All creatures dead and alive: kangaroo eat cow one meh?

On Day 4 of the 5 Day ATEC Exercise, we came across the carcasses of some animals, decomposed enough for us not to figure out what animals they had been. Not that we’d be experts at what kind of animals they’d been, because ‘Australia only got three kinds of animals – kangaroo, koala and cow’.

Not having that much by way of conversation topics, I was asked several times by company mates what animals I thought the carcasses were of.

“Cow, I think”, I said, hoping to close this insanely inane thread.

“Cow?”, one soldier asked again.

“Yes, I think”, said I.

“Kangaroo eat cow one meh?”, he asked, genuinely alarmed.

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Attention! Attention!

Ex Wallaby 2005
“Attention, attention… 15% off all kevlar helmets at tent #27… Hurry, hurry…”

Outside the tent I shared with sixteen other soldiers at Samuel Hill Camp was a loudspeaker that blared out announcements about every twenty minutes, asking this soldier and that to report to where at when. Very annoying when you’re trying to sleep.

The announcements are usually preceded by some crackling and the usual chime, like any P.A. system, then followed by the deadpannest voice you’ll ever hear, saying “Attention, attention, would Warrant Soh Ann Soh please report to Fifty Six Cat Ops Room please, I repeat…”.

One evening, instead of the chime, there was this huge-assed air-raid siren followed by an apologetic voice:

“Oh, oh, sorry sorry….

…eh, press what button ah?

Orh…

Attention, attention…”

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Age will not weary us

But reservist training just might.

The average NSman (the official name for ‘reservist’ since 1992, but seldom used outside Mindef) gets called up for standby duties and training stints until he’s around 32, now that the ‘training cycle’ has been shortened to 10 years.

I’m 36 and have just completed the worst three weeks’ training in memory, having forgotten how bad full-time national service used to be.

There were a bunch of us at Exercise Wallaby who were slightly past our use-by dates because we had skipped a year or two of duty through work or study commitments in the last 10 years. (For mine, I had deferred a total of 8 years).

The strain showed, we couldn’t sprint as much and as quickly, and we couldn’t see as well in the dark. At one point during the night in the bush, I stumbled for 20 minutes in a 100 metre stretch of forest, trying to find my company’s tanks and vehicles, only to be stopped five times by the other companies’ sentries, asking for the night’s password. Later on that night, me and my motorcycle were felled by a tree stump.

At the other end of the spectrum were young full-time soldiers from the 40th Battalion, SAR, who averaged 20 years. They were attached to our unit because we were short of men. These boys, they were quick, they rolled all over the forest floor taking cover from enemy fire, and they were only put in their place when they went crazy at the canteen trying to down as many beers as they could while the older and wiser among us tended to limit ourselves to one beer a day.

And yes, I did tell one of them: “When uncle first put on this very uniform, you wuz only 2 years old”.


Me and Pte Sng Lui, Thailand, October 1989

Ex Wallaby 2005
Me and Cpl Sng Lui, Australia, October 2005

Surf stop: Gerard’s Flickr set of Ex Wallaby 2005

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Communicado II: Transparent Guy

Ex Wallaby 2005
Small talk over lousy coffee and sweet cakes at Samuel Hill Camp, Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

“Eh, what’s that superhero called ah?”
“Which one?”
“Neh, that one?”
“Which one?”
“That one lah, cannot see him one?”
“Which one?”
“That one lah! Transparent Guy!”
“Transparent Guy?”
“Yah! Transparent Guy!”

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Hero shots

Ex Wallaby 2005
Hero shot: It’s all in the gear

Ex Wallaby 2005: Hero shot
Non-hero shot: Queueing in the canteen

“Eh, take picture of me and mms my girlfriend, can?”

“OK, how come your phone cannot?”

“Dunno lah. Take for me can?”

“OK…”

“Wait, wait. Dowan already. Take in canteen not hero shot, must wear all the gear then can”.

Hero and non-hero shots can be found in my Flickr set of Ex Wallaby 2005

Surf stop: Stupid Genius’ account of Ex Wallaby 2005

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