Australian and French soldiers undertake Townsville training
Photo: Defence Connect
The 1st and 3rd battalion, Royal Australian Regiment personnel, have trained alongside around 120 soldiers from a French Army contingent.
The training was part of French Mistral Class landing helicopter dock Dixmude making its first visit to the Port of Townsville as part of Mission Jeanne d’Arc.
The mission is an annual, five-month operational deployment to circumnavigate the globe, after the ship sailed from the French Navy’s Mediterranean base in Toulon in February.
Commander of the Combat Training Centre, Colonel Benjamin McLennan, said it was an exciting moment for Townsville and the ADF.
“This is the first French ship of its type to arrive at an Australian port and I think a first of many more to come,” COL McLennan said.
“This visit is about two things; our partnership with France — one we’ve had for over 100 years — and about learning from each other.
“I think it sends a message to everyone in the Indo-Pacific that we are, as allies, better together, and that we are going to continue to work and operate and train with each other here in Australia and elsewhere in the region.
“We’re both interested in a peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific region.”
Soldiers competed in 10 teams with a mix of Australian and French soldiers working together to complete a 3-kilometre battle run and obstacle course, a team shooting activity with non-lethal projectiles, and a tactical combat casualty care scenario.
France’s Ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thébault, said the deployment was a sign of the times.
“We have the unique link and a unique responsibility in the region, because we are stakeholders in this region,” Thébault said.
Sergeant Ruelland, from the French Armed Forces, said he felt grateful to travel to Australia during his military service.
“Australians have been very welcoming — we’ve been to four other countries before arriving here and for me Australia is the best so far,” Sergeant Ruelland said.
“The training activities we did were hard but Australian soldiers were very helpful.
“I would love to come back to Australia one day, see more of this beautiful country and experience the beautiful nature of its people.”
International defence strategy with France has become a hotly contested subject recently after French President Emmanuel Macron visited China and declared that Europe should steer clear of becoming a follower of the US’ policy on China or Taiwan.
“The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No,” he said during an interview with German-owned political newspaper Politico.
“The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”