This podcast looks at why the Battalions on the Kokoda track were so poorly prepared for combat by looking at the development of the training programs and the principles of training.
We will compare New Guinea force training with the work that LTGEN Iven Mackay did as he prepared the 6th Division for combat in Bardia.
This is the 8th instalment in our Kokoda series, looking at the performance of the militia Battalions on the Trail.
Principles of Training
The five principles for training are detailed in LWD 7-0 – Training and Education.
Training is a command responsibility: Leaders, commanders and managers at every level are responsible for ensuring that subordinates undertake the training required to equip them to perform their roles and tasks, in order to ensure that their subordinates have the individual and collective skills required to achieve their mission. Command responsibility extends to accessing the resources needed to meet training requirements and managing risk associated with shortfalls in resources. Senior commanders are expected to provide resources that are adequate to meet priority ADF training requirements, particularly for mission-specific training (MST), and commanders are required to use these resources in accordance with directed priorities.
We look at the resources and process for training the officers and NCOs, looking at LT Rowly Logan and CPL Harper and how they were trained and promoted.
Unit training is critical. It is not sufficient to rely on formal courses for the development and maintenance of skills. Commanders must place constant emphasis on tailored training of individuals and teams in order to generate optimal collective effectiveness. The challenges of skill fade and posting turbulence must be managed while mastering, maintaining and continuously improving the skills necessary to win.
Within Port Moresby skill fade was less of a problem because there we so few skills to fade.
We listen to CPL Trevor Harper as he discusses how well trained(?) the mortar platoon was. The requirement for work parties and the lack of ammunition meant there wasn’t enough time to train in the basic skills of a mortar platoon.
Training must be conducted for a purpose to meet a standard. All Army training is derived from directed tasks or priorities and is completed to a specified Army training level and standard. Land Warfare Procedures – General 7-0-1, The Conduct of Training describes these levels and standards.
Training must be realistic. At appropriate stages in a training cycle, training activities should replicate or simulate operational circumstances and environments as realistically as possible. Training cannot address every potential operational circumstance; therefore commanders need to optimise training opportunities by selecting representative and challenging scenarios that are complex, ambiguous and unpredictable. Simulation can be used to enhance realism in training. Where appropriate, training should involve joint, multinational and multi-agency participants.
The Battalions never got the opportunity to live and train in the jungle and this showed in their performance in combat.
We compare the 53rd Battalion’s preparation with that of the Italians and Australians in preparation for combat at Bardia. Despite the current training doctrine being written over 75 years after the Battle of Bardia, we can definitely see the principles of training in action as Dougherty and his Brigade Commanders prepared their troops for war. Gavin Long wrote in the official history, “it was doubtful whether in the succeeding 5 years any Australian force was fitter for battle.” The Senior Officers course at the Middle East Tactical School was seen as the most intensive and extensive course that Australian Regimental Officers had been through. Five hundred officers and 2,200 NCOs had been through formal training courses before they entered combat. The Division also had a large number of troops with WW1 experience.
The troops complained, “that life was an endless series of route marches, PT, exercises and mock battles instead of real ones.” Combat drills were practised until they became automatic. Many a mock battle was fought between the armies of Northland and Southland in preparation for the Battle of Bardia. Troops received battlefield inoculation and rehearsed their exact roles prior to the attack.
Frank Berryman wrote, “We were anxious to avoid the confusion of ANZAC, of Fromelles, and Pozieres or First Bullecourt, so our preparation was as thorough as we could make it.”
Encourage initiative. Initiative and judgement must be encouraged during training activities in order to develop leadership and personal skills. The outcomes generated by individuals exercising initiative (including mistakes) must be used as positive learning opportunities.
Evaluate and continuously improve. Training must be evaluated to confirm the effectiveness and efficiency of the training and to identify potential lessons. The lessons process, discussed in more detail in Chapter 4, is central to the continuous improvement of training.
Looking at the militia battalions, there is a lack of weapons and equipment for training. The Junior and Senior NCOs are mostly inexperienced, as are the officers. We see these mistakes compounding as the Battalion starts up the Kokoda trail and gets into contact with the Japanese.
We see the Japanese within the OODA loop of the Australian units at the tactical, operational and strategic level.