Captain Ranith De Silva (left) and Lieutenant Katie Norriss (centre) with instructor Phil Kirkman (right).
Captain Ranith De Silva (left) and Lieutenant Katie Norriss (centre) with instructor Phil Kirkman (right).

Scots Dragoons go Down UnderArmy unit finds diving Tweed ?second to none

By BOB ANTHONY Jnr

"TAKING the plunge" has taken on a new meaning for members of a British military unit currently visiting the Tweed.

Fourteen members of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiers and Grays) under the leadership of Captain Ranith De Silva and Lieutenant Katie Norriss have been developing their leadership skills and teamwork beneath the waves with members of the Australian Diving Institute at Tweed Heads South.

The institute's Phil Kirkman, Luke Ceruanak and Dean Hitchwough have been taking the group out to Cook Island and Fido Reef, a far cry from where their previous diving experiences have taken them ? the cold and murky waters of the Baltic.

Apart from being considerably colder, the Baltic waters provided no visability, so to come to the ocean off Tweed Heads had been a real pleasure.

Normally also the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are working with vastly different types of tanks to the ones they will have on their backs over coming weeks. They are attached to one of the most senior Scottish cavalry units, working the Challenger main battle tank.

And the only time the unit usually finds itself working in wet surroundings is when it's raining.

So why dive on the Tweed? The trip has been about eight months in the planning and Capt De Silva said the diving aspect of the trip provided the team with an opportunity to work together in a different environment.

He said some of the unit had served in the world's trouble hot spots such as Iraq and Kosovo, so it was also an ideal way to unwind.

This is the second British military unit which has come to the Tweed to improve its diving experience.

The diving institute's Phil Kirkman was formerly in the British army and hosted another unit which posted an operational report on its visit Down Under ? and it obviously impressed other units.

The 12 men and two wom- en in this unit will spend three weeks on the Tweed and a week in Sydney before heading home to their base in Germany.

The trip has also provided the visitors with a chance to see the benefits that have come from establishment of a marine reserve around Cook Island.

According to Mr Kirkman, since the park came into being in 1998, the number of fish and the different varieties of fish have been steadily increasing.

"By creating a marine re- serve around the island, we are seeing a lot of fish coming here to breed which is a benefit for other reefs off the coast because it allows species to build in numbers," Mr Kirkman said.

He said the conditions had been ideal for diving.

Yesterday was the first time the visitors had gone to the deeper waters around Fido Reef, having dived on Cook Island three times.

When it comes to what the military group thinks of its first diving experience in Australia, it has found its regimental motto, "Second To None" could also apply to the current trip.



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