Fellow Rammers, This will be my last opportunity to write to you as the incumbent Battery Commander; with the beginning of 2017 begins my new posting as the Operations Officer of 4th Regiment RAA, and my handover to the incoming Battery Commander, Major Brendan Perkins. Brendan joins the Rammers after a stint at the Directorate of Soldier Career Management – Army, where he has spent two years tirelessly shattering the dreams of many a gunner hoping for a posting to Brisbane. Brendan is well placed to take over the Battery, ably supported by the incoming Battery Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer David Cleland, who comes to us from the School of Artillery.
Since I last wrote, the Battery has remained busy. We deployed to High Range on Exercise NADZAB for two weeks, where we fired a number of missions and I was subjected to my first BC’s fireplan by the Commanding Officer. I’m pleased to report that all went well, and that the Battery met the challenge as always. The exercise finished with the conduct of danger close missions, and the dedication of the ‘Captain Bryce Duffy Observation Post’ on Ant Hill. Bryce was the Assistant Operations Officer of the Regiment when he was deployed to Afghanistan to replace an injured fellow officer and was killed in an ‘insider attack’ in his Forward Operating Base at Sorkh Bed in October 2011. Immediately prior to the dedication, the Duffy family joined the Regiment for the direct fire competition, in time to see one of the Battery’s detachment’s flip a car onto its roof after a direct hit! BDR Wyatt’s A Detachment was declared the winning detachment from across the Regiment, and he collected his prize (the RSM had put a carton on no-one flipping the car) with a huge grin on his face.
Just over a month later, the Regiment deployed on Exercise BROLGA’S RUN, the Brigade exercise at High Range. Working with our supported infantry unit, the First Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR); the Battery completed the exercise supporting live fire company attacks for 1 RAR, 2 RAR and the Second Cavalry Regiment (2 Cav Regt), whose tanks are newly arrived from Darwin. Having responsibility to support 1 RAR’s attack with VIPs in attendance, the supporting fireplan was well executed by the observer, BDR Clint Martin (Best JNCO 2016) and the gunline; once ‘continuous fire’ was ordered, the rate of fire was awesome. No sooner had the echoes of the last round exploding faded, the whistle of the next volley of rounds pierced the cacophony of the attack. It was extremely fitting as my last fireplan as the BC.
Being the year’s end, we also enjoyed the opportunity to promote a number of Rammers, and recognise those who have performed admirably. While we did not manage to secure the title of champion battery for 2016, the reputation of the Battery remains head & shoulders above our sister batteries. In the two years I have commanded, no other Battery has deployed on every field exercise in its own right – both 106 & 109 Batteries have had to combine their CPs, gunlines or observer parties to get out the door in good order. This has not been easy, and where it could have been used as an excuse for a poor performance or a number of mistakes, the Rammers have insisted on setting the highest standard, which our sister batteries have failed to meet on a number of occasions. It speaks volumes that the Rammers, despite all the challenges and difficulties laid before them, and more than enough room to make excuses, have set the bar for others to aspire to. The Rammers have persistently led the way for the Regiment, and while the title of ‘champions’ eludes us (improvement in sports competitions is a key handover note for Major Perkins), the reputation persists – even outside of 4 Regt, gunners remark that 107 Battery has a reputation for getting the job done, and doing it exceedingly well.
2017 will be an extremely busy year; since joining the Regiment four years ago, it is very much my experience that we are getting busier each year, and leave breaks are both few and far between. Luckily, our Christmas break offers us the opportunity for time with our families and friends before the challenges of ‘readying’ for deployment begin. As many of you would have learned from my previous articles, the Army now uses a 12 month, three year cycle between its three combat brigades where they are either ‘readying’ for deployment, ‘ready’ for deployment, or in ‘reset’ after a period of readiness. Our Regiment is currently ‘readying’, preparing to support scheduled operations in the Middle East and on standby for short-notice deployments around the globe. Our Battery will contribute to the Army’s short-notice deployment capability that will be ‘online’ later in 2017, requiring much of the Regiment’s attention and resources to focus on the Rammers’ preparations. This will include some time aboard the Navy’s new amphibious ships, HMA Ships Canberra and Adelaide.
As my time comes to hand over to the new command team in January, I am thankful for the support, enthusiasm and dedication of the Battery, and similarly the Association. I’ve never experienced a battery association as close as ours, and I hope it is more widespread than I have known.
My final contribution as Battery Commander would not be complete without sincere and heartfelt thanks to my Battery, and my command team. The success of the Rammers during my tenure lies squarely on their shoulders, and for their support, dedication and guidance, I cannot be more grateful. In particular, my Battery Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Jason Bourke, has worked tirelessly and with dedication for the soldiers of the Battery. His forethought and frank opinions are often the sole reasons for our success. We wouldn’t be were we are without you, Jason. I am forever grateful - thank you.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a fulfilling holiday season with your families and friends. We pray for a speedy return for the only Rammer currently on operations, Captain Jackson Stanhope. I look forward to hearing what the Battery and its Association are doing well into the future, albeit from afar.
Major James Casey