Reserve service leads to rare experiences
23 September 2015
The remoteness of Western Australia's North West Cape is no match for Corporal James Woods who calls Maningrida, a remote Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land, home.
James is a Community Probation Parole Officer with the Department of Community Corrections who enjoys his job but treats his Army Reserve work as something entirely different.
"I get to see the country, get accommodation, a feed and am paid to see it – I can't ask for more than that," he said.
James is a Patrol Commander in charge of a small six-man unit conducting surveillance and reconnaissance patrols throughout the region for Exercise NORTHERN SHIELD.
Posted with the North-West Mobile Force, better known as NORFORCE, in the Northern Territory, James has been seconded to the Pilbara Regiment for the duration of the exercise.
"We do reconnaissance and surveillance on certain activities that may be present within our boundaries of where we are patrolling," he said.
"Today I have been tasked to do clearance of a surveillance area which could be of interest for enemy activities within the Exmouth vicinity as part of the exercise."
The Pilbara Regiment and NORFORCE are both Regional Force Surveillance Units (RFSU) that operate in the remote areas of Northern and Western Australia.
Their role is to gain information by observation and to maintain situational awareness, so local knowledge of the area is crucial.
"We do a bit of tracking and movement through the environment and also communicating between ourselves during the patrol in order to succeed in our tasks."
"And when the real crunch comes we'll know what to do and how to support each other."
The success of their mission relies on the team working well together so James needed to take command of his team quickly even when he hadn't worked with them before.
"The hardest thing is giving orders, it doesn't come naturally," he said.
"But I'm in the role now as Patrol Commander so I am enjoying that, I like it. There's a lot of decision making.
"The relationship between the guys is excellent. We've given each other skills and learnt how we all operate and succeed in what we are tasked to do."
Back home in Maningrida, James lives with his wife Melva and six children and is also expecting his third grandchild.
"I enjoy what I do. I love it because of tradition, family and I want it to continue for the younger generation."
"NORFORCE has a long history and I want to keep it going and I am hoping to be a role model for my kids and my community back at home."