ON TRIAL: Inside the army’s disturbing culture
The shocking culture of hazing within Townsville's defence forces including placing objects in their rectum, electric shocks and dangerous driving have been detailed amid the trial of a group of junior soldiers accused of wrongdoing in an alleged unsanctioned initiation ritual.
Military Police charged six soldiers over an incident in which a group, allegedly dressed in undies and a smattering of armour, wrestled a colleague from his swag and restrained him with cable ties.
Lance Corporal Blake Ferrington-May, Trooper Thomas Flemming, Trooper James Foschi, Private Sharun Kachappillil-Shajee and Trooper James Mulholl each face a single charge of forcibly confining Trooper Liam Richard Sohier during a joint training exercise at the Townsville Field Training Area on May 5 last year.
A Defence Force Magistrate Trial, held at the RAAF Base Townsville began on Monday.
The court was told the higher ranked Lance Corporal Ferrington-May is alleged to have given the order to the others.
The court heard the soldier captured against his will was eventually cut free from restraints and given a headstart before pursuers chased him through the dark while barking like dogs.
A sixth accused, a corporal, was acquitted of the same charge during day three of the trial on Wednesday.
Squadron Sergeant of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment James Wakely gave evidence on Tuesday, telling the court new recruits in Townsville's 2nd Cavalry Regiment underwent initiation ceremonies to prove their "mettle" to other soldiers.
"It is part of the culture for (the) cavalry, that they initiate a new soldier into the brotherhood," Sergeant Wakely said. "If their mettle is good they get accepted as part of the squadron or unit."
Sergeant Wakely has served overseas including in Timor and received commendations for his efforts during the recent floods.
He told the court soldiers in Townsville's 2nd Cavalry Regiment knew the initiation tests as "reo challenges", but that the same rituals were known by different names in other bases and units.
When asked about the reo challenges he witnessed during his career, Sergeant Wakely declined to answer at the risk of self-incrimination. Judge Advocate Brigadier Michael Cowen, who is conducting the trial, compelled Sergeant Wakely to answer with a guarantee his evidence could not be used in any criminal or civil proceedings against him.
Sergeant Wakely detailed a number of instances including a challenge from 2008 where he said new recruits, who are known as "reos" were told to strip naked, insert army-issued glow sticks in their rectums and take part in an obstacle course in rugged terrain.
Sergeant Wakely said the reos were made to cover themselves in camouflage cream and run the course while older members of the unit hid in the dark and tried to knock the recruits on to their backs.
He said another challenge included hosing down a naked reo before putting them inside a crate and delivering electric shocks.
The initiations were formally banned in the unit after the incident during last year's training exercise came to light.
Sergeant Wakely detailed an initiation ceremony that took place on the same trip shortly after Trooper Sohier was allegedly captured.
He said new solders in the 2nd Cavalry's B Squadron participated in a "rat-pack" challenge, during which they must eat a full day's rations in under 30 minutes. One recruit was told he would "win the challenge" if he inserted a musk stick lolly in his rectum.
Sergeant Wakely told the court he had heard about another challenge in which recruits were stripped naked, blindfolded and tied to the hood of vehicles that other soldiers would then drive around doing doughnuts in.
The trial continues today.
Originally published as ON TRIAL: Inside the army's disturbing culture