HMAS Albatross provides Navy experience for school students

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), POIS Kelvin Hockey (photographer)

Location(s): Huskisson, New South Wales

A student from Vincentia High School conducts the righting drill on a 25 man life raft. (photo: POIS Kelvin Hockey)
A student from Vincentia High School conducts the righting drill on a 25 man life raft.

Jervis Bay provided the perfect backdrop for 30 high school students as they plunged into Navy style sea survival drills at Huskisson Sea Pool this week.

Royal Australian Navy armoury staff from HMAS Albatross conducted six of these innovative courses over the past 18 months for students in the Shoalhaven region and further a field in Taree.

Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Daniel MacQueen said the initial inspiration came as a result of a request for meaningful and exciting training opportunities for the cadets of Training Ship Shoalhaven

“I thought let’s make it enjoyable, but let’s also give them some realistic experience of the kind of training they will experience if they join the Navy,” Chief Petty Officer MacQueen said. 

“Surprisingly there is not much difference between how we deliver this training for students and for sailors. 

“With students we just take it a bit slower and make sure they’re having fun along the way.”

Mr Corey Ryan, a Year 8 Advisor at Vincentia High School has attended several Sea Survival drill days and says they offer the students a lot of valuable experience. 

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids and I’m always impressed with their enthusiasm, commitment and resilience when they’re participating,” Mr Ryan said. 

“The life raft exercises are particularly popular and something they won’t ever forget.

“We’ve got a few kids interested in joining the Navy so it’s a good experience for them. 

“Even for those who are undecided or with different goals, this day has very positive outcomes such as time management, team work and working under pressure. 

“The students come back with new found confidence, and as teachers, we see examples of teamwork and leadership in students that would not normally have stepped up into that role,” said Mr Ryan

Sixteen-year-old Tony Kandarakis was one of the students stepping up into that role as “Officer in Charge” for the day. 

“I loved the hands on aspects,” he said.

“A lot of my family are in the Defence Force and that’s definitely what I want to do, so it was a good experience. 

“It was satisfying but challenging and being in charge was a lot harder than I thought it would be. 

“Just getting others to listen was the hardest part and I learnt that just yelling louder was not always the best approach.”

The sessions begin with an intensive ‘boots to the glutes’ physical training session Petty Officer Chris Vale which Chief Petty Officer MacQueen says has been part of the fine tuning of the program. 

“Getting their blood flowing and their heart rates up before we get them into the pool or the life raft is a key element,” he said.

“Another element that works really well is to have them fall in at the start and then treat them like a new military unit. 

“They all enjoy the role play aspect of that and respond well; we’ve also learnt the importance of not pushing them too hard. 

“They are there to be challenged and they are, but they are also there to learn basic life skills.” 

Teacher Kelly King said she was surprised at the students overwhelming enthusiasm for what might be described as “boot camp“.

“I think it was more demanding than many of the students might originally have expected when they put their hands up so I was proud to see how they met the challenges,” Ms King said.  

“They were all super engaged and I was also surprised at how they coped with the discipline.

“I think they responded better in this environment than perhaps they would have at school environment.

“The activities are a great initiative and while it looks like fun its serious fun.”