Troops prepare in Queensland amid North Korea threat
AS North Korea threatens us and our allies with a developing nuclear capacity, more than 30,000 Australian and American military personnel are giving a well-drilled response.
Today, some 10,000 soldiers are defending Stanage Bay, north of Rockhampton. It was the largest beach landing by Australian troops since WWII and will be followed by 10 days of field warfare.
They are in north Queensland for Operation Talisman Saber (TS17), the biggest joint exercise by the Australian Defence Force with American partners, which this year includes participants from New Zealand, Japan and Canada.
It has been the chief testing ground of Australian-US military interaction since 2005.
But this year has taken on a special significance because of the uncertainty of American's military presence in our region under President Donald Trump, the war noises coming from North Korea, and China's provocative installations on rocky outcrops in the South China Sea.
It is a practical demonstration that while the politics of the region might be unsettled, the Australia-US military co-operation is on course.
More than likely there will not be a need for a real operation in the near future, but one purpose of Talisman Saber is to make known that preparation for the unlikely is well underway.
"A significant proportion of participants will also be engaged in remote support and ''virtual participation' in a simulated environment (including command, control and communications) from locations including Brisbane and Canberra; and from the United States in Hawaii, Indiana, Virginia, Colorado and Washington," said the Defence Department.
All three services are involved, including special forces. And they are testing as many operational areas as possible: force protection activities, special forces actions, amphibious landings, parachuting, land force manoeuvre, urban operations, air operations, maritime operations and the co-ordinated firing of live ammunition and explosive ordnance from small arms, artillery, naval vessels and aircraft.
And in addition, they are caring for the environment.
"In my experience, I don't think there is another training area in the world that allows us to do simultaneous amphibious operations, joint land combat and instrumented air attack the way that we are doing it here," said a statement from the commanding officer of the Australian Army's 1st Division, Major General Paul McLachlan.
So while keen to blow up the "enemy", the military is taking pains to ensure the Great Barrier Reef won't be among the casualties.
"Defence works with the Marine Park Authority to integrate environmental best practice into our operations," said a Defence Department statement.
"We undertake rigorous environmental assessment for all our training activities, which are thoroughly planned with strategies in place to ensure we protect this precious environment."