Explosives, footy and BBQs ­- it’s a winning combination for the Aussie and Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers at Igam Barracks in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

As part of Exercise Olgeta Warrior 2022, Sappers from the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment (3 CER) have been conducting high-risk search training with engineers from the PNGDF.

Corporal Miles Hatzigiakoumi from 3 CER jumped at the opportunity to participate in his second Olgeta Warrior program in PNG and said his junior leaders were learning a lot from their first experience.

“It has been a bit of a culture shock for some of our guys but they're getting a lot out of it by learning how to teach in a different environment and building their knowledge. It’s been really good and a huge leap forward,” Corporal Hatzigiakoumi said.

Receiving a warm welcome from the PNGDF soldiers, the sappers from 3 CER were committed to ensuring their training program would allow both nations’ capabilities to work efficiently together for years to come.

“The PNGDF guys are great ­- they’re really happy to have us and want to learn as much as they can,” Corporal Hatzigiakoumi said.

“We focused on adapting the way we conduct search training to suit the equipment and resources available here and to ensure it can enhance interoperability between ADF and PNGDF both now and in the future.”

The engineers conducted a series of lessons, demonstrations and practical serials covering high-risk, deliberate-area and rolling-area search team training as well as marking procedures for unexploded ordinance.

Honing these vital skills with the Australian combat engineers has been a highlight for PNGDF lance corporal and section commander Christopher Jack, who noticed his soldiers embracing the experience and building their confidence.

“It's good to have the Aussie soldiers here because we can build trust together which helps to absorb the training and improve our skills. They're working well together,” LCpl Jack said.

With practical scenarios and collaboration between the two forces to combine their experience, Lance Corporal Jack and his soldiers hope to have more training opportunities in the future.

“This training will really help us. It’s bettered our knowledge and we can use these skills in scenarios that we are experiencing in our country,” he said.

“The soldiers are enjoying it. They really want to complete the course and are already looking forward to other courses, and to keep training with the Australians.”

Corporal Hatzigiakoumi admitted it wasn’t all work and no play for the Sappers. Building team work and comradery on the footy field, hosting traditional outdoor BBQs and visiting cultural sites turned out to be just as important as the training itself.

“We have been going out for cultural lessons, playing football and having BBQs or Mumus (traditional PNG cook-out) together to build that relationship. We're just doing as much as we can in, and outside of, training and it's been a really good experience for everyone,” he said.

“To actually get out there and integrate is vital - if we can’t integrate correctly, then we can't really do our job ­- but everyone’s happy to be here and keen to learn so it makes training easy.”

Being a part of the strong and enduring military relationship between Australia and PNG, Corporal Hatzigiakoumi said he would be back whenever the next opportunity arises.

"This is the second Olgeta Warrior I've done. The trips have been awesome and i'll definitely be putting my hand up for another one if that comes along." 

Images from Olgeta Warrior are available on the Defence image library: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20221045