The show must go on – drill training at sea

Published on LCDR Helen Ward (author), POIS Andrew Dakin (photographer)

Topic(s): Ceremonial Sunset, HMAS Toowoomba (F156), Indo-Pacific Endeavour

HMAS Toowoomba ship's company conduct guard training at sea enroute to Jakarta, Indonesia for an upcoming ceremonial sunset as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 17  (photo: POIS Andrew Dakin)
HMAS Toowoomba ship's company conduct guard training at sea enroute to Jakarta, Indonesia for an upcoming ceremonial sunset as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 17
Traditions of pomp and ceremony still have their place in a modern military – with the self-discipline required being reflected across all parts of Navy life.
 
On the night of a drill performance a Navy guard looks like a professional, well-oiled machine, but how does the team make it look so effortless?
 
The reality is the members of the guards required for military diplomacy, have other key duties onboard a Navy warship and often are volunteers for ceremonial duties.
 
That means, some may not have practised drill movements for many years, and have to relearn the commands and movements whilst on a moving flight deck or hangar at sea. This requires a significant amount of rehearsal to make the teamwork and movements precise and worthy of putting in front of an international audience.
 
Onboard HMAS Toowoomba, ceremonial guard training is just one of the many roles undertaken by Petty Officer Boatswain Ashley Darvill and Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Darren Young.
 
Their recent task whilst deployed as part of a joint task group in Asian waters was to train 13 volunteers while the ship was at sea.
 
“We all want to put on a good display but it is up to the individuals themselves to make a personal commitment to the training so the drills become precise and polished,” Able Seaman Young said.
 
Seaman Marine Technician Katherine Lyon stepped up for the guard training as she saw it as a chance to do something different.
 
“My role on board Toowoomba is to look after all the ancillary systems such as sewerage, fresh water, air conditioning and engines,” Seaman Lyon said.
 
Although she has only recently completed initial training at HMAS Cerberus, in Victoria, she said the ceremonial manoeuvres were easy to remember.
 
“I was surprised to see my drill was not as rusty as I thought it would be!” she said.
 
And it’s not just the drill that needs to be perfect – keeping uniforms ship-shape in the confines of a warship also takes extra effort and self-discipline.
 
“I’m super-organised and have my ceremonial uniform always ready to go,” Seaman Lyon said.
 
Part of Australian Navy ships’ duties in foreign ports is often to host local dignitaries and Australian officials to support the development of international relationships. In some cases, this is in the form of an onboard official reception complete with traditional Ceremonial Sunset, which involves the guard parading during the lowering of the Australian White Ensign in front of guests.
 
“On the night of the ceremonial sunset, I focus on the drill we have practised so I don’t get distracted by all the other things going on around us.”
 
Sub Lieutenant Bryce O’Hara took on the duties of Guard Commander and was drawn to the ‘theatre’ of the position as he has an interest in the performing arts.
 
“The last time I was a Guard Commander was more than a year ago, so it was good to do the refresher training and pull my skills back together, although I have a performance and acting background in local productions,” he said.
 
Toowoomba is currently participating in Indo-Pacific Endeavour, a regional deployment focussed on security cooperation and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises.