‘‘Threat to the front. Fire!’’
A training sergeant yells the commands to a line of soldiers wearing body armour and carrying the Army’s latest rifle, the Enhanced F-88 Austeyr, or EF88.
Private Daniel Zhu snaps his rifle from the low ready position and engages his target, an orange star amidst a range of other patterns and shapes.
At another word of command, he and his mate move forward to their next firing position, shooting a water-filled balloon. When it bursts, the hessian sheet it was holding up falls to the ground and reveals another target.
Private Zhu quickly puts another round in the centre of the target.
One of the 30-plus part-time soldiers who train from the Rockdale depot as a part of 4th/3rd Royal NSW Regiment, Private Zhu, 20, spent last weekend out at Holsworthy Military Area. He and fellow reservists gathered on the Friday night, and from early Saturday morning through to Sunday lunch they carried out weapons shoots at the ranges, shooting during the day and at night with thermal sights.
Sharpening his marksmanship was one reason Daniel Zhu attended the weekend. ‘‘It’s good just to hang out with my mates, too,’’ Daniel said. ‘‘Sure, we work hard but, yeah, the friends I’ve made here are pretty cool.’’
Like a lot of kids, Daniel watched a lot of action movies growing up but he sees big differences now he’s a soldier. ‘‘No, it’s not like the movies. It’s harder – it’s too cold, or wet, or too hot, or too early in the morning – and we use the proper drills and techniques, not like the movies where it’s all about show.
‘‘But it’s better here, too. We’re wearing body armour and shooting the latest rifle. We used the thermal sights and night-fighting equipment on the EF88 last night.
‘‘And we’re not just lying down shooting at static targets on a range; we’re using different positions, different ways of shooting and developing muscle memory. It’s much more fun.’’
Shooting balloons and coloured shapes are not the usual ways of doing range practices but the staff at the regiment know it’s interest and motivation that keep their soldiers coming back.
‘‘It’s about keeping the soldiers engaged,’’ said Warrant Officer Class 2 MarkBranson, one of the full-time training officers with the regiment.
‘‘If they’re not enjoying themselves, if the training isn’t interesting as well as practical, then they’ll find something else to do on a weekend. But there’s been a lot of positive feedback about this activity, so we’ll do it again for sure.
‘‘Our job as instructors is all about delivering training that prepares these soldiers to go on operations, if that’s what they want to do.’’
A big factor in developing Daniel’s interest in the Army was his father who served in the Chinese military before migrating to Australia. ‘‘Dad told me stories of what he did in the military so I grew up hearing about it. I figured I wanted to do something like that when I was old enough.’’
Daniel joined the Rockdale Army Cadets unit at 16 and enlisted in the Army Reserves at 19.
He opted for the part-time option of service with the Reserves so he can complete his studies in international relations and psychology. ‘‘There’s a lot of flexibility with the training,’’ he said.
Each year, one of the full-time combat brigades in the Army is to be ‘‘Ready’’, that is, ready to respond to any request from the federal government at any time.
Each full-time brigade is supported by one or more Reserve or part-time brigades.
This year, 7th Brigade is the Ready brigade, and 5th Brigade supports them; where they go, we go.
‘‘It’s pretty full on with our commitments with the Ready year. We’re supporting the full-time brigade so there’s a lot of chances as a reservist to get on course, get qualifications, and go on deployment.’’
Would Daniel put his hand up to go on an operation? ‘‘Yes. I don’t see the point in joining up if you don’t use those skills. But it’s pretty competitive. You have to be fully trained up and good at your job to be selected.’’
Joining the Army reserves was an important decision. ‘‘It was a turning point. There’s purpose now. I’m part of something bigger. At the end of the day I can be proud and say I’m an Australian soldier.’