership and professionalism from all members of 7 CSSB not only enabled the conduct of new and challenging advances, but also set a high standard for those following to improve upon. It was this professionalism and discipline that enabled multiple tasks, covering vast distances to be achieved. At times, the CSSB was tested to its extreme, often with tasks running throughout night and day with minimal rest; from commanders at all levels through to the drivers achieving tasks on the ground. With discipline, professionalism and dedication comes success, and this was displayed by all members throughout the exercise.
Ex DIAMOND STRIKE also allowed the BSG to prove its flexibility, manoeuvre and adaptation, with three step-ups conducted across 18 days. This has had minimal success in the past, however by the end of Ex HAMEL the BSG, including two CSSTs and an embarked element, had re-established themselves a total of 5 times in different environments, each with environmental, tactical and communications challenges.
Taking every opportunity to achieve tasks and generate space and time for the commander, the operations cell delivered clear and direct orders, behind which endless hours of planning and liaison was conducted. Although constrained by terrain, communications were established through multiple means systems and platforms. This enabled the commander to use the enclosed terrain as an advantage to hide the signature of the BSG. Ex HAMEL 2018 was a challenging exercise, which allowed 7 CSSB the opportunity to improve upon areas identified as requiring improvement during Ex DIAMOND STRIKE. Terrain, weather and isolation were just some of the challenges which generated friction for commanders.
During the Exercise the CSSB was also required to undertake stability operations. Demonstrating the ability to perform all-corps tasks, the BSG was given the task of containing a township, holding a complex environment in which enemy and neutral forces constantly fought for access and power in an urban environment. The task saw cooperation between engineering, military police, catering, civil military cooperation (CIMIC) and BSG elements. It was the first time a task of this nature had been entrusted to the BSG. Although ultimately successful, the task of stabilising a relatively violent society required the adaptability and tactical prowess of all command levels of the BSG. In addition to generating stability within the township, the BSG continued to maintain its support for the battlegroup, thus enabling the rapid movement of combat teams to secure multiple objectives within a 48 hour period.
The culminating battle for Raspberry Creek saw Combat Team Raider, a United States Marine Corps element, in support of the BSG. This professional fighting force, combined with the soldiers of 7 CSSB, enabled the successful defence of Raspberry Creek against armoured infantry fighting vehicles and tank teams. The rapid deployment of anti-armoured weapon systems, as well as establishing anti-armoured ambushes, saw the BSG demonstrate its ability to sustain itself, as well as multiple combat elements.
ISLS for 7CSSB has ultimately been a success story. From taking new platforms to their limits in a challenging threat environment, to stabilising a small society, 7 CSSB has demonstrated it is a force to be reckoned with. It is safe to state that the benchmark has been set for future Army logistics forces.