Navy finds the icy edge

Published on LEUT Will Singer (author and photographer)

Location(s):

Seaman Lachlan Moate, Lieutenant Commander Garry Lewis, Able Seaman Clearance Diver Tom Hale and Lieutenant Sven Howarth at Mount Hotham during the Nordic Skiing and Biathlon. (photo: Unknown )
Seaman Lachlan Moate, Lieutenant Commander Garry Lewis, Able Seaman Clearance Diver Tom Hale and Lieutenant Sven Howarth at Mount Hotham during the Nordic Skiing and Biathlon.

A team of 23 Navy Nordic Skiing and Biathlon members mustered near Mount Hotham in Victoria to undertake skiing and shooting training activities as part of Exercise COOLSHOT16.

The group of novices and seasoned biathletes have been building their resilience in freezing conditions at Australia’s only biathlon shooting range ironically called Whisky Flats.

The biathlon stemmed from the skiing traditions of Scandinavia and developed into this sport as an alternative to military training.

Navy’s ski coach, Lieutenant Colonel Warren Feakes (retired) said that he was over-the-moon with the achievements that were made by the Navy members.

“There are some people here who had never been on skis before and members that flew over from Darwin, a far-cry from these climatic conditions,” said Lieutenant Colonel Feakes.

“In the last two days we have progressed people to a level I would have expected after a week."

Coach of the shooting discipline, Warrant Officer Ian Waller, said that Navy introduced an innovative approach using a new laser shooting system as part of the team’s training.

“A laser rifle and target system was used this year which allowed Navy to introduce members to the sport all-year- round and within a safe environment,” Warrant Officer Waller said.

“The replica-biathlon rifles simulate real-time shooting with targets immediately responding to the marksman’s hit or miss."

“The cost effective system is ideal with less maintenance of a biathlon rifle and we are legally allowed to use this in public for the purpose of biathlon training,” he said.

The budding biathletes were taught various skiing techniques and marksmanship akin to the high pace and pressure experience during a competition environment.

The last day of training saw the group don their Navy lycra racing suits to compete in a five kilometre cross-country race against the old foe ­- the Australian Army.

The competition was close with five Navy and five Australian Army biathletes finishing in the top 10.

Seaman Lachlan Moate from HMAS Cerberus, a novice to the sport, bagged a seventh position in the company of seasoned skiers.

“Although my legs felt like jelly, I remembered my training and managed to keep them firmly on the icy ground during the steep downhills,” said Seaman Moate.

The completion phase involves competition against the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force in a range of track, biathlon, patrol, novice and relay events held over five days in August.