Several officers from South Eastern Region (SER) were among the hundreds of competitors who tackled the gruelling Kokoda challenge in the Gold Coast hinterland last Saturday.
Teams of four attempt the challenge annually to raise funds for children’s programs while honouring Australian values.
SER Regional Crime Coordinator Detective Superintendent Dave Hutchinson competed in the race for his seventh year in a row with the Cops on the Run team.
The Kokoda Challange is held in honour of the troops who fought on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea (PNG) during the Second World War. It is held close to July 15 each year as this the day when Australian troops landed on the track in 1942.
“The Kokoda Challenge is 96 kilometres long because this is the same length of the actual Kokoda Track and competitors must complete the course in under 39 hours, as it was the 39th Regiment who landed in PNG,” Superintendant Hutchinson said.
“The event is held to honour the values of mateship, sacrifice, courage and endurance, which were the qualities displayed by the diggers during the war.
“The challenge raises funds for the Kokoda Kids Program, designed to identify wayward youths and get them back on the right track. After completing a leadership and team building course they are taken to PNG for 10 days to complete the real Kokoda Track.
“Despite the conditions, we have steadily improved our performance over the past seven years, from 24.5 hours down to this year’s 17 hours and 41 minutes, incorporating more running and less stops. This year we finished 14th from about 370 registered teams,” Detective Superintendent Hutchinson said.
Senior Sergeant Chris Tritton, Senior Sergeant Craig McGrath, Senior Constable Cameron Bourke and a serving member of the Australian Army formed the Chequered Band of Brothers team.
“Our team name relates to our police background and also respect for the men and women who fought in all wars, particularly Kokoda,” Senior Sergeant Tritton said.
“This is one of Australia’s toughest endurance challenges with 5000 metres of vertical elevation and 12 water crossings. The terrain is the toughest part of the challenge and this year’s rain made it worse with over 1500 competitors trampling through the tracks making it very boggy.
“The cold of Gold Coast mountains in the middle of winter is also a big challenge and it was even harder for our dedicated support crew of family and friends who worked in two 12 hour shifts to feed and support us. At least we got to exercise and stay warm. It was very hard for them.
“We intended to do the event in 24 hours with breaks lasting not much more than five minutes. Due to non stop rain and injuries we completed the entire course in 27 and a half hours. We travelled non-stop, there was no sleep,” Senior Sergeant Tritton said.
Inspector Greg Baade, Sergeant Linda Baade and two family members tackled the challenge for the first time this year with Beat The B.A.H. team. Inspector Baade completed the trek last year and found it physically challenging but rewarding enough that he talked his family into completing this year’s event with him.
Inspector Baade was proud of his novice team’s effort after winning an award as the first family team to cross the finish line in 20 hours 33 minutes.
Senior Sergeant Ryan Clark chalked up his fifth trek after Team Peelers successfully completed the challenge in 24 hours 42 minutes. He has been slogging out the kilometres with his family each year since 2008.
“This is one of the most challenging undertakings I have ever completed physically and probably more so mentally. It is a good opportunity to help raise funds for an incredible cause, helping children in our immediate community.
Senior Sergeant Mark Anderson has supported Kokoda Challenge Association since 2006 after recognising the valuable local support network for troubled youth.
“The challenge and Kokoda Kids directly support our local youths. It is really positive within the community, to try to help the kids before they go too far off the rails,” Senior Sergeant Mark Anderson said.
“I have been volunteering my time each year to help out at the check points. This year we had a joint emergency services centre set up at Nerang for the first time to better co-ordinate first aid, support services and volunteers.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Ian Frame, Detective Sergeant Dion Ditton and Detective Senior Constable Nick Churchley also undertook the challenge this year with their team running in support of Project Booyah which is an initiative of the Queensland Police Service in partnership with the Kokoda Challenge Association, Nerang Child Safety Services and Nerang PCYC to provide ‘at risk’ children with an alternative pathway to the justice system.
“The team suffered setbacks from injury during the race but still managed to get two members over the line in 19 hours and 16 minutes thanks to the wonderful support crew of Detective Senior Constable Jared Shortland and his wife. Plans are already underway to have another crack next year and raise further money to support the kids,” Detective Senior Constable Churley said.