‘We all bleed the same’: RIMPAC participants learn about their differences ... and similarities

Members of the media get a look inside the Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Canberra amphibious assault ship during RIMPAC.
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 4:26 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 14, 2022 at 5:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the next three weeks, 42 ships and submarines will be taking part in the Rim of the Pacific exercises off Hawaii.

Military officials invited members of the media to visit one of those ships.

U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters flew reporters, photographers and videographers to the Royal Australia Navy’s HMAS Canberra about 50 nautical miles northeast of Oahu.

The Canberra is a landing helicopter dock and amphibious assault ship. Unlike large aircraft carriers, it’s designed to transport troops and equipment seamlessly from ship to shore.

About 850 people are working on the Canberra during RIMPAC.

It’s about 12 stories high and can carry 16 rotary wing aircraft and about 110 vehicles ― from Bushmaster troop carriers to heavier amphibious ones.

The ship’s technology and equipment are used to minimize erosion and make beach landings efficient.

“Water will basically come through that gate,” said Capt. Ash Busatto of the Australian Army.

“Then the well deck will flood in and that’s basically when the landing craft start floating, and then they can push them out. Takes about four hours to get to that stage.”

Participants say RIMPAC allows foreign militaries to work side by side and test each other’s aircraft, ships and equipment with their systems to make sure they’re compatible. The military calls it interoperability.

For example, a Hawaii-based U.S. Marine Corps squadron is training on the Australian amphibious carrier. The Americans also work out of Darwin, Australia for six months each year.

“When we operate together in either a peacetime non-war scenario or even in time of conflict, it’s much better to be able to form a partnership and be able to use compatible equipment or compatible forces to create a more efficient outcome,” said HMAS Canberra’s Commanding Officer Capt. Jace Hutchison of the Royal Australian Navy.

Over the next few days, the Canberra will bring on and train about 275 sailors and soldiers from Australia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, the U.S., and Malaysia for an amphibious assault exercise at Pyramid Rock Beach.

Militaries can also work out kinks in communication ― like sharing compass readings using magnetic north versus true north.

“When the U.S. guys came, we were giving that to them in true. And they were expecting it in magnetics. There was a bit of a mismatch there,” said flight control officer Lt. Sam Laidlaw.

Aside from warfare, amphibious ships are useful with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions across island nations. The Canberra helped Tonga after the volcanic eruption and tsunami earlier this year.

The ship has a fully-equipped hospital with an ICU, surgery and x-ray capabilities, 56 beds and a COVID quarantine area.

Medical officers from the U.S. and New Zealand are training with the Australian team, led by Royal Australian Navy Commander Peter Smith.

“The language of medicine is fortunately, the same,” Smith said.

“And we all bleed the same. So it’s more similar, more similar than different, there are certainly some cultural differences. And we certainly have used interpreters in the past in providing health care.”

While RIMPAC drills help prepare troops for combat and natural disasters, participants believe building peacetime relationships is just as important.

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