Story and Photo by
2nd Lt. Kyle Suchomski
65th Engineer Battalion Public Affairs, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — The U.S. and Australian Armies have fought as allies in every significant conflict since World War I.
As such, the two nations have developed similar tactics, techniques and procedures both on the battlefield and in garrison.
With about 47,000 soldiers, the Australian army is considerably smaller than that of the U.S., as there are more Soldiers on Oahu than the entire Australian force. Yet, what the Australian army lacks in size, it more than makes up for in competency.
As part of a bilateral exchange agreement between the Corps of Royal Australian Engineers and the U.S. Army Corps of Eng., an Australian officer has been attached to the 65th Eng. Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, since the early 1960s.
The Australian engineer, usually a captain, is sent to augment an American battalion, and in return, a U.S. Army captain trains with a respective Australian unit.
The exchange program’s first Australian attache to the 65th Eng. Bn. was Capt. G.M. Blythe in 1962. Since then, an unbroken line of 23 Australian officers have been attached to the battalion.
Australian Capt. Nicholas Brown is the battalion’s current exchange officer. His upcoming transition out of the position will signal the end of the battalion’s relationship with the Corps of Royal Australian Eng., because the Australian army cut the program’s funding.
“The exchange program has been extremely valuable to our unit over the years, and I believe it’s been valuable to the Australian army as well,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Koprowski, commander, 65th Eng. Bn. “Ours is among the few tactical level exchange positions, and I think having Capt. Brown and his predecessors on the battalion staff has allowed for a thorough, dynamic exchange of ideas that has lasting effects on how engineer units in both places do business.”
At a glance, the first thing that stands out about Brown is his colorful Australian army uniform and a peculiar looking “slouch hat” securely strapped under his lip.
For much of his time in the battalion, Brown has served as the battalion’s plans officer, coordinating upcoming training events long-range operations.
Originally from the rural expanse of south Australia, Brown has been an engineer in the Australian army for 12 years. After deploying to Afghanistan with the Corps of Royal Australian Eng. in 2009, he was selected for the exchange program, joining the 65th Eng. Bn. in early 2010.
“One of the things that I’ve enjoyed most was going to (the National Training Center) at Fort Irwin, Calif.,” Brown said. “It’s the best training Soldiers can get, outside of an actual deployment.”
After his time with the 65th Eng. Bn., Brown will take command of the Combat Eng.Squadron at the 3rd Combat Eng. Regiment headquartered at Lavarack Barracks in Queensland, Australia.