Into the blue

Published on SGT Sebastian Beurich (author)

Location(s): Kosciuszko National Park, NSW

Topic(s): Training

Participants in Exercise Blue Ice in the back country of Kosciuszko National Park. (photo: Unknown)
Participants in Exercise Blue Ice in the back country of Kosciuszko National Park.

Sleeping in snow-caves and trekking across kilometres of snowy ground aren’t normal activities for anyone, let alone the 14 participants in Exercise Blue Ice.

The adventurous training activity was run by the - despite the name - tri-service Army Alpine Association (AAA) in conjunction with Headquarters Joint Operations Command, who supplied eight of the 14-person expedition at the end of August.

The semi-annual exercise aimed at giving a basic understanding of alpine survival, covering topics such as snow and glacier travel, ice-climbing and basic rescue techniques.

Among them was Leading Seaman Electronic Warfare Submarines Brendan Johnston, a first-time expeditioner who had been looking for an opportunity to get into the back country since he posted into Submarine Operations Centre at Headquarters Joint Operations Command, from Fleet Base West.

“I’ve camped out when bushwalking, so this was a new experience because of the cold and wind - everything takes a bit longer and moving around is a lot more laboured, which itself was a good experience,” Leading Seaman Johnston said.

“The snowshoes were a new experience - quite challenging.

“Seeing other people cruising along, while we were slogging, definitely encouraged me to pursue the goal of learning to cross-country ski.

“There was definitely a sense that the leaders had a really good command of not just the events, but their personal experiences added a lot to it.”

With more than 20 years’ experience under his belt, Army Alpine Association’s Major David Stephens found bringing new and inexperienced people into the wilderness a rewarding experience.

“It really challenged them and facilitated their ability to build and improve on their initiative, teamwork and resilience in a challenging environment,” Major Stephens said.

“It’s a great way to help people develop their physical and mental capabilities in an environment they’re not used to.”