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Australian soldiers observed Tuesday as 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers fueled and loaded ammunition on Apache helicopters at Rodriguez Range, South Korea.

Australian soldiers observed Tuesday as 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers fueled and loaded ammunition on Apache helicopters at Rodriguez Range, South Korea. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Australian soldiers observed Tuesday as 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers fueled and loaded ammunition on Apache helicopters at Rodriguez Range, South Korea.

Australian soldiers observed Tuesday as 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers fueled and loaded ammunition on Apache helicopters at Rodriguez Range, South Korea. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

The Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, similar to the AH-64 Apache, is set to become a key part of the Australian army’s 1st Aviation Regiment in 2007.

The Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, similar to the AH-64 Apache, is set to become a key part of the Australian army’s 1st Aviation Regiment in 2007. (Courtesy of the Australian army)

RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — The next big leap in the Australian Army’s helicopter program took a few more first steps this week at Rodriguez Range, courtesy of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade.

Soldiers from Australia’s 1st Aviation Regiment began training Monday at Rodriguez Range with U.S. soldiers on fueling and arming the AH-64 Apache helicopter.

Beginning in 2007, the Australian Army will employ 22 Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters, which are similar to the Apaches.

The Tigers are Australia’s first attack helicopters, said Maj. David McEvoy, battalion executive officer for the Australian Army’s 1st Aviation Regiment, based in Darwin.

Seven Australian soldiers witnessed Apaches fire for the first time this week at the range, then learned how to refuel and rearm the helicopters. The Australians will live and work with their American counterparts through Nov. 11.

“This is the kind of knowledge you wouldn’t get out of the schoolhouse,” McEvoy said Tuesday. “They’ll get to see from the guys on the line … what gets the job done.”

Chief Warrant Officer Steven Rosini, a liaison officer to the Australian Army, helped the two services through the months of paperwork and protocol necessary to get the Aussies to the range.

If the Australian soldiers can acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to get the helicopters into the air, it will be far more advantageous than if everyone started from scratch in Australia next year, he said.

“It’s the attitudes we’re really looking at,” Rosini said. “This is a great program that has finally come to fruition.”

Australian soldiers say the training has been eye-opening. On Tuesday, they paused only as the Apaches training overhead delivered their booming payloads toward hillside targets.

“It’s great hearing the 30 mm cannon, seeing those rockets flying overhead. It’s a good rush,” said Cpl. Tim Tubb.

Unlike the Apache, the Tiger will be used primarily for reconnaissance, McEvoy said.

However, the Tiger also is capable of destroying tanks and other large targets. Like the Apache, it is capable of firing 30 mm guns, rockets and laser-guided Hellfire missiles.

The Australian regiment will recommend to its higher headquarters that the training be made an annual event and expanded to include pilots, McEvoy said.

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