Bridge of courage

The finished product of the Warrant Officer Class 2 'Jack' Kirby suspension bridge in Tully, Far North Queensland. Photo:  Sapper S Miller

Bridge of courage

Amid the rainforests of Far North Queensland, the Jungle Training Wing at Tully is greeted with trepidation by even the most hardened warfighters.

Training may get even tougher with the opening of a new suspension bridge over Jarra Creek, doubling the training space.

Named after Warrant Officer Class 2 John “Jack” Kirby, the 134 metre-long steel, wire and concrete footbridge was officially opened on November 23.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Kirby served in Korea, Malaya and Borneo before being killed in Vietnam.

Commander of Combat Training Centre, Colonel Matthew Richardson, said the bridge was a fitting tribute to a courageous soldier.

“He received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery during the Battle of Long Tan where he single-handedly silenced a Viet Cong machine post in addition to evacuating casualties and organising ammunition resupply within Delta Coy, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, so they could continue the fight,” Colonel Richardson said.

“He was killed just six months later, aged 32, when a misdirected New Zealand artillery shell struck his position.

“A great man taken before his time, a warrior and a true Australian hero.”

Warrent Officer Class 2 Kirby’s widow, Beverley Knight, unveiled the bridge and plaque.

“Jack was a big, tough man, but a very fair man and, without exception, the men he served with would have given their lives for him as he would have for them,” Ms Knight said.

“I’m touched the soldiers of today find it important to remember him as a person and the legacy the men of his generation have left.”

East and west sections of the training area were not linked after the original bridge was damaged during Cyclone Larry in 2006 and destroyed by Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

“The new bridge doubles the size of the training area we can use and allows us to safely evacuate a casualty from the eastern side of the range,” Colonel Richardson said.

“With almost half the jungle training area inaccessible for nine years, we’re preparing to cut new tracks, build new ‘enemy’ camps and create new, challenging training scenarios.

“It means we’ll have capacity to deliver more training opportunities for larger units, thereby increasing the Army’s knowledge and expertise in close country operations.”

Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hurcum, of 1st Division, was involved in delivering the bridge, built on land leased from the Queensland Government and regulated through the Wet Tropics Management Authority.

“The bridge will also allow scope for resting and regeneration of rainforest areas. It’s a win-win for the environment and the Army,” Lieutenant Colonel Hurcum said.

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