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Craftsman : Craftsman 2012
RAEME CRAFTSMAN 2012 The Unrecoverable -- 7 RAR (Mech): 'A Shoalwater Bay Classic' SGT Benny Hewlett The first it came to my attention, the lads of 2.8. and 2.8.A were sitting around under the cam net watching Season 3 of "Sons of Anarchy". I think it may have been around the 16 July, deep into ground hog day territory. We are in a leger within spitting distance of Williams Airfield. The Mech WO2 Marcus Hovington comes up to me and says; "Apparently Alpha Company have 2 cars that are unrecoverable" "What?!" I ask, doing my best confused Labrador impersonation. "They reckon they need a Chinook to get them out" "Piss off, nothing in this country is unrecoverable" "Well Niner wants me to go and make an assessment, you coming?" Purely for the curiosity factor "Heck Yeah". So this must be after lunchtime when we jump into the back of two gun cars. Tearing down the road Hov looks over at me, crackling over the intercom. "We gotta go to 5.0. and pick up the Senior Recovery Mech". Who the hell is this? I think to myself, rattling thru the list of 226's I've bumped into in the last month in Shoal Water. So we roar down the road towards the airfield and pull into 5.0. "I'll race in and grab this Reccy Mech" I say as I pile out the back of the carrier. I jog into the CP, the clerk, 2IC and OC are all present. "Hey I'm here to pick up the senior reccy mech for this alpha company recovery" "Yeah no worries, WO2 Davies over at the 1 Armd A2" Laughing I leave the CP; Davo and I go way back, 2002. Did some really fun, mad, recoveries back in Timor days. Awesome, Davo is a top hand and a good mate, this day just got better. I find Davo chillaxing with the other Tankie boys, I mention the recon for the assessment on the AS4's. "Stuff it, I need to take the M88 for a spin anyway" Is his reply. Groovy I now upgrade myself from cattle class in the back of a gun car to the rigger's seat of a Hercules. The biggest saddle in the land Army. We tear down the North-South road at a white knuckle 40km/h, pushing S/Liner's out off the road with 60 tons of attitude. We arrive to find Chook Fowler, Nitty, Steery watching "Grandma's Boy" for the 13th time. We swap stories and talk for a bit before we are given a 2nd hand grid reference and a hand vaguely waving across the bush. "In there somewhere lads" Is the detailed directions given to us by our Corps Brethren. So off into the bush we crash, vague AS4 tracks guide our way in the afternoon light. Widow makers and re-entrants litter the way as the M88 knocks over trees that pre-date federation. Hov has now been upgraded to the riggers seat, while I am now behind Davo in the rear dickie seat with the GPS and an acute sense of falling timber. Several times Apple (the driver) was fairly unsure about some of the terrain and rolling over, Davo kept him moving forward through some eyebrow raising country. After about an hour and a half, we have bashed our way through about 1.5kms of bush. The AS4 Tracks are now becoming convoluted and the grid reference seems like it may be off. Down and up another decent little re-entrant when my heart sinks "SHIT!" Davo yells through the intercom, at the same time I hear the crunching of Dragon's Teeth track on the rear sprocket. "Did we just throw track?" "%$#@ it, yes". Can't be that bad I think, a good operator can pivot Carrier track on without too much drama, even then 30 minutes to drop track and realign. Well, after the first hour, Hov decides to use the last of the days light to look for the Alpha Company lads. Meanwhile breaking track on an 88 is just as big as the car itself. It is dark by now, torches out everywhere, trying desperately to reattach the track with a 2nd hand piece of CES rope. Somewhere along this track debacle, Hov comes back through the bush unsuccessful on his adventure. With no luck of finding anyone we check the radio and make contact with 18A. I finish the transmission and see their head lights in the distance to out flank. As they roll over the hill, a section of grunts are in tow, all of whom look proper ... tired. LT Hall explains the craziness of their day so far, turns out these 1.3. boys have been bogged since last night. They have just finished a whole day of cross loading stores and equipment from the stuck vehicles to the Alpha ARVL 1.8.A. Apparently this involved stomping through some tough country. I suppose we will see this soon enough. It's now somewhere around 2130hrs, finally the track is back together, not without blood, sweat and swearing. At this stage 2.8.A arrives, Franger is just excited to be out of the leger and doing something. Robbo is fast asleep in the back, foetal position, thumb in mouth; the whole lot. Okay, so we are now right to move, finally. Any thoughts of becoming a Reccy Mech at 1 Armd faded with the track splitting. We head West, into the darkness, this time for only a few hundred metres. The drop off is very steep, no go for the Herc, the blade on the front will dig in and will get us nowhere fast. I jump back into the ARVL and decide to take the narrow side track, too sharp for Davo and the 88. Franger and I cruise through the bush on this garden path. Now the bush is so thick here, visibility at night is down to about 2 metres, starting to remind me of Tully, which is nothing good. Finally after 30-40 minutes our guide tells us we have arrived. "I can't see these cars mate". "Nah Sarge, from here we walk"."....... What?". "Yeah the bogged cars didn't come this way, this is how we got out" So Franger, old mate and I dismount, leave Robbo with the car idling so we can find our way home. I think the big girl was having dramas starting too. Now this "walk" took the best part of 30 minutes, sliding down re-entrants on our arse. And crawling up inclines on our hands and knees. All the way thinking that this shit makes Cambodia look like Kansas. We crawl through to a small clearing with water running down a re-entrant and a lonely 1.3. gun car sitting quietly in the dark. This is obviously the stuck car. Recovering the car won't be the drama, it will be getting an ARVL into this mess that is the problem. So Franger and I have a look, okay no worries, where is this other car? Up the hill we trek, shaking my head at how dense the bush is, 150 metres up the hill we find the broken 1.3.A car. Prop shaft has let go and destroyed everything on that side of the engine bay, no drive, no brakes. Definitely will have to be A-Framed. This will be the tricky part. All this time the seco is adamant we will not recover the vehicles because of the country. Franger and I decide that if these 2 cars drove in here, you must be able to do the same with an ARVL. Which will mean having a crack at driving in on the original path. Suggesting this caused the Seco raises his eyebrows most of the way