Combined Task Force 635
RAMSI’s military component is known as Combined Task Force 635, and is commanded by the senior Australian Defence Force (ADF) officer deployed in Solomon Islands.
Although the ADF provides the largest contingent in RAMSI, the Combined Joint Task Force also includes military personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF), Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) and Tonga Defence Services (TDS).
Normally, the Combined Task Force includes an integrated headquarters component, an infantry company and two platoons – one from New Zealand and a 33-person platoon on a three monthly rotation provided by the three island nations. However, the size of the Task Force has varied, with deployment of extra ADF and NZDF personnel at times of crisis.
In recent years, the regular soldiers of the Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) have been supplemented by soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Reserves.
“The main task of the military component of RAMSI is to provide security and support for the Participating Police Force (PPF). The Combined Task Force works closely with the police and civilian elements of RAMSI to assist the Solomon Islands Government and the Royal Solomon Islands Police in maintaining law and order.”
CJTF 635 Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands: an Australian army unit’s quick response, Lt. Colonel Chris Field, Marine Corps Gazette, 2005
“In the early hours of 22 December 2004, an Australian Federal Police Protective Services officer was murdered by sniper fire in Honiara, Guadalcanal, while conducting a vehicle patrol with the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). In response, the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, A Company Ready Company Group (1 RAR RCG), was alerted that same day. Within 18 hours of the Australian government’s decision to support RAMSI, about 100 men, vehicles, and equipment arrived by three Royal Australian Air Force C130 aircraft in the Solomon Islands to reinforce the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) portion of RAMSI known as Operation Anode.”
Op Anode deters criminal element, Michael Brooke, Army – the soldiers’ newspaper, 3 November 2005
“CTF 635’s role in support of PPF operations was highlighted in October when prisoners staged a protest at Rove Prison, which houses a large number of people who have been arrested since RAMSI arrived in mid-2003. Maj Heap said providing military security support to the PPF through the provision of external security in the Rove Prison precinct was a key task for the CTF during the disturbance. To deter attacks from anyone seeking to exploit the incident at Rove prison, a nine-man section of soldiers from 11 Bde stepped up the frequency of their foot and vehicle patrols. Another Australian infantry section also conducted vehicle patrols near the prison, with a platoon of Tongan soldiers conducting overt patrols of Honiara. This CTF 635 reaction to the prison disturbance was employed as the planned military third tier response to incidents at Rove prison.”
Sphinx smiles in Solomons, Cpl Andrew Hetherington, Army – the soldiers’ newspaper, Volume 11, No. 55, 2 November 2006
“Combat Team Sphinx (CTS) has settled into a routine in the Solomon Islands in its crucial role in working as a member of the RAMSI taskforce. CTS deployed to Honiara on September 24, replacing Combat Team Thor (CTT) predominately made up of soldiers from 101 Mdm Bty. It consists predominately of soldiers from 103 Mdm Bty, and also includes members of 1 Armd Regt and 1CSSB. 8/12 Mdm Regt CO Lt-Col Graeme Finney said CTS’s main role was to support the RAMSI police force in maintaining law and order. Before deploying, CTS had eight weeks of intensive training at Robertson Barracks, and Lt-Col Finney said this was essential to enable the battery to re-role as an infantry combat team.
“This included basic infantry skills, helicopter underwater escape training, riot training, incorporating the use of capsicum spray, batons and shields,” he said. “We recognise as gunners that while we focus on our gunnery skills, we are also combat soldiers first and we need to be widely employable.”
Commentary and analysis
Helping a friend, Lieutenant Colonel John Hutcheson, Australian Army Journal, Vol.2 No.2, p47
The ADF Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force 635 in the Solomon Islands during 2004, Lieutenant Colonel John Hutcheson, outlined his attitude to troops from the other participating nations in the Combined task force:
“The skill and expertise with which personnel from Pacific Island countries were able to establish a good rapport with the local population was noticeable. In particular, the ability to speak and understand Pidgin greatly assisted patrols conducted by Papua New Guinea troops, who were able to gather relevant and timely information. In contrast, personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and ADF personnel never achieved a rapport with local people beyond the level of a smile and a greeting.”
“Operations by Pacific island military contingents were often hampered by differing types of doctrines, by a lack of operational experience and by diverse standards of training.”
“The ADF might explore the feasability of a regional initiative to develop common doctrine and standardise training regimes across South Pacific militaries and paramilitaries.”
Counterinsurgency in a Test Tube: Analyzing the Success of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Russell W. Glenn, RAND National Defence Research Institute, Monograph MG-551, 2007, p100
“…while New Zealand had offered its forces to the commander of CTF 635 in an OPCON [operational control] status, Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) assets were provided in “direct support.” This meant that the RAN and RAAF had a greater degree of control over their forces than OPCON would have provided. In short, New Zealand had provided the CTF commander greater control than he had been given by his own air and naval services. The matter was resolved in Australia, but once again the short preparation time had resulted in less-than-desirable initial coordination and in frictions that could have had more severe consequences in a less benign environment or had patience been less forthcoming.”