July 31 - Australia's North West Mobile Force uses traditional Aboriginal skills to patrol the country's vast and dangerous northwestern coast. Masako Iijima reports.
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Maintaining the borders of the world's largest island is no easy task. These Aboriginal soldiers patrol Australia's northern coast on the lookout for an increasing number of boats carrying asylum seekers as well as illegal fishing vessels and drug smugglers. And when their official duties are done for the day, they come back to face the threat of saltwater crocodiles and other deadly creatures -- often in searing heat or monsoon rains. But the soldiers of Australia's North West Mobile Force, known as NORFORCE, are well equipped to handle tough conditions. They are experts in survival - using skills honed over thousands of years and passed on from generation to generation. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LANCE CORPORAL VINNIE RAMI SAYING: "Because of my father, he used to be in NORFORCE when I was a little boy, and also I wanted to protect my country and my people," Turtle eggs, bugs and fish supplement the men's rations. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LANCE CORPORAL VINNIE RAMI SAYING: "Tastes really nice." Aboriginal reservists make up almost half of the 600-strong NORFORCE. The area of operations is the largest - and perhaps the toughest - of any military unit in the world, covering some 1.8 million square kms (700,000 square miles) of hostile terrain in the Northern Territory and the north of Western Australia.
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