A group of nine Australian army officers joined the 1st Cavalry Division for training for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
Beginning next month, the first of about 350 soldiers with the division’s headquarters will begin deploying to Regional Command South. During that nine-month mission, the Australian officers will become part of the headquarters and work directly with the division.
“It’s building a team,” said Australian Col. Andy Haebich of the four-week visit to Texas. “It’s really important. ... It’s really the people interacting with everyone and forming bonds and relationships.”
For the 10-day command post training exercise, both country’s soldiers worked as they will downrange where the primary focus will be to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces, said Lt. Col. Kirk Luedeke, spokesman for the division.
“The Cav will partner with Afghan security forces to continue to build their capabilities so that as the force structure continues to go down as part of the planned drawdown, they have the ability to take on more and more responsibility,” he said.
The 4th Infantry Division is the headquarters for the southern region, and it provided some trainers to allow a smooth transition between the two divisions.
“These exercises have tremendous value in terms of bringing the staff together,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Bills, division commander. “It’s really a team-building exercise. For one, they get to know me as a commander, and the command sergeant major as well, when it comes to guidance and intent. More importantly, it brings this team together to work toward one specific objective as we prep for Afghanistan.”
Division Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Barteky echoed Bills’ statement that the most important take-away from these kinds of exercises is a more cohesive team.
“We’re trying to replicate the way we’re actually going to conduct business as closely as possible,” he said. “These exercises are invaluable in terms of establishing (tactics, techniques and procedures) within the staff for how they process information, coordinate amongst the various staff elements, and package information so that it’s of use to the command so they can effectively make decisions.”
The relationship between the two countries is dictated through the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty.
“It’s just another example of our strong commitment and partnership,” Haebich said. “When a mate’s in need, we’re there side by side.”
For Australian Lt. Col. Jocelyn King this will be her first time to work with American forces, and she said it’s been interesting “to see how an organization this size operates.
The entire active-duty Australian army is about 30,000 soldiers — smaller than Fort Hood’s population.
“The doctrine is very similar, but to learn the nuances of how America does the job, it’s better to learn in training than for the first time in Kandahar,” King said.
Sgt. Ken Scar contributed to this report.