Soldiers build relationships and billy karts

4 March 2024

Soldiers from the Army’s 5th Combat Service Support Battalion (5CSSB) put their construction and driving skills to the test building and racing two billy karts in the annual Monaro Billy Kart Derby at Cooma Showgrounds in late February.

It was the first time the soldiers from 5CSSB had participated in the event, an initiative of the Cooma Car Club.

Major Nik Beattie, the operations officer at 5CSSB, said the unit’s participation in the derby was a win-win for his soldiers and the Monaro community.

“For our soldiers it was a wonderful chance to get involved with a great community, which we have a growing connection with,” Major Beattie said.

“We entered two teams, one from 103 Workshop Company at Holsworthy and the other from 111 Workshop Company at Adamstown [Newcastle]. The soldiers used their military trade, leadership and teamwork skills to build and race the karts, while at the same time demonstrating their commitment to the community.”

5CSSB has a close relationship with the communities of the Monaro and south-east NSW, established during the 2019 bushfires and reinforced during recent training exercises in the region.

More than 50 billy kart teams competed across a number of different categories, using a custom-built track.

Sergeant Martinus Vermast, of 103 Workshop Company, said it was a great test of driving skills.

“We’ve certainly learned a few things to take into account when preparing karts for next year,” he said.

Event coordinator Tony Nassar, of the Cooma Car Club, was full of praise for the soldiers.

“Having the troops take part this year added a whole new dimension to the event and they were great competitors. We look forward to seeing them again next year,” Mr Nassar said.

Sergeant Vermast said 5CSSB was proud to play a key role in enhancing the Army’s relationship with the community.

“It was great to get out and be involved directly with the community at an event like today. While the racing was tough and fun, a highlight for us was the chance to interact with the locals, who were keen to look over our vehicles and have a chat about what we do,” he said.

Bragging rights on the day went to the team from 103 Workshops, whose driver Craftsman Hugh Polson - on a highset, three-wheeler kart - clocked an impressive 39km/h down the track, which was the second fastest on the day. His efforts led the 103 Workshops team to an impressive overall second place in the open division.

The team from the Adamstown-based 111 Workshop put in a valiant effort, but team driver Craftsman Zac McCloy just couldn’t get the speed required from their more traditional lowset, four-wheeler kart.


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