300 TSS Army Cadets made the trek to the Annual Camp down at Hidden Creek for some adventure and to pick up some new skills. To add to the usual Camp program, lots of new activities kept the boys fully engaged, with current and ex-serving military personnel providing most of the instruction.

Most of these soldier-instructors from reserve and full-time infantry battalions and engineer regiments had served in a number of operational deployments in Afghanistan, East Timor, Iraq and The Solomon Islands.

As such, they added a sense of realism to the training and the boys thoroughly appreciated the expertise.

A great favorite was the telling of “warries” around the campfire. “Warries” are stories told by veterans about their operational experiences and while these are exciting and action-packed, depending on the audience there’s usually a little extra embellishment with a sprinkling of exaggeration.

One of the new activities included an Engineer Stand, whereby the boys were asked to locate and disarm mock booby-traps using metal detectors and mirrors. This involved both building and ground searches of dozens of locations that were rigged with audible alarms for instant feedback. The alarms used were a combination of personal-safety and the type of pressure-plate alarms that may be found under the door mat at home. This activity was a realistic, mock IED (Improvised Explosive Device) search, designed to introduce the boys to one of the well-known dangers that our troops face overseas, but it certainly didn’t involve any explosives and no tactics or classified procedures were taught. In order to find the alarm “booby-traps/IEDs” that were set up in a building and surrounding vegetation, the boys were also issued with Mine Lab metal detectors. Small packages were buried across a large area and these – happily for the boys – contained nothing more lethal than lollies. A good way to reinforce diligent search techniques.

Other new and exciting activities for the boys included laser clay-pigeon shooting and a night-vision trek facilitated by an external service provider. The nightvision goggles were fitted with the latest generation night scopes and there were many comments from the boys along the lines of “it’s just like the movies!”.

Perhaps the most light-hearted addition to the Camp schedule, was the incorporation of an 80m water-slide into the obstacle course. A huge thanks must go to a TSS McKinley Parent, Mr Dave Gillett, who sourced two, giant, 300kg rubber highway signs. These were lathered with detergent, sprayed with water from a high-pressure cleaner attached to a 1000L tank and laid down a very large hill leading into the obstacle course. Boys had a tremendously enjoyable time zooming down the hill at significant speed. This also added to the physical challenge of the obstacle course, as Cadets were required to start with the slide before commencing a timed obstacle course run.

Members of 9th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment, delivered a very professional Camouflage and Concealment exercise utilising a proven training package that’s been delivered since Vietnam. Cadets learnt that quintessential field-craft lesson of “Why Things are Seen?” that outlines the effects that shape, surface, silhouette, shadow, spacing and movement has on concealing oneself in the bush. Cadets used camouflage cream to break up the outline of their faces before participating in an Observation Post activity in which the objective was to collect intelligence while remaining undetected.

Bravo Company Cadets once again hiked up the mountain to participate in a field exercise in the rainforest, where they constructed their own shelters and slept on the jungle floor. They were certainly relieved that the weather held during the exercise. At night these boys were tested with an adapted lantern-stalk activity.

Glow-in-the-dark objects were scattered around a large area bordered by illuminated copper-strand LED lights.

To up the tempo of the challenge, pressure-plate alarms, sensor lights and high-decibel trip-alarms were scattered throughout the course.

All of the activities and training culminated in the final Platoon Competition, nicknamed Exercise True Grit. This was a four hour test that required platoons to rotate through a series of scored or timed activities as a test of objectives for the previous three days. These activities included the Kims Game to test teamwork and memory, a timed obstacle course run, survival skills test, building and ground search, an observation lane, an observation post and artificial object detection, as well as a stores carry. Bravo Company, Two Platoon were victorious on the day, which was a testimony to their teamwork, military skills, physical fitness and leadership from NCOs.

The new activities and the Camp overall were considered a great success, and while the boys may have returned to TSS exhausted and in need of a good shower, they were also very satisfied.

The camp experience is more than an opportunity for the Cadets to learn new skills in a challenging environment. It’s an authentic experience for our senior Cadet leaders in the management of groups of people and the art of influence. It’s also an opportunity for all boys – regardless of rank – to be positive role models, develop resilience and realise the positive impact that these experiences can have as a force for change and the development of self-sufficiency.

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