Innovation assisting Armidales

Published on CMDR Fenn Kemp (author), ABIS James Whittle (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Larrakia (P84)

Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Luke Ireland of Attack Four, conducts damage control checks on board HMAS Larrakia. (photo: LSIS James Whittle)
Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Luke Ireland of Attack Four, conducts damage control checks on board HMAS Larrakia.

Two Armidale class patrol boat sailors have used an innovative technique to inspire and improve their crew’s performance at sea.

Due to the constant turnover of personnel and sea riders in patrol boat crews, a lot of critical tasks are carried out by a core group of experienced sailors which, according to Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Bradley Ireland and Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Adam Hanratty, posed a potential safety issue.

In fact, their fears were confirmed after an assessment by Sea Training Group discovered that there were a number of people who seemed to be leaving the heavy lifting to others.

“Our belief about the cause of the problem was that a lot of people did not have the knowledge or the confidence to perform simple tasks,” Leading Seaman Ireland said.

“That has a big influence on the result of a damage control exercise or an incident.”

The pair decided to take action to resolve the problem and came up with a program which would see the experienced sailors hold step-by-step damage control walkthroughs of what was required of crew members when closed up at emergency stations.

Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Adam Hanratty of patrol boat crew Attack Four, inspects the OCCABA fire fighting equipment in HMAS Larrakia.

Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Adam Hanratty of patrol boat crew Attack Four, inspects the OCCABA fire fighting equipment in HMAS Larrakia.

Commanding Officer of the Attack 4 Crew, Lieutenant Commander Dave McPherson, said his team’s innovative idea was most welcome.

“Innovation is integral to developing upated procedures and utilising the individuals responsible for a task,” Lieutenant Commander McPherson said.

“Leadership is part innovation – it’s not about sitting back and accepting the obvious. It’s about changing it for the better.”

Lieutenant Commander McPherson said that sometimes, the best ideas began modestly.

“You might not actually have the best way to achieve something but others will be innovative to your idea of intent,” Lieutenant Commander McPherson said.

But innovation will fail if you are not willing to allow others to be innovative around you.”

With this in mind, Attack 4 worked together to put their plan into action and since then they have gone from strength to strength. The walkthroughs now involve crew members in a range of activities, including where to muster, where to find the damage control equipment, the personal protective equipment required and hose layouts.

Leading Seaman Hanratty said the new damage control training had been successful and ultimately, took very little effort to implement. “Exercises now flow better and the more junior crew members in particular are showing greater confidence,” Leading Seaman Hanratty said.

As for lessons learned, Leading Seaman Hanratty said the experience had been overwhelmingly positive both for him and his fellow crew members.

“If nobody raises these problems, it makes things harder in the long run,” Leading Seaman Hanratty said.

“If you have an innovative idea that’s supported by command and implemented correctly, it can be extremely effective.

“In the end, I’ve learned that as a leading hand, I can have a positive effect and make a change for the better.”