Practice battle erupts in Milton forest

Soldiers race into cover as they are contacted by the ``enemy'' during their training exercise...
Soldiers race into cover as they are contacted by the ``enemy'' during their training exercise held in the forests behind Milton over the weekend.PHOTOS: JOHN COSGROVE
"Prepare to assault" screamed the training staff sergeant, as four young New Zealand Army Reserve Force soldiers nervously moved forward as a squad to find the "enemy" in the thick pine forests behind Milton at the weekend.

Up ahead, Royal New Zealand Navy Reserve volunteers from Dunedin and Queenstown sat quietly behind their prepared positions, eyes straining through the bushes as they looked for any sign the soldiers were coming as they waited to spring the ambush on them.

Once the enemy discovered them, or if the soldiers spotted them first, the forests echoed with machine gun and rifle fire and the noise and confusion of battle.

The soldiers' goal on spotting the enemy was to remove their ability to fight and to take the ground.

Working in teams, they quickly encircled the enemy, disposed of them with practice grenades and firepower, and advanced through the position.

At the debriefing immediately following the action, the training NCO reiterated his message to the young men and women laden with webbing, weapons and ammunition, about how they should always think about their survivability out on the battlefield.

A Dunedin soldier scrambles through the undergrowth as he seeks a better position to cover his...
A Dunedin soldier scrambles through the undergrowth as he seeks a better position to cover his team-mates.
The 40 soldiers, hailing from Invercargill, Cromwell, and Dunedin, were from the Dunedin-based Bravo Company 2/4 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

They were participating in Exercise Maleme, a weekend-long field training exercise designed to develop and test infantry skills from individual to platoon level.

Captain Duncan McEwan said the weekend was a success.

"We covered a lot of components on infantry training, and the results were excellent.

"The soldiers were very enthusiastic and enjoyed the challenges they faced as we learned a lot about what we need to do to prepare for our upcoming major activities."

The soldiers undertook numerous activities during the 48-hour period in the forests as they practised their skills via training scenarios.

These included patrolling, assaulting positions, constructing observation posts, laying trip flare and anti-personnel mines, practising their reactions to enemy fire, and learning how to communicate effectively through the noise and confusion of battle.

The exercise was part of the unit's preparation for Exercise Ypres 2/4 Battalion's major exercise for the year, early next month.

 - John Cosgrove

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