Cup Challenges Australia’s Best Soldiers


Much attention has been on the Commonwealth Games but there is another competition that puts its competitors to an ultimate test of extensive physical and psychological challenges like no other.

Last week Singleton Lone Pine Barracks hosted the Duke of Gloucester Cup where the best of the best Australian Infantry soldiers competed in an event that pushes every human threshold to its limit.

3RAR won the event but every single participant and the battalions they represented stand proud.

The nine- soldier teams, known as Sections, came from the Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiments from across Australia and competed in the seven-day event that tested every aspect of their training.

Camped on the range, soldiers had their mental and physical capabilities stretched, living rough, surviving on their rations, subjected to midnight ambushes and keeping an eye on their comrades.

Last Friday was the last day of the competition.  Filthy, tired and probably hungry, these best of the best walked, and it was fast, 15 km from the range to Lone Pine Barracks for the final competition stand – the gruelling School of Infantry Obstacle Course that involved logistical, mental and physical challenges beyond the capacity of most humans.

On average it was a 30 minute finale to what had been a gruelling seven days but watching it seemed like hours, let alone for those soldiers having to complete the 20 stages of the obstacle course, further complicated bya the inclusion of a ‘kims game’, a sudden mental distraction of mind set needed to sort card suits and a memory game of identifying a 20 second glimpse of objects before and after the obstacle course.

Throughout the obstacle course the section had to keep an eye on their team mates and could not be three obstacles ahead of their last soldier.  Often they had to stay back to support their team mate through the obstacles.

Climbing over walls, crawling through 50 metres of mud, pulling themselves up 20 metres on ropes, down again, up again, and again and again and again.

Then there was the sound of gunfire, smoke, bagpipes, a contingent of onlookers including the most elite of the Royal Australian Infantry to add to the pressure, not to mention the mud.

At the end of the competition the soldiers were whisked off for a quick shower before the award presentation.  Those young soldierslooked fresh but the inspirational moment was the overwhelming applaud for the trophy recipients.

As 3RAR were named champions their commander turned and looked at his men expressing his pride in what they had done.

Best section commander was Cpl Max McCulloch from 5RAR and best soldier was Pte Jack Willoughby from 6RAR.

The competition is not just a spectacle to impress and behold.  It is an opportunity for those training our soldiers to test the curriculum, to ensure the training has the desired results and to make improvements to get a training regime that delivers all soldiers with the skills they need in combat and the varied support roles they are so often needed to do.

As one soldier encouraged his mates through the final stages through a dark, tiny tunnel, he screamed.

“It’s been three years of hard work, come on, we have this,” the soldier said.

As each battalion section stood, exhausted, holding their unit flag for a photo at the end, you could sense their pride and this is a pride we should all embrace and admire.  Outstanding young soldiers, all of them.