Twenty NUSHIP Canberra personnel recently undertook the initial boarding party course at HMAS Cerberus, satisfying yet another training requirement in preparation for Canberra’s delivery to Navy in 2014.
In a busy ten days, Canberra’s boarding teams learned how to conduct a boarding, become familiar with the roles of each boarding party member, understand the relevant legal principles, practice self defence tactics and ASP baton usage, as well as escalation procedures and fast roping.
The teams also learned how to wear and correctly use all the equipment required to conduct a boarding, including body armour, helmets, goggles, gloves, weapons and ammunition belts - all of which add up to around 18 kilograms on top of their own body weight.
Navy can conduct many types of boardings. These can range from a compliant boarding such as a flag state verification of a vessel, where crew and cargo manifests are checked through to more non-compliant boardings that may be conducted under the auspices of a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
The course was largely practical, culminating in scenario based compliant boardings where teams would deploy on jet RHIBs (rigid hulled inflatable boats) and board a vessel in Western Port Bay.
The vessel boarded was a DMS training vessel and the Canberra boarding teams had to board the vessel, achieve the desired mission safely, and deal with any escalating situations that came their way.
Amongst the formal boarding party training the team participated in additional physical training and sporting expeditions - and with the ship’s physical training instructor (PTI) being a member of the boarding party - every opportunity was taken to improve fitness, strength and teamwork.
Canberra’s Boarding Party Officer, Lieutenant Ben Stewart, said that he was impressed with the standards the team set and the level of team cohesion that was built during the ten days.
“Canberra set an excellent example for everyone - marching as a formed body from place to place, doubling (running) across the parade ground and generally conducting themselves as a tight knit professional fleet unit,” Lieutenant Stewart said.
“We had excellent participation in all the extra team building activities as well. Leading Seaman Marine Technician John Findlater arranged for the group to go to skiing and wakeboarding at the nearby national water park which everyone loved - particularly ‘Clubs’ (Petty Officer Physical Trainer Adamson) who enjoyed another opportunity to get out in his swimmers even though there was a brisk southerly wind,” he said.
Other activities included water volley ball, volley ball, and trust dives.
“POPT Adamson ran a trust dive exercise which involved falling backwards off a three meter dive platform into the water. The display of camaraderie and encouragement from team members was great to experience,” said Lieutenant Stewart.
All Canberra personnel enjoyed the course, whether it was role playing difficult crew members and getting the chance to crash tackle Canberra’s Boarding Officers during escalation role plays or testing their nerves during the fast roping training off the 5, 10 and 15 metre towers - there was plenty for everyone to think about.
Able Seaman Boatswain’s Mate Matthew Webster said that he enjoyed the course.
“It was a good course - it was great how Clubs arranged extra fitness activities that were surprisingly not too strenuous, considering he’s a Physical Trainer,” said Able Seaman Webster.
“The biggest challenge of the course was fast roping. I got to the 10 metre tower platform but didn’t make it to the 15 metre platform. I’m looking forward to working with Clubs to work on the technique so I can hopefully pass next time.
“The best thing about being part of the Boarding Party is that it is something different to the daily routine - it gets you out doing something different,” he said.
Another team member, Leading Seaman Combat Systems Operator Aumau Falepau, said she thought the fast roping was the best part.
“The best part of the course was fast roping - I enjoyed being taken out of my comfort zone. I realised its not every day we get to fast rope, so I definitely appreciated the help from the instructors and the great support from other members of the Boarding Party team. I will definitely do it again,” Leading Seaman Falepau said.
“I enjoyed the camaraderie of the team. We worked hard and played hard. The course made the most challenging jobs seem effortless. It was the first time since posting onto NUSHIP Canberra that I got to know members from other Departments and form new friendships.”