Regiment leader leaves after top contribution

Nicola KalmarBroome Advertiser
NORFORCE Kimberley Squadron Officer Commanding Major Matthew Rose.
Camera IconNORFORCE Kimberley Squadron Officer Commanding Major Matthew Rose. Credit: Nicolas Gonzalez

After three years at the helm of the North West Mobile Force Kimberley Squadron, Officer Commanding Major Matt Rose has given a final salute to Broome to embark on a new mission over east.

Looking back on his time on Kimberley soil, the army leader recounted many highlights such as hosting a very royal visit, tackling the mighty Gibb Challenge and helping to raise the profile of NORFORCE in Broome and the wider region.

It also marked another successful milestone in his 25- year army career, which has seen him deployed to various parts of the world, including East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maj. Rose took over the Kimberley regiment when he arrived during the wet in January, 2014.

Harsh climate aside, his first challenge was working to substantially improve the unit and the conditions for the soldiers to enhance operations.

“It was quite degraded unfortunately, but I managed to start building on that with the help of all the staff and the soldiers themselves,” he said.

“We worked together to identify that there were some areas that needed to be improved and they worked hard over the last three years to get to a level where they can effectively do their job and do it to a high standard, which is great.

“It’s meant that I’ve been able to give them back some ownership of the unit and the Kimberley as well instead of the regular army doing everything. The reservists are actually taking a keen interest in doing their job, and training their own soldiers and actively going out recruiting.”

As well as passionately working to restore the unit, Maj Rose’s other focus was on actively recruiting new soldiers and re-engaging with remote Aboriginal communities, which has helped NORFORCE grow in the Kimberley.

“Our numbers are up, we still need more, we’ve established a lot of contacts within remote communities that have been lost over a few years,” he said.

“There’s still more work to do and we still need to maintain those relationships because if we’re not there providing a presence, people will forget about NORFORCE.”

In addition to travelling to remote communities, members of the Kimberley Squadron also visited local schools to introduce NORFORCE to youths and invited students to the Broome depot to participate in activities.

“We worked a lot with Clontarf, so we had all year levels from the West Kimberley Academy come through and they had a great time doing leadership games and activities, and we had a few chats to kids at school in Broome Senior plus Cable Beach Primary School,” Maj. Rose said.

“We’re also to the point now where we’re getting organisations coming to us.

“A lot of the ones that work with people in remote communities trying to help them get ahead to get educated, get life skills and have a purpose in life are approaching us so we’ve had a couple of runs out to different areas to do some recruiting.”

Maj. Rose and other members of the squadron also participated in the Gibb Challenge, showing the public that behind their tough exterior, they were regular guys doing their bit in the community.

“The Gibb was the biggest one for us,” he said.

“We had the most success doing that by getting people to see us riding bikes and just getting to mingle with us and making people appreciate what we do.”

The guys were also actively involved in Exercise Northern Shield, hosted by the Department of Defence, which was held in Broome last September.

Maj. Rose said the event was a great success and gave the public a real insight into the defence force.

“It showed that NORFORCE is part of a bigger organisation, so it’s not just a couple of patrol cars or boats driving around doing border protection but we’re part of a bigger picture and we sit in that organisation in a certain location.”

Other highlights throughout his three years in the Kimberley included a visit from the Governor General in 2014 and hosting the fourth in line to the throne, Prince Harry — a visit kept strictly under wraps.

“We managed to keep him off the radar, which was exactly what he was after, and took him to the East Kimberley around Kununurra, where he spent some time out there, caught his first barramundi on his second cast, amazingly … it was a good opportunity to work with Prince Harry,” he said.

“He was really down to earth — all he wanted to do was to be with the soldiers, have a chat to them, get out in the bush, just be away from anything else.” Last year, Maj. Rose said the Kimberley Squadron carried out a lot of deployments and border protection — something he was proud of.

Although he was sad to leave, Maj. Rose said he was proud to have seen the regiment improve in that time and hoped to see NORFORCE continue to grow.

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