News: Aboriginal soldiers navigate Talisman Sabre 2011 with U.S. Army Scouts
SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Australia – Ab’o’rig’I’ni: A member of the indigenous or earliest known population of a region; native.
1.8 million square kilometers: the amount of area the Australian regional surveillance unit defends, the largest operational area for any unit in the world.
Most U.S. service members have seen in movies or read books about the sacrifices Native Americans made for the United States during WWII as Navajo and other American tribes used their languages as a way to transmit sensitive information across the battlefield.
But as America recovered from the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Australia sat alone in the Pacific with a continent-sized coastline to defend and quickly realized there were Australian natives who, like the American codetalkers, could positively impact Australia’s defense force.
On May 11, 1942, the Australian Regional Forces Surveillance Unit or NORFORCE formed. The unit recruited heavily among the Aboriginal tribes because of their knowledge of land routes. Because of their navigational expertise, aboriginal military members played a vital role in patrolling Australia’s coastline while surveying Japanese movement and reporting potential incursions along Australia’s coast.
The NORFORCE units were later disbanded toward the end of the WWII in 1945.
But as political and economic climates changed in the Pacific, piracy, human smuggling and insurgent groups replaced Japanese warships as the menace in the South Pacific. Due to these enduring threats, the need for a northern surveillance force re-emerged as NORFORCE reformed in 1981.
Thirty years later, American Army Scouts from 1st Battalion, 58th Cavalry Regiment, had the chance to work with a unique part of Australia’s multicultural history when they rode with units from Australia’s NORFORCE during Talisman Sabre 2011.
“Working together should be a great time. It’s my first time working with Australians, but I know we use a lot of the same tactics. It’s going to be interesting to see how we can use our individual strengths together,” said Staff Sgt. Tim McGrail, scout, Long Range Surveillance, 1st Battalion 58th Cavalry.
Eager to train with the U.S. Army, Australian Lance Cpl. James Wood, scout, Darwin Squadron, NORFORCE stated, “This is a big thrill for me. It’s an experience I will surely share with my friends and family back home.”
While many Australian troops might share their experiences working with Americans during dinner with their fellow soldiers, for Woods, it’s an obligation to retell his story the best he can.
Woods, an Aborigine from Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia, joined six years ago under the Defense Indigenous Development Program, a federally funded program designed to not only give Aborigines education and skills, but to show there is another way out of the poverty and drug problems that have afflicted the indigenous populations of Australia.
“You get to observe, learn and see things you never thought you would see, and you can only do that because of this Australian military NORFORCE program," added Woods.
As NORFORCE’s Soldier of the Year for 2010, Woods makes sure to mentor others who wish to follow his and his forefathers' footsteps.
“We all have a history with NORFORCE. We all have a mate, brother or an uncle who used their heritage and knowledge to scout for the Australian Defense Force,” stated Woods.
Date Posted:07.28.2011 00:01
Location:SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, QL, AU
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