Gunning for our barracks

MORE than 150 years of artillery history and eight jobs are likely to be lost in January with Launceston's 16th Field Artillery Battery expected to move interstate.

The move will effectively disband the battery and is part of a $5.4 million cut to the Australian Defence Force budget for 2012.

The Examiner understands such a move would leave only one full-time officer at Launceston's Paterson Barracks.

The move is understood to take effect from January 1, with a final parade on November 24.

The rationalisation is part  of Defence's Beersheba Plan, released last December, designed to ``better equip the army for modern warfare, particularly the development of an amphibious capability''.

The restructure would see the 16th Field Battery relocated to Adelaide.

The Royal Australian Artillery Association of Tasmania fears any such restructure would put at risk continuous service of artillery in Launceston, which has a proud history dating back 150 years.

In a letter to Bass Labor MHR Geoff Lyons obtained by The Examiner, federal Defence Minister Stephen Smith has denied suggestions of disbandment.

Mr Smith wrote: ``There is no intention to relocate Reserve Forces currently located in Tasmania to South Australia.

``Plan Beersheba will align army reserve units with a full-time regular army component.

``The 16th Field Battery will be redesignated as a component of the new 9th Brigade Mortar Battery, but will retain its existing barracks in Launceston and Glenorchy. 

``The numbers of the 16th Field Battery Army Reserve will not be affected by changes implemented as part of Plan Beersheba.''

However, sources say cutbacks have already been felt at Paterson Barracks, with reduced man days for training and recruitment programs.

Association spokesman and former Colonel Commandant Mark Cameron said the association's information was consistent with what soldiers in Launceston had been told.

 ``This throws soldiers' jobs into jeopardy, as well as doubt on the viability of operations at Paterson Barracks,'' said Mr Cameron, who served with the 16th Field Battery as battery commander until 1980.

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