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Red Cross trains in Rockhampton battle simulation

Australian Red Cross trained alongside the Australian and US militaries during Talisman Sabre to strengthen humanitarian aid in crisis situations.

Friday July 17, 2015

Talisman Sabre 15
Members of Australian Red Cross and an Australian Army civil affairs team review a humanitarian aid route in a simulated battlefield environment during Talisman Sabre 15. Photo: Sgt David N. Beckstrom, U.S. Army

Talisman Sabre 15 is a major Australian and United States military training exercise held in a simulated battlefield environment.  

On 13 July, Australian Red Cross teams simulated the delivery and administration of humanitarian aid to the fictional town of Raspberry Creek, near Rockhampton.  

"Training with the military helps Australian Red Cross leaders know how to interact with them," said Warrant Officer Class 2 Paul van Gemert, civil military co-operative cell from Headquarters 4th Brigade. "It also helps the military gain greater awareness of humanitarian agencies."  

Australian Red Cross has a recognised role as auxiliary to the public authorities in the humanitarian field. Its inclusion in Talisman Sabre 15 created a degree of realism and complexity to test mutual capacities.  

Australian Red Cross senior staff were also positioned at the humanitarian cell headquarters in Brisbane, role-playing leaders of Red Cross societies affected by the conflict. They were joined by other humanitarian actors including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance.  

"The exercise not only allowed us to practice our skills, it showed the armed forces what the role of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies  is and how we all need to interact together," said Natasha Freeman, Pacific Programs Manager at Australian Red Cross.  

Role-playing as Raspberry Creek's mayor, Australian Army Capt. James Tarpley said: "We take a whole-government approach to disaster relief and humanitarian aid by working with Australian aid agencies, Australian Red Cross and coalition forces.  

"Being able to understand what each element brings to the table and what needs they have will help facilitate a more timely response."  

The Australian humanitarian aid units train together to ensure they can respond quickly and collaboratively when needed.  

"It is good to familiarise the humanitarian actors with the military approach to humanitarian aid issues and vice-versa," said Gemert.  

Even wars have laws - find out more about International Humanitarian Law.