Competition raged between eight nations at Exercise Hydra but the participants went away with much more than a medal.

Exercise Hydra 2019 was the third iteration of the annual international military skills competition hosted by the Australian Army’s 7th Brigade. It brought together eleven nations from across the Indo-Pacific region, as well as Australian teams.

New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Tonga, Fiji and France, through its forces in New Caledonia, sent ten soldiers each to compete.

Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia and Vanuatu also sent observers, who considered sending competitors next year.

Australia entered three teams from 7th Brigade, 3rd Brigade and 17th Brigade.

Australian and international military members, with local indigenous representatives, during the opening ceremony of international military skills competition Exercise Hydra at Gallipoli Barracks. Photo: Corporal Sean Waterhouse

Throughout the exercise, from September 4-14 at Greenbank Training Area near Brisbane, teams were presented with problems to overcome through teamwork, leadership and endurance.

Tasks included quick decision making, navigation, and section attacks using airsoft rifles. The exercise also included rifle and pistol marksmanship competitions.

The commander of 7th Brigade, Brigadier Andrew Hocking, said he hoped to grow Exercise Hydra.

“This year was the largest iteration, with eight nations competing and four nations observing.  All the teams and countries involved would love to see this grow over the coming years,” Brigadier Hocking said.

“The competition has been a fantastic way to foster people to people links, personal friendships, cultural understanding and trust between soldiers and nations through military camaraderie.

“I am very proud of the efforts of all the competitors involved. They do their countries and our region proud.”

Australian soldier Corporal Mitchell Linacre, from the 7th Combat Service Support Battalion, with Private David Robert, from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, during Exercise Hydra 2019. Photo: Gunner Sagi Biderman

Lieutenant Nala, from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, said it tested the mind and the body.

“This activity is really interesting, it’s a really good test of our teamwork and problem solving,” Lieutenant Nala said.

Malaysian team leader Captain Abi said the exercise reflected the spirit of cooperation between countries.

“This has been an opportunity for us to learn about the culture and armed forces of countries across the Asia-Pacific,” Captain Abi said.  

The teams also participated in cultural exchanges that allowed them to demonstrate their own traditions and participate in other nations’ traditions. It included attending an Indigenous welcome to country ceremony and putting on performances and presentations each night to teach other soldiers about their own country.

The exercise wrapped up with a VIP day at Gallipoli Barracks where soldiers demonstrated their skills to visiting senior officers from militaries across the Indo-Pacific.  

The final challenges involved completing the garrison obstacle course, bayonet assault course and over-water obstacle course.

After a week of fierce but friendly competition, New Zealand, France and the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade met the gold standard.

Malaysia, Fiji, the Philippines and Army’s 7th Brigade received silver, and Tonga, Papua New Guinea and 17th Brigade got bronze.

Private John Manitis, from PNG, received the Hydra Award for demonstrating toughness, courage, teamwork and compassion.

The marksmanship award was presented to Corporal Khairul from Malaysia.

The team spirit award was presented to Tonga.

The exercise also included a senior leader seminar, where representatives from participating nations discussed common security challenges and opportunities in the region