They have already passed a rigorous evaluation and proved themselves in an international exercise but the training never ends for the ship’s company of the Anzac class frigate HMAS Perth.
While in the Coral Sea fighting off the forces of a fictitious enemy, 182 personnel aboard Perth were simultaneously sharpening their skills in engineering, seamanship, damage control and emergency responses.
HMAS Perth's Commanding Officer Captain Lee Goddard said the culture on Perth is one of always learning, always training, always improving.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to give people who are yet to achieve their qualifications the chance to become qualified,” he said.
Training for the whole fleet
Deep inside the ship in the machinery control room, marine technicians were learning how to respond to mechanical failures by conducting engineering casualty control drills.
Meanwhile, in the machinery spaces, senior marine technicians were mentoring younger sailors on the ship’s equipment, how to maintain it and how to respond to common and rare problems.
Perth’s Marine Engineer Officer Commander Trevor Widdison says Perth looks at engineering training in a broader context.
“We consider our training role to not only be improving our skills for the benefit of this ship but to benefit the whole fleet by providing a supply of fully qualified marine technicians.
“I expect that many of my current team will post off the ship in the next 12 months and use the training, mentoring and qualifications they’ve gained in Perth to improve the engineering capability of other ships in the fleet,” Commander Widdison said.
Weapons electrical engineering training has been just as busy, achieving 22 qualifications, certifications and technician training milestones while simultaneously conducting five successful guided missile firings (ESSM and Harpoon) and supporting Anti Ship Missile Defence Upgrade trials.
To top it off, during 2012 Perth won the RAN’s Ontranto Shield for gunnery and the RIMPAC Naval Surface Fire Support Cup for the best gunnery performance of all participating nations in what is the world’s largest naval exercise.
On the upper decks, training in seamanship skills continued with boat coxswains demonstrating their skills at handling Perth’s 7.24-metre jet-powered rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) to receive the commanding officer’s endorsement.
Even the ship’s Weapons Electrical Engineer Officer, Commander Keith Taylor, got to polish up on his seamanship skills, taking control of ship under the Navigator’s watchful eye to conduct a man overboard exercise.
Although it’s rare to see a Weapons Electrical Engineer Officer taking over the bridge, CMDR Taylor is a former UK Royal Navy submariner whose 19 years’ experience included being a qualified Officer of the Watch in nuclear submarines.
“I did man overboard exercises during my training at Britannia Royal Naval College,” Commander Taylor said.
“It’s not a difficult training exercise, but I wanted to have a go to keep my skills up.”
While all this training was going on, the ship’s on-duty fire and emergency team were responding to a toxic hazard alarm, another exercise, to practice dealing with a common but potentially lethal hazard.
The team donned breathing apparatus, entered the suspect compartment to take gas meter readings, investigate and fix the cause before replacing the contaminated air in the compartment with clean, breathable air.
The training also extended to the skies above the ship, with Perth’s embarked Seahawk helicopter crew practising the art of winching a person between the aircraft and the frigate’s moving deck.
Crash on deck
Having a Seahawk helicopter and crew from 816 Squadron also gave Perth the opportunity to practice responding to a crash on deck with the resulting casualties and fires.
The lengthy exercise involved the whole ship’s company in practising skills in fire fighting, emergency medical care and managing complex, multi-faceted damage control incidents.
Impressive role playing by mock crash victims and good use of training smoke added to the exercise’s realism.
CAPT Goddard said intense training like this was a normal part of naval life.
“In a modern warship, lots of different things happen at the same time, and we have to be skilled and ready to respond to any number of situations while still fighting an enemy,” CAPT Goddard said.
“That’s why, in Perth, the training never stops.”