Two efforts announced March 4 by the Australian defense department underscore the country’s commitment to supporting the international campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. The Australian government is rotating its aircraft and personnel conducting airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. Australian forces are also beginning their preparation to contribute to the building partner capacity, or BPC, mission in Iraq.
The BPC mission will focus on improving the capabilities of selected Iraqi units to conduct counter offensive operations against Daesh, the term commonly used to refer to ISIL. Specific training will cover core operational skills including planning and conducting operations, basic maneuver and integration of intelligence into operations. It will focus on building the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to not only take territory, but to effectively hold it.
Having arrested the advance of Daesh, Iraqi security forces now require support to build their capacity to reclaim and hold their territory. The BPC mission is designed to generate capable and effective forces with the capacity to conduct independent combat operations against Daesh. The Australian Defence Force is well versed in the demands of such a mission, having recently made vital contributions to the Afghan National Army’s transition to independence.
Around 300 troops drawn primarily from Brisbane’s 7th Brigade, will undertake training and preparation over the coming weeks to be ready for potential deployment in May.These Army members will form Task Group Taji that will comprise a training team with command, force protection and support elements and include infantry, cavalry, logistics, communication and medical personnel.
Task Group Taji will contribute to the next phase of the Coalition’s strategy to disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat Daesh and will work closely with personnel from New Zealand and the United States on the BPC mission. Separately, it was announced that a contingent of Royal Australian Air Force personnel and aircraft have departed for the Middle East from RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory. The aircraft and personnel will replace elements of the initial Air Task Group which deployed to the Middle East Region in September 2014.
The Air Task Group is a key part of Operation OKRA, the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the international effort to disrupt and degrade the Daesh terrorist threat in Iraq. Six F/A-18A Hornets from RAAF Base Tindal will replace the six F/A-18F Super Hornets currently operating in the Middle East, and will join Australia’s Air Task Group that includes a KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport and an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.
RAAF C‑130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster III aircraft are also available to provide additional humanitarian and logistic support as required. The F/A-18F Super Hornets will return home to Australia in the coming month. Air Commander Australia, Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Turnbull, said he was immensely proud of the professionalism, commitment and dedication of all deployed and deploying Air Force personnel.
“Today marked the departure of the F/A-18A Hornets to Australia’s Air Task Group to the Middle East Region and is a significant event,” AVM Turnbull said. “I acknowledge the immense amount of planning and preparation by personnel right across Air Force that is undertaken to successfully execute operational deployments.
“I also acknowledge the significant role that our members’ families and friends play in supporting their loved ones as they prepare for and undertake their operational deployment," he said. "Our people are well trained, skilled and professional members of the Australian Defence Force.”
There are currently approximately 600 ADF personnel deployed to the Middle East as part of Australia’s contribution to the international effort to disrupt and degrade the Daesh terrorist threat. Australia’s support to the mission is at the request of the Iraq and U.S. governments.
(Information courtesy of Australian Department of Defence news releases.)