Huge learning curve for Canberra’s Damage Control Instructors

Published on LEUT Emily Kennedy (author), ABIS Chantell Bianchi (photographer)

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Canberra (L02), Damage Control Exercise

Petty Officer Electronics Technician Pete Cannon provides guidance to members of the fire hose party during a damage control exercise in the Embarked Forces laundry aboard NUSHIP Canberra. (photo: ABIS Chantell Bianchi)
Petty Officer Electronics Technician Pete Cannon provides guidance to members of the fire hose party during a damage control exercise in the Embarked Forces laundry aboard NUSHIP Canberra.

NUSHIP Canberra’s Damage Control Instructor organisation is made up of a team of people from a vast range of ranks, categories and experience.

They recently had to apply their experience to brand new information as they took the leap into teaching Canberra’s first Duty Watch groups about how to react to incidents such as fires, floods and gas detector alarms onboard the Royal Australian Navy’s first Landing Helicopter Dock.

Damage Control Instructor and Ship’s Training Coordinator, Chief Petty Officer Brad Walsh said it was a steep learning curve.

One of NUSHIP Canberra's Damage Control Instructors, Petty Officer Electronics Technician Pete Cannon, briefs members of duty watch prior to a damage control exercise taking place in the Embarked Forces laundry.

One of NUSHIP Canberra's Damage Control Instructors, Petty Officer Electronics Technician Pete Cannon, briefs members of duty watch prior to a damage control exercise taking place in the Embarked Forces laundry.

“We Damage Control Instructors really had to step up quickly – we are learning just like all of our shipmates, however, as Instructors we had to be half a step ahead of the game,” Chief Walsh said.

“It was really impressive to see a range of ranks and rates from Leading Seaman through to Commander dust off their damage control instructor skills, learn the ship and consider the new damage control philosophy before guiding the Duty Watch teams through the training.

“I spent hours walking through the ship myself, prior to conducting walk-through exercises, to make sure I was as prepared to answer questions and conduct the training as confidently as possible,” Chief Walsh said.

Canberra has been developing policy and procedures for how to combat fires and floods and how to deal with gas detection alarms. The LHD has range of fitted systems that can be used to reduce risk to personnel and the ship.

Duty watch members from NUSHIP Canberra are briefed in the Ship's Embarked Forces Cafe prior to conducting a damage control exercise as part of Duty Watch training.

Duty watch members from NUSHIP Canberra are briefed in the Ship's Embarked Forces Cafe prior to conducting a damage control exercise as part of Duty Watch training.

The ship’s Executive Officer, Commander Jonathan Earley said that the systems available on the LHD would challenge the way Navy has traditionally gone about damage control.

“In some of the more hazardous areas, the ship has a series of responses which can be escalated based on the nature of the incident,” Commander Earley said.

“Ideally, incidents are addressed immediately by the person discovering them, however due to the size and scale of the LHD, an incident may more likely be remotely identified by an alarm or sensor.