Charlie Five-Iraq

The de-linking of the Battalions in December 2006 meant that for the first time in thirty-three years Charlie Five ― C Company, 5 RAR ― would return to Army's order of battle in its own right. It would prove to be a very young company too. Most of the private soldiers that marched in over the Christmas/New Year break had only been in the Army about six months, and a senior digger was truly a rare thing. It also meant that what the soldiers did set the character of the Company, and in hindsight I think we can say that they were a happy mob, always keen to get on with the job. From the very beginning an operational tour was in the wind. You could hardly fail to notice it when, in addition to the regular 7, 8 and 9 Platoons, the Company also raised a fourth platoon - 14 Platoon. This was exactly the Infantry force element required for service with the Overwatch Battle Group in Southern Iraq. However, it was not until late February that the government confirmed that, a little over forty years after the Company's first operational tour to South Vietnam in 1966-67, it would again serve on operations.

The training, already underway then, became pre-deployment training and there were many long hours worked sorting out everything that needed to be done -from battle shooting through to issuing kit. Tempo stepped up another notch when the Company deployed south to Cultana, South Australia, for EX SOUTHERN REACH, a mechanised field training exercise. It was the first time that many had seen the range, although it is unlikely to be the last. This rolled into mission specific training and conversion to the motorised role (with the attachment of 2 Troop, B Squadron, 3/4 Cavalry Regiment) and culminated in one of the very hectic mission rehearsal exercises that the Combat Training Centre are renowned for. Once this was finished, recreation leave was snatched and farewells made to family and friends.

5RAR soldiers of Charlie Five on road convoy

By June the Company was complete on the ground in Iraq and had conducted its handover with Delta Five in the outgoing Battle Group. 7 Platoon would serve the first three months of the tour task-organised with the Battle Group Reserve, whilst 8 Platoon would serve with Combat Team Courage, the cavalry-heavy combat team. Charlie Five was task organised as Combat Team Sabre with 9 and 14 Platoon, as well as 3 Troop from A Squadron, 2 Cavalry. The name itself comes from the Battalion's Sumatran Tiger mascot, who is known to us as Quintus Secundus, but is known to his keepers as 'Sabre. In September the Combat Team reorganised and became 7 and 8 Platoons, and 1 Troop.

The Company's tactical area of responsibility was the Dhi Qar governate, including Nasiriyah, which is Iraq's fourth largest city and the capital of the province. Contrary to the opinion of some, the Company roamed throughout the province, helped noticeably by the dry conditions of Iraq in high summer. Not that mobility was unrestricted, and for a place that most people would think of as flat desert, it had its fair share of obstacles - irrigation ditches and canals (which seemed to be everywhere), hamlets, villages, marshes, low power lines, date palm plantations and even random herds of camels.

5RAR soldier public relations with Iraqi civilians

During its tour the Platoons of the Company undertook numerous tasks: travelling to Al Muthanna province with Combat Team Courage to help train the Iraqi jundis at the Eastern Barracks; being dispatched as the Battle Group Quick Reaction Force to 'rescue' a downed Black Hawk helicopter which had landed in the marshes; numerous counter-IED and counter-indirect fire patrols throughout the Joint Operations Area; 'framework' patrols meeting Sheikhs and Mayors, facilitating CIMIC projects to build schools, collecting information; and a host of other tasks. It was the sort of unglamorous but necessary work of which counter-insurgencies are won. It was a challenging operation against a canny and determined enemy, one very much fought 'amongst the people’.

By MAJ Troy Ramage

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