HMAS Newcastle attacks Individual Readiness requirements at sea

Published on LCDR Fiona Southwood (author), Unknown (photographer)

Topic(s): Fleet Base East, HMAS Newcastle (F06)

HMAS Newcastle's Dental Team, Lieutenant Max Banayar and Able Seaman Dental Laura Rudken, tend to a patient, Able Seaman Lachlan Stevenson, while on transit to HMAS Stirling, Western Australia. (photo: Unknown)
HMAS Newcastle's Dental Team, Lieutenant Max Banayar and Able Seaman Dental Laura Rudken, tend to a patient, Able Seaman Lachlan Stevenson, while on transit to HMAS Stirling, Western Australia.

Faced with a number of changes to the ship’s program and to ensure that personnel are fit to fight, HMAS Newcastle has explored alternate options of how to address Individual Readiness shortfalls. Thinking out of the box has allowed a problem to become a challenge and from there, solutions were developed.

Newcastle was joined for her latest transit from Fleet Base East to the West by a Deployable Dental Team and two Psychologists to conduct the crew’s Post Operations Psychology Screen (POPS) interviews, following the ship’s deployment on Operation MANITOU in late 2017.

The weather across the Great Australian Bight proved challenging, however both teams quickly developed ‘sea legs’ and enjoyed some ship familiarisation when not conducting appointments and interviews.

The Dental Team, LEUT Max Banayar and ABDEN Laura Rudken, was accompanied by a deployable dental kit, including a portable x-ray machine which was set up to see patients in the Aft Battle Station. The team not only completed IR dental checks but also some dental maintenance including fillings.

The Psychologist Team, LCDR Nicholas Sims and Dr Rosemary Allen, set up in the Accommodation Module in the Hangar to conduct the psychologist reviews. The transit was the first time at sea for Dr Allen, who is a Navy Psychologist at Fleet Base East.

“The time in Newcastle has allowed me to observe the routines in a Navy ship and has given me an insight to life at sea’ Dr Allen said.

“As part of my job I often assess if RAN members are suitable for sea, so to see the nuances of the roles onboard first hand has increased my understanding of the requirements for those posted to sea going positions.”

Newcastle’s Commanding Officer, Commander Anita Sellick, has encouraged her team to explore all options to address IR shortfalls.

“Rather than seeking waivers, which would see a surge of appointments when we return home, we were keen to assist members maintain their readiness,” she said.

“The Dental and POP interviews at sea addressed the majority of our deficiencies in those areas. We’ve also had the Deputy Fleet Medical Officer onboard alongside at Fleet Base East conducting annual medicals, and our PTI has been running PFTs on an opportunity basis; with one conducted at HMAS Creswell during OCEAN EXPLORER 18 when Newcastle was at anchor.”

The embarkation of the two teams was hailed a huge success with 65 dental appointments and 60 interviews conducted for ship’s company, which equates to a 25% percent increase in Dental Individual Readiness and a 85% percent reduction in extant POPs screens.

“These results would simply not have been possible without the embarked teams and those ashore who actively supported Newcastle at sea,” said CMDR Sellick.

Newcastle is currently consorting HMAS Ballarat for her Mission Rehearsal workup in the West.