Bridge over Queensland waters
Gayndah, Queensland’s oldest town, would have seen many things over its 170-year history, but this year marked the first time military bridges spanned its section of the Burnett River for an Australian Army training exercise.
Soldiers from 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment (2CER) brought the improved ribbon bridge and medium-girder bridge to the town, located four hours northwest of Brisbane for Exercise Sapper Span in August and September.
The three-week exercise allowed troops to further develop the regiment’s bridging and watermanship capabilities.
Lieutenant Dan Kierath said the river banks proved to be an ideal and non-scripted training location to execute independent troop level tasks.
“It has been a fantastic opportunity to conduct troop level training of a Royal Australian Engineers corps capability within a non-defence training area, which has been well received by the soldiers,” he said.
As well as improving troop technical skills, the exercise also focused on development of lance corporals and corporals and training for potential humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in regional communities.
Corporal Adam Dunemann said training in the community was beneficial.
“It’s good to be able to take the section out from scripted tasking,” he said.
“Working in the community inspired pride, purpose and self-worth within each other and the community.”
Seeing Army bridges being deployed proved a novel sight for Gayndah locals, with many observing from the river bank.
Sapper Paige Weddell said they appreciated local support and interest.
“Interacting with the public in uniform was a great experience, the interest they had in our involvement and training was refreshing,” she said.
Exercise Sapper Span was not simply a training activity for 2CER, but also an important community engagement opportunity.
The regiment deployed trade members from the 24th Support Squadron to help with remediation works to improve the Jacob Moerland Memorial Park Reserve, named after Sapper Jacob Moerland, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.
Tradies created new concrete footpaths throughout the park and assisted in constructing a new footbridge.
During the exercise, the regiment resided in the Gayndah Showgrounds, allowing sappers to engage and interact daily with the local community.
The 10th Force Support Battalion once again provided six caterers who supported the Regiment from locally sourced produce and who also catered for community engagement events and barbecues.
Captain Chris Grimes, of the 7th Combat Engineer Squadron, led the exercise and said the Gayndah community was exceptionally welcoming.
“The Army is a direct reflection of the Australian people that we serve and to see soldiers training and interacting daily with a very welcoming, drought-affected regional community was a major touch point and just reinforced the positive impact that we can have,” he said.